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US Navy achieves IOC for Block 2 Rolling Airframe Missile

Naval Technology - Mon, 18/05/2015 - 01:00
The US Navy has successfully secured initial operational capability (IOC) for the Block 2 rolling airframe missile (RAM) aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24).
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US Navy conducts first full-speed catapult shots using EMALS on CVN 78

Naval Technology - Mon, 18/05/2015 - 01:00
The US Navy has successfully carried out the test of electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) aboard the aircraft carrier pre-commissioning unit (PCU) Gerald R Ford (CVN 78).
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U.S. raid in Syria supported by secret Stealth Black Hawk helicopters?

The Aviationist Blog - Sun, 17/05/2015 - 17:09
According to some sources, the evasive MH-X may have taken part in the raid that killed Islamic State member Abu Sayyaf.

In the night between May 15 and 16, U.S. Special Operations forces killed ISIS high level operative Abu Sayyaf, in a daring raid that took place in eastern Syria.

Little is known about the raid.

According to the CNN, the operation was conducted by U.S. Army’s Delta Force, which was carried to a residential building in Deir Ezzor, to the southeasth of Raqqa, by Army Blackhawk helicopters and Air Force CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

It’s pretty obvious many other assets were actually involved in the raid, including support assets providing electronic support to the intruding choppers and drones, as happened during Operation Neptune’s Spear, for the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The presence of some Air Force Special Operations Command Ospreys during a raid against ISIS is not a first.

U.S. Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft probably based in Kuwait have already conducted missions in Syria and Iraq: on Jul. 3, 2014, some V-22 aircraft were used to carry Delta Force commandos to a campsite in eastern Syria where ISIS militants were believed to hold American and other hostages (that had been moved by the time the commandos attacked the site).

On Aug. 13, 2014, V-22s deployed military advisers, Marines and Special Forces on Mount Sinjar to coordinate the evacuation of Yazidi refugees.

What could really be a “first” is the possible involvement of the Stealth Black Hawk helicopter exposed by the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, back in 2011.

For the moment it’s just a hypothesis, but Homeland Security suggests that the Delta Force team were transported deep into ISIS-held territory “via presumably stealth equipped Black Hawk helicopters” of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) “Night Stalkers”.

The U.S. Army special ops force provides support for both general purpose and special operations forces. They fly MH-47G Chinooks, MH-60L/K/DAP Black Hawks, A/MH-6M Little Birds, MH-X Silent Hawks (the latter is an unconfirmed designation for the Stealth Black Hawk), maybe stealthy Little Birds and stealthy Chinooks, as well as MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones.

160th SOAR’s Black Hawk helicopters presence in the region was first unveiled after an unspecified variant belonging to the U.S. Army took part in an unsuccessful raid to free captured American journalist James Foley and other captives from ISIS in eastern Syria in August 2014.

Even though American aircraft have already demonstrated their ability to operate completely undisturbed well inside the Syrian airspace, we can’t rule out the possibility that the Pentagon, as done in 2011 when the time to kill Bin Laden arrived, considered the importance of the most recent raid against the senior ISIS leader and the failure of at least a couple previous raids, decided to commit the most advanced and secret Black Hawk helicopter to the delicate mission against Abu Sayyaf: the stealth variant.


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We are closer to a European shared Aerial Refueling Capability

The Aviationist Blog - Sun, 17/05/2015 - 14:01
“Pooling and Sharing” may soon apply to the Aerial Refueling capability.

As we reported it at the end of last year, Poland, the Netherlands and Norway are willing to acquire shared aerial refueling capabilities. According to the information obtained by Polish media outlet, Poland’s share in the program is 22 percent, proportional to the flight hours allocated to the Polish Air Force.

In his interview for defence24, Jacek Sońta, spokesperson for the Polish Ministry of Defense stated that the request for proposal is about to be sent to the contractor – the Airbus company, which will provide the Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft – by the OCCAR agency (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière D’armement – Organization for joint cooperation within the field of armament), part of EDA (European Defense Agency), on behalf of the program member states.

Analysts highlighted that the tanker fleet spending is not contained within the Polish MoD’s “Technical Modernization Plan,” however, the Polish F-16 fighter jets are already using the refueling services provided to them by RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) and it is quite likely that the budget allocated to the AAR (air-to-air refueling) missions will be shifted to the program led by the EDA.

According to the report published by Aviation Week, ultimately up to four A330 MRTTs are going to be used for carrying out the refueling tasks. The basic plan assumes that the tankers are to reach the operational capabilities by 2019, and the program itself is to begin in mid-2020. The relevant agreement is scheduled to be signed next year, according to the information provided by the Polish MoD.

What is more, Aviation Week sheds some light on the operational details pertaining the joint aerial refueling initiative: the fleet of tankers is going to be based at the Eindhoven Air Base, even though the program assumes that forward operating locations will be established within the territories of the program participants. Airbus is going to provide the A330 tankers with both the flying boom, as well as the hose-and-drogue refueling systems.

One of the air bases in Poland that is probably going to host the tankers is Powidz AB, home for the Polish Air Force’s fleet of the Hercules transport aircraft, and equipped with a sufficiently long runway. So far it has accommodated large aircraft such as the E-4B, the AWACS, and more recently – the USAF A-10 deployment, which was a part of the Theater Security Package deployed to Europe, in the light of the Ukrainian Crisis.

Aviation Week also duly notes that the initiative is going to constitute a replacement for the Dutch KC-10 tankers, while in case of Norway it is going to seriously bolster the F-35 program. In case of Norway and Poland, utilizing the tanker would be a novelty. The whole program stems from the fact that, so far, the European air forces were relying on the US air refueling assets during training as well as real operations (like in Libya or the Balkans). Thus, a new, independent tanker program would provide the Europeans with a higher degree of independence.

The formal procedures related to the multinational use of the aerial-refueling capabilities are yet to be created.

Notably, the Airbus’s aircraft could also be used for multi-role transport operations and support several different duties, including the deployments of land forces abroad.

Image credit: © Commonwealth of Australia 2015


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U.S. Air Force A-10 and F-15 Theater Security Package activities in Europe in one infographic

The Aviationist Blog - Fri, 15/05/2015 - 19:52
An interesting infographic provides some detail about the two TSPs in Europe.

12 A-10s belonging to the first Air Force Theater Security Package and 12 F-15s of the first ANG  TSP (theater security package) are currently deployed in eastern Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Both TSPs will operate from bases across the Old Continent for about 6 months to augment U.S. Air Force in Europe support to Operation Atlantic Resolve, and reassure regional allies.

The following infographic provides some additional detail about the activities conducted by the TSPs so far (actually, until May 11).


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Spurned by US, Jordan Offered Armed UAVs by China | GPS Launch RFP Out | RQ-4 to Get Spruced Up

Defense Industry Daily - Fri, 15/05/2015 - 04:40

  • The Air Force has launched a tender for the launch of a next-generation Global Positioning System satellite, releasing a RFP for the launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations. The latest Lockheed Martin GPS-III satellite was recently announced as being ready for system testing.

  • The Pentagon is set to award $4 billion in contracts for modernization of the RQ-4 Global Hawk over the next five years, with the program funded to 2020. The program recently achieved milestone C, a key requirement for the platform to progress with modernization efforts.

  • Raytheon has been awarded another contract for the Tactical Boost Guide program, with DARPA exercising a $19.5 million option, bringing the total value of Raytheon’s contract with the agency to $24,390,645. The TBG program seeks to develop air-launched tactical range hypersonic boost glide systems, with DARPA working in conjunction with the Air Force.


  • Norway has requested 200 AIM-9X Block II missiles. The potential $345 million deal will likely see the missiles equip the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s (RNoAF) fleet of F-16s. The Norwegians helped develop the IRIS-T missile as part of a German-led multinational program, with this missile supposedly meant to replace the AIM-9 missiles in service with many NATO countries.

  • The Spanish Air Force has taken over the investigation of the crashed A400M, which came down outside Seville. The government initially tasked civilians from the Defense and Transport Ministries to investigate, however that responsibility has passed to the Spanish Air Force’s CITAAM investigative body.

Middle East

  • China is offering to sell Jordan armed UAVs, according to a California Republican. The Obama administration denied Jordanian requests for MQ-1 Predators last October.


  • The State Department has approved a possible sale of 48 UGM-84L Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles to Japan. The submarine-launched Block II version of the missile is designed to improve the missile’s ability to attack targets in congested littoral environments, where nearby land masses and other ships can provide cover for targets. The Foreign Military Sale would be worth $199 million, with the missiles manufactured by Boeing. The company is meanwhile offering the latest version of the missile – known as the Harpoon Next-Gen – to the US Navy.

  • India has cleared three defense procurement deals worth a total value of $3.8 billion, media reported Thursday. These include 145 M777 howitzers through a government-to-government Foreign Military Sale with the US, with Indian firms set to provide maintenance and ammunition.

  • The government also cleared the procurement of Russian Ka 226T light utility helicopters, following the restart of the program’s procurement process in March. The helicopters will be manufactured in India.

  • Airbus and TATA have teamed to supply the Indian Air Force with new transport aircraft, edging out home side HAL in the process. The partners will supply 56 C-295 transporters, with that particular deal worth $1.89 billion. Forty of the planes will be manufactured in India, with the remainder purchased in ready-to-fly condition.

  • The Indian Defence Acquisition Council also cleared the construction of India’s second domestically-manufactured aircraft carrier, to supplement the INS Vikrant currently under construction in Cochin Shipyard. The ship will be called the INS Vishal (Giant). In a further boost for the Indian Navy, the DAC cleared the procurement of six indigenously-developed BrahMos missile systems, with these set to equip Talwar and Delhi class ships.

  • L-3 has been selected to supply the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with SATCOM terminals, according to a company press release. The $81.8 million contract, awarded by prime contractor Raytheon as part of Joint Project 2008 Phase 5B1, will enable more ADF units to connect to the Wideband Global SATCOM network, with this latest contract a follow-on to a similar 2013 contract to supply 51 Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs). This latest contract will see the firm supply 236 VSATs, with these split between the company’s Hawkeye and Panther systems.

Today’s Video

  • The 155mm M777, soon to be in the hands of the Indian Army…

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs

Defense Industry Daily - Fri, 15/05/2015 - 03:40
RQ-4A Global Hawk
(click to view full)

Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV has established a dominant position in the High Altitude/ Long Endurance UAV market. While they are not cheap, they are uniquely capable. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the system flew only 5% of the US Air Force’s high altitude reconnaissance sorties, but accounted for more than 55% of the time-sensitive targeting imagery generated to support strike missions. The RQ-4 Global Hawk was also a leading contender in the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV competition, and eventually won.

The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program (GHM-D or BAMS-D) aims to use the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk airframe as a test bed for operational concepts and technologies that will eventually find their way into BAMS, and contribute valuable understanding to the new field of maritime surveillance with high-flying UAVs. It’s not just a test program, however, as its remaining drones also deploy to assist the fleet in active operations.

Contracts and Key Events BAMS-D to Pax River
click for video

All contracts are managed by The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD. The US military lists Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems, Western Region in San Diego, CA as the contractor, which is technically true. While that was the original contract, NGC Integrated Systems was combined with NGC Space Technology to form Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in January, 2009.

FY 2015

Increasing ops tempo.

May 15/15: The Pentagon is set to award $4 billion in contracts for modernization of the RQ-4 Global Hawk over the next five years, with the program funded to 2020. The program recently achieved milestone C, a key requirement for the platform to progress with modernization efforts.

May 6/15: The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle has been given milestone C approval from the Defense Acquisition Executive. The Global Hawk demonstrated interoperability and software maturity prior to milestone C, with the program fully funded throughout the Future Years Defense Program.

Feb 4/15: Northrop Grumman starts production on four units to go to South Korea. In late 2014 the Republic of Korea awarded Northrop Grumman a contract for four RQ-4s, including two ground stations and various support equipment. This is the first Pacific sale for the Global Hawk under the Foreign Military Sales process. RQ-4s are already being procured by Australia and Japan.

FY 2013 – 2014

Increasing ops tempo. RQ-4A Global Hawk
click to play video

June 13/14: FY 2014. Northrop Grumman System Corp. in San Diego, CA receives a $61.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for BAMS-D operations and maintenance services: logistics support; field service representatives; and organization, intermediate, and depot-level maintenance. That’s a significant increase, compared to past years, but the Navy has been clear about their intent to raise operational tempo (q.v. Sept 6/13).

All funds are committed immediately, using US Navy FY 2014 O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%); outside continental United States (25%); and Rancho Bernardo, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in June 2015. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-C-0117).

Jan 23/14: The BAMS-D fleet hits 10,000 flying hours supporting missions in the Middle East. It has been helpful during movements of carrier and amphibious groups, and has reached its goal of 15 missions per month (q.v. Sept 6/13). Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman-Built Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator Unmanned Aircraft Surpasses 10,000 Combat Flying Hours”.

Sept 6/13: More missions. A maximum $10 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for additional BAMS-D/ GHMD operations and maintenance services. The goal is to increase BAMS-D operational tempo from the current 9 maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions per month to a sustained level of 15 missions per month. That will require more people to handle maintenance and operations, rather than more UAVs. $3 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%), and outside continental United States (30%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014 (N00019-12-C-0117).

Aug 21/13: FY 2013. A $27.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising an option for this year’s BAMS-D operations and maintenance services. All funds are committed immediately, and expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30/13.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%), and outside the continental United States (30%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014 (N00019-12-C-0117).

Dec 18/12: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a $7.2 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to support new Airborne Recorder certification requirements for BAMS-D. The change was forced by an NSA Information Assurance Security and Requirements Directive.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (75%); Bethpage, NY (20%); and San Diego, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. Funding will be committed as needed (N00019-08-C-0023).

FY 2011 – 2012

Crash. BAMS-D crash
click for video

Aug 29/12: FY 2012. Northrop Grumman in San Diego, CA receives a $40.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for continued operations and maintenance services in support of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator Unmanned Aircraft System, also known as the Global Hawk Maritime – Demonstrator.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%) and outside the continental US (30%), and will run until August 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0117).

June 11/12: Crash. An RQ-4A BAMS-D Global Hawk crashes into a marshy tributary of Maryland’s Nanticoke River, during a routine training flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River. There were no injuries to civilians and no property damage, but the crash site has been blocked to recreational boat traffic while the agency investigates.

The crash leaves 4 UAVs in the program: 3 for testing, tactics, and doctrine development in the USA, and 1 deployed abroad with the 5th fleet. CNN | Wired Danger Room | WBOC.


Aug 23/11: FY 2011. A $35.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercise an option for another year of operations and maintenance services in support of the U.S. Navy Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (75%), and outside the United States (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0018).

FY 2009 – 2010

Deployments. MP-RTIP radar. Global Hawk Cutaway
(click to view full)

July 23/10: FY 2010. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Sector in San Diego, CA receives a $29.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide operations and maintenance services for the U.S. Navy’s Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration.

Work will be performed outside the U.S. (50%); and in Patuxent River, MD (30%); and San Diego, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete in August 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1.

July 15/10: A $5.5 million contract modification for software development to test maritime surveillance and maritime imaging modes for the MP-RTIP radar. At this time, all funds have been committed by the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (F-19628-00-C-0100; P00209).

The Northrop Grumman/Raytheon MP-RTIP is a 1.5 x 4 foot active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar designed to provide better resolution than current ground-viewing systems. It will equip new Global Hawk Block 40s, but at the moment, it’s experiencing software challenges with “concurrent” mode, where the radar tracks moving targets (GTMI) while maintaining a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mapping scan. See also Aviation Week.

Oct 1/09: Deployment. One of the U.S. Navy’s 2 RQ-4 GHMD/ BAMS-D UAVs returns from service with Task Force 57, which operates in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and North Arabian Sea. The UAV conducted operational “field tests” that included over 60 flights over land and sea areas, and over 1,000 hours in the air, providing images to Task Force 57 in near real-time. The BAMS-D UAV was operated by navy personnel back in the United States at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD.

A team from Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2, Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 5, NAVAIR, and Northrop Grumman Corporation conducted the deployment. A forward-deployed contingent of Northrop Grumman personnel, under oversight of Patrol Wings 2 and 5, provided maintenance for the aircraft, while working closely with counterparts on the USAF’s Global Hawk maintenance team.

The Navy’s 2nd BAMS-D UAV has now been sent overseas to continue field testing, while the returning aircraft returning aircraft undergoes depot-level maintenance and conducts other tests closer to home. US Navy NAVAIR, Oct 20/09 | StrategyPage.

Aug 17/09: Inside the Navy reports that the US Navy plans to use the GHMD in support of anti-piracy operations near Somalia, but satellite communication and control issues will need to be resolved first.

July 15/09: FY 2009. A $26.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for additional operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) Program.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in August 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09.

April 23/09: FY 2009. An $8.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus fixed fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) to provide additional operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD).

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in November 2009. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

March 24/09: Deployment. The Navy’s 1st unmanned Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator “Global Hawk” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle lands in the 5th Fleet’s Area of Responsibility, completing its 17th successful operational mission. The UAV was flown by Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE and other P-3 aviators via a satellite link from a mission control station located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. Source [PDF].

Feb 4/09: Deployment. Reports indicate that one of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration UAVs has deployed to CENTCOM’s theater of operations by the US Navy. Information Dissemination believes that its future will include pirate tracking off of Africa’s eastern coast. GHMD is a limited program that is both a predecessor to BAMS, and a way to experiment and learn how an advanced maritime patrol UAV can be used in real world operations (CONOPS).

Dec 23/08: Recognition. Northrop Grumman announces that US Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-20) gave the RQ-4 Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) team its Q2 2008 Test Team of the Quarter award. To date, the 2 GHMD demonstrator aircraft have flown more than 1,350 hours.

The team’s accomplishments included performing more than 1,000 hours of flight operations over an 18-month period, troubleshooting issues with the communications system, integrating the automatic identification system into the aircraft so it can be used in civilian air space, conducting tests with the ocean surveillance initiative, and developing tactics and guidelines for unmanned patrol systems. From January to June 2008, the team also supported various operational activities, including the Southeastern Anti-Submarine Warfare Initiative 08-2, the USS Iwo Jima Group Sail, and the Commander Carrier Strike Group 8. The team’s successes during this period culminated with the Trident Warrior exercise in June 2008, when the team flew more than 113 hours over a 5-week period, including an unplanned 23-hour humanitarian mission in which a GHMD was re-tasked to assist in the Northern California wildfires. July saw the UAVs participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2008 fleet exercise, which saw the team finish 4 missions totaling more than 92 hours.

Nov 10/08: Training. The USAF discusses some of the logistics involved. A cadre of USAF RQ-4 pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, CA are teaching a class of 3 active-duty P-3 Orion pilots and one civilian contractor how to fly the Global Hawk. Navy officials are looking to the Air Force to assist in expediting their pending RQ-4 Global Hawk deployment, one reason the normally 5-month course is being condensed to 4.

FY 2003 – 2008

GHM-D EMD . BAMS victory. P-8A MMA Concept
(click to view full)

Sept 18/08: FY 2008. A $12.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus fixed fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in September 2009. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

April 22/08: BAMS. Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems in Bethpage, NY wins a cost-plus-award-fee contract with an estimated value of $1.16 billion for the BAMS System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, which will create the MQ-4N Triton UAV companion to the P-8A Poseidon. The award later prevails over protests from the losing coalition of Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.

See DID’s BAMS FOCUS article for more.

RQ-4 wins BAMS

Dec 19/07: FY 2008. A $12.1 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $4.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

April 30/07: FY 2007. A $7.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2007. Contract funds in the amount of $4.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Nov 30/05: FY 2006. $10.5 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057). It exercises an option for operations and maintenance support of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (79%) and Patuxent River, MD (21%), and is expected to be complete in November 2006.

Sept 20/05: Support. $27.1 million not-to-exceed delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0009) for the procurement of initial spares in support of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program. Work on this contract will be performed in San Diego, CA (46%); El Segundo, CA (28%); Salt Lake City, UT (19%); Indianapolis, IN (4%); and Falls Church, VA (3%); and is expected to be complete in September 2007.

Oct 6/05: 1st flight. The first RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV slated for the Navy’s GHMD program made its first flight from Palmdale, CA, to Edward’s Air Force Base, CA. US Navy.

May 2/03: R&D. Raytheon Co. in Falls Church, VA receives a $5 million not-to-exceed order against a previously awarded basic ordering agreement N00019-02-G-0350 for requirements development and initial design of the Block 3 Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) data control processor, data link controls and payload processing. The contract also includes preparation of an engineering plan to integrate this system into existing ships. The TCS will provide a single unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mission planning, command and control, data processing and dissemination system for operation of a whole range of UAV types. Work will be performed in Falls Church, VA (80%), and Rancho Bernardo, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete in December 2003.

Feb 5/03: EMD. $185.2 million cost-plus-award-fee using an undefinitized-contract-action contract modification. Provides for engineering and manufacturing development activities in support of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration.

Further funds will be obligated as individual delivery orders are issued, and work will be complete by September 2006 (F33657-01-C-4600, P00020).

GHM-D EMD contract

Additional Readings

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CSDP blog - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 22:21

The new blogsite is under construction
Please see the older blog entries here

Spanish BPC (projection and command ship) to Turkey

CSDP blog - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 22:15

The projection ship ordered by Turkey will based on the Spain LHD ship Juan Carlos 1 (built by the Spanish shipyard Navantia) which also serve as the base of 2 futurs Australian Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide.

In 2004, French company Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) and Spanish company Navantia were invited to tender proposals, with DCN offering the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship and Navantia proposing the "Buque de Proyección Estratégica" design (later commissioned as Juan Carlos I). The Spanish design was selected in 2007, with Navantia responsible for construction of the ships from the keel to the flight deck, and BAE Systems Australia handling the fabrication of the superstructure and fitting out.
The construction of the first ship, HMAS Canberra, commenced in late 2008, with the hull launched in early 2011, and sea trials in early 2014. Canberra was commissioned in November 2014. Work on the second vessel, HMAS Adelaide, started in early 2010. Adelaide is predicted to enter service in 2016. They are the largest vessels ever operated by the RAN, with a displacement of 27,500 tonnes (27,100 long tons; 30,300 short tons).

The French Mistral class is an Amphibious general assault ship (LHA) that means an Amphibious general assault ship with flush deck and dock for amphibious craft. Tarawa Class ships (US Navy) are an other example. The Spanish Amphibious Assault-Ship, Multi-purpose (LHD) Juan Carlos 1 is identical to the LHA but with a capacity to lead maritime space control operations and force projection missions using ASW helicopters and V/STOL aircraft. Other examples of these type are the Wasp (US Navy).

This Turkish decision is a bad news for the French shipyard DCNS unable the deliver Sevastopol and Vladivostok Mistral class BPC ordered by Russia, due to political reason (EU embargo) and after the loss of the Australian tender France can lost the confidence of others futur potential customers.

The Park Palace Attack: More losses for Afghanistan (updated with a list of the dead)

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 20:50

The Taleban attack on a Kabul guesthouse which killed 15 people (not 14, as earlier reports said) on 13 May 2015 was aimed, the Taleban claimed, at “invaders”, specifically an “important meeting” of “important people from many invading countries, especially Americans.” In this update of our earlier dispatch, AAN’s Kate Clark identifies all the dead: all were civilian and eight were aid workers, five, Afghans from the regions who had been visiting Kabul for training. Even by the Taleban’s own crude metrics of nationality apparently denoting ‘targetability’, she says just two of the dead came from NATO member states. Moreover, once again, she says, the Taleban have breached the distinction between military and civilian, seemingly branding all foreigners as ‘invaders’. Along with biographical details of all those killed, she pays tribute to one of them in particular, a friend of AAN’s, the former director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), Paula Kantor, who was a serious-minded, generous researcher and mentor who carried out important work on reducing poverty in Afghanistan.

 (Originally published 14 May; updated 18 May 2015.)

15 people, all civilians, were killed when the Taleban attacked the Park Palace Hotel in central Kabul on the night of 13 May 2015. It is a mid-range hotel, where many foreigners, largely Indians and Pakistanis, but also Westerners stay or live. Most tend to be aid workers, researchers and journalists; those with more money or who feel particularly under threat usually stay at the far more expensive Serena. On Wednesday night, the Park Palace was hosting Afghan classical musician Ustad Eltaf Hussein (1) and the concert had drawn many Afghan and foreign music lovers. The police believe the attack was pre-planned since the gunman/men (the number is disputed; the Taleban say one, Afghan security forces say three) did not need to force their entrance with explosives or by killing guards, but appear to have been inside the hotel beforehand.

By nationality, those killed were: Afghan (six, including a joint British-Afghan national), Indian (four), Pakistani (two) American (one), Italian (one) and Kazakh (one).

The number of foreigners killed and wounded made this an unusual attack, as the vast majority of those killed in the conflict continue to be Afghans (both civilian and military). Last year, on average across the country, 29 civilians were killed or injured as a result of the war every day (UNAMA figures; see also AAN analysis). However, that average is likely to increase this year, given that the violence has already intensified. UNAMA reported the number of civilian casualties during the first four months of 2015 as 16 per cent higher than in the same period in 2014. There was virtually no ‘winter lull’ this year, except in the Afghan capital which had been enjoying an unusually quiet few months after a particularly violent autumn and early winter. A number of explanations have been supplied for this – that it was partially linked to President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to ‘take the gloves off’ with regard to night raids by NDS and Afghan Special Forces (Karzai had largely banned these), and partially to the president’s demands that Pakistan put greater pressure on the Taleban to, among other things, cease all suicide and complex attacks in the capital.

Then came two suicide attacks on shuttle buses ferrying workers to and from the Attorney General’s Office, first on 4 May and then on 10 May 2015, which, together, killed seven civilians and injured dozens more. And now the attack on a cultural event at a hotel. (2) The lull is certainly over. The end of the calm raises questions about Pakistan’s intent and influence over those sending attackers and suicide bombers into the Afghan capital. It condemned the attack, which came a day after a visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; he had assured Afghanistan of Islamabad’s full support in its battle against the Taleban, saying, “the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be the friends of Pakistan.”

The attack also raises questions about Taleban intentions this year.

The Taleban’s ‘spring offensive’ statement, issued on 11 April 2015, reads as if, after years of being lambasted for attacking civilians, the movement was finally trying harder to protect them.

… top priority will be given to safeguard and protect the lives and properties of the civilian people; and those Mujahidin who are negligent and careless in preserving the lives and properties of the civilian people and their operations result in the civilian losses or casualties, will be panelized according to Jihadi and Sharia rules and regulations. Similarly, consisting with its policies, the Islamic Emirate has never and will never target religious and other educational institutions like mosques, madrassas, schools, universities, health centers like clinics and hospitals, public buildings and other projects of public welfare. [English as original]

However, both the Taleban attacks on prosecutors and judges, and the assault on the Park Palace Hotel, represented major breaches of international law which prohibits attacks on civilians. Despite their talk, the Taleban continue to fail to abide by the Geneva Conventions, which demand the protection of non-combatants. Instead, the Taleban divide people into those they deem to be with the government, whether military or civilian, and those who are not. It is only the latter which they call ‘civilians.’ In their eyes that makes, for example, prosecutors ‘fair game.’ (UNAMA, quoted earlier, noted on 10 May, that there had, by that point in 2015, been 11 separate attacks against legal professionals and court houses, causing in total 114 civilian casualties (28 killed and 86 injured) this year so far – “an increase of more than 600 per cent from the same period last year.”)

Taleban justifications of the Park Palace attack

The Taleban’s repeated use of the word ‘invaders’ as an apparent synonym for ‘foreigner’ in their claim of responsibility for the Park Palace attack (read a translation at the end of this dispatch) also reads like a deliberate attempt to blur the distinction between military and civilian.

… the mujahed managed to… attack a meeting attended by over 100 invaders.

… an important meeting attended by important people from many invading countries, especially Americans…

The enemies…were holding night-time parties consisting promiscuity and indulgence as well as other important meetings.

Among the dead, there are a number of important/senior people from the invading countries…

The invading countries should understand that they will not stay safe from our attacks at any place and under any cover as long as they fail to withdraw their troops from our country and recognize our sovereignty. … (3) 

Following this statement, some people pressed the Taleban on whether they now considered foreign humanitarian workers as legitimate targets. Here was one exchange with Abdul Qahar Balkhi who tweets for the Taleban (all English as per the original)  in which it looked like they were backing off from their initial hard-line messaging:

Abdulqahar Balkhi: Every foreigner from invading country especially @NATO is considered an invader, we don’t classify any as civilian

@SwoopOuttaOrbit: So even if i was on a humanitarian mission For instance as a doctor in a hospital then i would be your enemy?

@Abdulqahar Balkhi: Any Muslim/non-Muslim not part of @NATO alliance working for humanitarian cause is not considered invader

@Abdulqahar Balkhi: there are proper procedures in place for humanitarian orgs to contribute positively in Afghanistan

Balkhi made another response, to Amnesty International which had condemned what it called an “atrocious attack,” the Taleban’s “contempt for human life” and a “surge” in their targeting of civilians:

@Abdulqahar Balkhi: Reaction: #amnestyinternational accusations about civ/cas baseless, foreign nationals working for invaders not civ.

@Abdulqahar Balkhi: US & their hirelings deliberately target Ulama, madaris, homes & civilians daily; these same organizations have elected absolute silence

In other words, there was both a denial that the dead were civilians and a counter-accusation, that the US and Afghan government forces regularly kill Afghan civilians.

The main claim came 12 hours after the attack started – a long delay by Taleban standard. Apart from the Twitter comments, there has been only one other statement, an article published on the Taleban’s al-Emara (‘the Emirate’) Pashto website. Reporting only the confirmation of the Indian and American casualties, it still insisted the attack had been against “invaders,” but now emphasized the ‘moral decay’ of the concert, saying it had been organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had involved ‘scandal’ and ‘obscenity.’

Conflating civilian and military

Whatever justifications the Taleban try to make, from the list of those killed below, it is clear just how far away they were from being the “important invaders” claimed by the movement. Of the 15 dead – 11 men and three women – eight were aid workers, (4) five of them Afghan nationals who had travelled in from the regions for training. Three others worked in finance, three others as consultants in energy, infrastructure  or in an unspecified sector. The last was a visiting spouse.

The place which was targeted was also at odds with the Taleban’s portrayal of it. A mid-range hotel, its guests were mostly Indians and Pakistanis, along with Westerners and Afghans from the provinces; these were professional people with access to limited budgets and little reason, they thought, to fear a Taleban attack. If they had had more money or felt themselves to be more obvious targets, they would have been staying elsewhere.

Did the Taleban just make a mistake in their estimation of the worthiness of Park Palace as an important target? (UNODC used to be based there; when they did, there were indeed more stringent security measures. However, it has also not previously been linked to the ‘invasion’.)

Or was the Park Palace just a place which the Taleban could attack easily and hope to net victims who could be held up afterwards as “the targets”?

Or was this actually intended as an attack on foreigners linked to NATO countries? We wrote earlier that in the killing of someone like Paula Kantor the inherent racism of viewing all foreigners or Westerners as ‘invaders’ became clear, in that her suitability as a target in Taleban eyes apparently had nothing to do with who she was or what she did, but only that she was a westerner. However, even here the gunman/men apparently failed to distinguish among potential victims according to the crude metrics of a foreigner/Westerner being an enemy, given that Afghans and those from the region were not spared (Pakistani, Indian and Kazakh). One of the victims, for example, according to two eye-witnesses who spoke to AAN, was an older ‘local-looking’ man with a long grey and white beard wearing shalwar kamiz. Did the gunman/men expect more Westerners and then just kill whomever they found?

As AAN wrote after the attack on the Lebanese restaurant in Kabul in January 2014, we have seen the Taleban crossing the red line of targeting foreign civilians before. And we have seen them trying to justify this before (see, for instance, their response to AAN’s piece on the Taverna attack). We have also seen them pulling back. This time the Taleban’s language is again worrying and many will be watching to see whether their targeting ‘guidelines’ have indeed changed. The fear is that the paucity of foreign military targets (the vast majority of the international military are in non-combat roles advising at senior levels; they are not in the field, except for some United States special forces) may make the softer foreign civilian targets more attractive. Many people, anyway, will already be sceptical of the Taleban’s assertions on Twitter that humanitarians are not targets, given the sheer number of aid workers among those killed.

If there was a shift in the Taleban’s targeting, this would put a large part of the international humanitarian and aid effort under threat, with potentially grave consequences to vulnerable Afghans (50 per cent of whom live beneath the poverty line). The irony would be that those affected would include NGOs who, out of principle, have always distanced themselves from the western military and who have often been in the country for decades, including during the Taleban regime.

15 dead, all civilians, all individuals, among them Paula Kantor

Before giving a longer obituary of Paula Kantor the former director of the other leading Kabul-based research organisation, AREU, who was a colleague and friend of AAN’s, we present what is known of the other victims. Many of the Afghan families did not want the identities of their kin released, possibly for privacy reasons, familiar to grieving families everywhere, possibly also because of the fear of repercussion. We have respected this.

The Afghans

Two Afghans working for the NGO Action Aid, 27-year old Muhammad Muhammadi and 36-year old Dr Jawed Ahmad Sahai, were killed. They were both working in Balkh and had come to Kabul for training on watershed management and water harvesting. A colleague, Andrew Wieteacha, told Vice News he was close to both and described how he would periodically travel to the provinces with Sahai:

It would be Sahai’s stories about his family, including anecdotes of his 4-year-old daughter, that Wieteacha would miss most, he said. “He was more than a hard worker, more than a dedicated humanitarian,…he was also a father and a husband. His family was paramount to him.”

Wieteacha said Muhammadi had always been listening to other people, “It was his patience and kindness that made [him] so easy to work with.” Other colleagues, describing how he had risen within the ranks at Action Aid, told Vice News of his “innate ability to win the respect of everyone from senior colleagues, high-powered political officials and even local elders.” 

The families of three other Afghans working for another NGO, the Aga Khan Foundation, who were killed in the attack did not want their identities revealed. A colleague said the two men and one woman, who were “of a variety of ages, young and old” were normally based in Takhar working on the Foundation’s human and institutional development programme. Like the Afghan Aid staff, they had been in Kabul for training.

A British Afghan who had been working for the British Council was also killed at Park Palace. His family also did not want his details released.

The Indians

Dr Martha Farrell (1959-2015) was a director of the NGO, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), which she and her husband had founded in 1982 to promote citizens’ participation in democratic government. In a professional career lasting more than 30 years, she had worked in India and abroad in the fields of education, research and policy advocacy, especially on gender and women’s rights. She had been in Kabul to train staff from the Aga Khan Foundation and was killed along with three of her trainees. There were strong tributes for Martha from former colleagues:

Dr Martha Farrell was a dear friend, popular colleague and a great support to others. She has always championed the causes of poor and marginalized. She lived and sacrificed her life for gender equality and women empowerment.

(from the PRIA website)

Martha was a strong woman, always very focussed and determined. She was a great trainer, she was instrumental in mainstreaming gender in PRIA, and she always raised gender issues in all discourses. Martha was passionate about her work.

(a message posted at Sahayi – Centre for Collective Learning and Action; see here)

Dr Farrell is survived by her husband and two children.

Two other Indians were auditors at the same firm. Rajesh Kumar Bhatti, who was 64 and from Chandigarh, had retired as a Senior Deputy Accountant General of Punjab in 2011 and, his son said, had been planning to finish his assignment in Kabul and return home next month: “I spoke to him yesterday, and he seemed excited about his coming trip to the US. He had booked the flight tickets and was going to stay with my younger brother there.” (5) His colleague, George Mathew from Ernakulam in Kochi, had called his family during the attack saying he was fine and hiding. Later, when they called back, there was no response.

The fourth Indian to be killed, Dr Satish Chandra, was described as a “technical consultant”

The Pakistanis

Pakistan lost two nationals in the attack: Ismail Awan, an adviser with an Afghan power supply company who was from Sargodha in Punjab, and Abdul Sattar, a finance manager in an Afghan construction company who was from Charsadda district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Italian and Kazakh

Aigerim Abdulayeva, 27 years old and from Kazakhstan (parents from Taraz but they had migrated to the capital), was killed along with her husband, Alessandro Abati, who was 48 and from Lombardy in Italy. They had met in Kazakhstan and married there before moving to Milan where Abdulayeva was studying for a degree in fashion design. It seems, from the Italian press, that they had been planning a second marriage ceremony in Italy in July. It reported that Abati had been a consultant for infrastructure projects and had worked extensively in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. According to the Italian Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, he had been working most recently “as a consultant to an agency that promotes investment in Afghanistan.” His parents, said the press, were “shut up in pain; [they] preferred not to comment.”

The American

Dr Paula Kantor, was a dedicated and meticulous researcher who spent five years working in Afghanistan, first as senior researcher and then director of AREU (2005-2010). She had been in Kabul for a few days, the first time in five years, very excited to be starting a new project looking at women and wheat-growing in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Ethiopia for the Islamabad-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, the world’s leading centre for research, development and training for these two essential staple crops. Four months ago, she had been appointed as its senior scientist working on gender and development. Typically, for Paula’s work, the new project was aimed at helping the poorest and most vulnerable.

Previously, Paula had worked at the WorldFish Centre, the International Centre for Research on Women and at the Universities of East Anglia and Wisconsin-Madison. With a BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Gender and Development from the University of Sussex and a PhD in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina, she brought a formidable skill-set to her work in Afghanistan.

More importantly, however, she brought a commitment to positive social change through policy research. Behind her often self-deprecating front were firm and steadfast views on the importance and relevance of research and the need to uphold high standards. She was pro-active and energetic in seeking out new ideas and opportunities for research that would make a difference in improving people’s lives, especially in the areas of child labour, women, livelihoods, and migration. “She was focused on her work,” one former colleague said, “yet with staff, she was always generous with her time.” Her output at AREU was prolific (6), but she was also crucial for training up a new generation of Afghan researchers and was always a strong advocate for defining a meaningful career path for them.

She remained hopeful for Afghanistan as she made clear on the eve of the London conference in 2010 when Afghan and international leaders met to discuss ‘progress’ in Afghanistan:

“If the international community listens as much as it speaks, and if it responds genuinely to Afghan needs and priorities, then the shoots of hope, already present, can grow.” 

Billions of dollars have been spent on aid in Afghanistan and yet there is still an overwhelming need for the kind of research which Paula carried out and mentored others in doing: thoughtful, passionate, practical and committed, seeking to understand the intricacies of the Afghan social and economic systems that keep people thriving, oppressed or just alive.


(1) Ustad Eltaf Hussain is the son of Ustad Muhammad Hussain Sarahang. He was born in Kabul in 1955 and learned classical music from both his grandfather, Ustad Ghulam Hussain Khan, and father. He was also trained by Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan of Pakistan.

(2) Most recently, the Taleban’s 17 May suicide attack against a EUPOL convoy (a civilian target, although one which the Taleban consider military) next to the Kabul airport was bound to hurt civilians; indeed, two teenage girls were killed, along with a British security guard working with EUPOL.

(3) A hint that the Taleban might be about to widen their targeting had already come in their spring offensive statement: “the occupation has not ceased in political, cultural, educational, propaganda and other aspects.”

(4) Quoting Acbar, we earlier reported seven aid workers killed. However, the British Afghan had also been working on a development project.

(5) The Indian press reported that two of the Indians had been working with the UN, but UNAMA has confirmed to AAN that none of the dead had been “working with nor was contracted to any UN entity.”

(6) A list of Paula Kantor’s publications at AREU (some co-authored) are:

Create More Quality Jobs with Regular Pay to Improve Livelihoods and Political Stability, May 2007, with Stefan Schütte

Target Assistance to Families with the Least Access to Diverse, Better-Paying Jobs, May 2007, with Stefan Schütte 

Microcredit, Informal Credit and Rural Livelihoods: A Village Case Study in Kabul Province, November 2007, with Erna Anderson 

Microcredit, Informal Credit and Rural Livelihoods: A Village Case Study in Bamiyan, April 2008, with Erna Anderson

Factors Influencing Decisions to Use Child Labour: A Case Study of Poor Households in Kabul, April 2008, with Anastasiya Hozyaninva

Focusing ANDS Implementation on Pro-Poor Outcomes: Workshop Proceedings, 23 February 2009, with Sayed Mohammad Shah

Delivering on Poverty Reduction: Focusing ANDS Implementation on Pro-Poor Outcomes, February 2009, with Adam Pain

From Access to Impact: Microcredit and Rural Livelihoods in Afghanistan, June 2009

Child Labour in Afghanistan: ACBAR Presentation Notes, November 2009

Building a Viable Microfinance Sector in Afghanistan, January 2010, with Erna Anderson

Speaking from the Evidence: Governance, Justice and Development—Policy Notes for the 2010 Kabul Conference, May 2010, with Anna Larson, Deborah J Smith, Emily Winterbotham, Jay Lamey and Rebecca Roberts

Improving Efforts to Achieve Equitable Growth and Reduce Poverty, April 2010

Afghanistan Livelihood Trajectories: Evidence from Faryab, September 2010, with Zarah Batul Nezami

Poverty in Afghan Policy: Enhancing Solutions through Better Defining the Problem, November 2010, with Adam Pain

Securing Life and Livelihoods in Rural Afghanistan: The Role of Social Relationships, December 2010, with Adam Pain

Understanding and Addressing Context in Afghanistan: How Villages Differ and Why, December 2010, with Adam Pain

Running out of Options: Tracing Rural Afghan Livelihoods, January 2011, with Adam Pain

Beyond the Market: Can the AREDP transform Afghanistan’s rural nonfarm economy? February 2011, with Adam Pain

ANNEX: The Taleban’s statement on the Park Palace attack (AAN translation from the Pashto text)

Fedai Attack on Meeting Related to Occupiers Killed and Wounded Dozens of Occupiers Last Night in Kabul

Last night at 9 pm during the Azm operation, a self-sacrificing [fedai] mujahid, Muhammad Idris hailing from Logar province, using a special tactic, carried out [a series of] attacks on Park Palace guesthouse in Taimani area of Kabul city. The mujahid, who had a pistol, a Kalashnikov, a huge amount of explosives, a [suicide] vest and hand grenades, managed to breach the perimeters of the guesthouse and attack a meeting attended by over 100 invaders.

The attack which lasted until late last night was designed carefully; an important meeting attended by important people from many invading countries, especially Americans, was in progress as the attack happened.

Such attacks had previously happened in Wazir Akbar Khan and Shahr-e Naw which resulted in severe casualties for the enemy. The enemies have now [after the two previous areas turned insecure] moved to this area [Taimai] where they were holding night-time parties consisting of promiscuity and indulgence as well as other important meetings.

The mujahedin had followed the enemies carefully and knew about the timing of the meeting precisely. The fedai mujahid managed to cross all the security blockades safely and arrived in the hall [where the meeting was taking place]. According to information, more than 100 people were present in the meeting, half of whom were either killed or wounded in the attack.

Among the dead are a number of senior people from the invading countries; the media and the enemies will perhaps keep silent over that.

Rumours suggesting that the attack was carried out by three people are inaccurate; only one person carried out the attack.

The invading countries should understand that they will not stay safe from our attacks at any place and under any cover as long as they fail to withdraw their troops from our country and recognize our sovereignty. 

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

The U.S. will base B-1 bombers and surveillance planes in Australia amid South China Sea tensions

The Aviationist Blog - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 17:47
Bombers and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft head towards the Pacific.

It looks like the U.S. Air Force is planning to deploy some strategic bombers and surveillance aircraft in Australia to put some pressure on China amid South China Sea tensions.

The South China Sea is the subject of several territorial claims. China claims sovereignty on some island chains and  waters that are within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam

This year, China has started building an airstrip on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea  waters claimed by the Philippines.

According to FP, the Defense Department’s Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear, during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 13, said that along with moving U.S. Marines and Army units around the region, the Pentagon will deploy air assets in Australia, “including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft.”

The U.S. Air Force ISR aircraft, possibly unmanned Global Hawk drones, will monitor activities around the disputed islands, whereas the “Bone” heavy bombers will serve as a deterrent to challenge Beijing aggressive ownership claims.

U.S. strategic bombers have already been temporarily deployed to Australia, to take part in exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2012 and at the end of 2014 as a consequence of a joint Force Posture Initiative signed in 2011 to train together to face threats in the Pacific.

Actually, U.S. aircraft don’t really need to deploy to Australia to put pressure on China: Air Force Global Strike Command’s bombers, including B-52s and B-2s, routinely operate from Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, strategically located 1,800 miles (about 2,900 km) to the east of China. And they can even launch round-trip strike missions from their bases located in the Continental U.S.

According to Xinhuanet, China cautioned the U.S. against taking any actions in the region, urging Washington “not to take any risks or make any provocations so as to maintain regional peace and stability.”

Image credit: Boeing


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Future GPS: The USA’s GPS-III Programs

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 04:01
GPS IIIA concept
(click to view full)

GPS-III satellites, in conjunction with their companion OCX ground control, system are the Global Positioning System (GPS) future. They offer big advantages over existing GPS-II satellites and GCS, but most of all, they have to work. Disruption or decay of the critical capabilities provided by the USA’s Navstar satellites would cripple both the US military, and many aspects of the global economy.

The time-based GPS service is the most-used application of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity. GPS has become part of civilian life in ways that go go far beyond those handy driving maps, including crop planting, timing services for stock trades, and a key role in credit card processing. At the same time, military class (M-code) GPS guidance can now be found in everything from cruise missiles and various precision-guided bombs, to battlefield rockets and even artillery shells. Combat search and rescue radios rely on this line of communication, and so does a broadening array of individual soldier equipment.

This DII FOCUS article looks at the existing constellation, GPS-III improvements, the program’s structure, its progress through contracts and key milestones, and extensive PTN (Positioning, Timing & Navigation)/ GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) research links.

GPS: The Existing Array A GPS primer
click for video

The GPS constellation needs to contain at least 24 evenly spaced satellites, though 27 is preferred to maintain proper global coverage from Medium Earth Orbit. USAF Space Command wants to have at least 30, in order to ensure that a quick series of on-orbit satellite failures, or problems caused by an orbit’s somewhat “dirty” status, don’t drop the constellation below 27. Those failures are possible, as a look at the current constellation demonstrates. At the end of 2012, there were 31 healthy GPS satellites on orbit:

Navstar II concept
(click to view full)

9 Block IIAs. Plus 4 more not in healthy shape, of 19 launched. Intended design life: 7.5 years. Due to good design, redundant components, and clever adjustments, these satellites have lasted significantly longer than that. The record is over 20 years.

12 Block IIRs. Intended design life: 10 years. Launches began in 1997, so some are already beyond that. Adds on-board clock monitoring. 21 GPS IIRs were built by Lockheed Martin, of which 8 were modernized to GPS IIR-M status.

7 upgraded Block IIR-Ms. Each IIR-M satellite includes a modernized antenna panel that provides increased signal power, 2 new military signals for improved accuracy to within 1 meter, enhanced military encryption, flexible power anti-jamming capabilities, and a 2nd civil signal (L2C) that will provide users with an open access signal on a different frequency. The additional signals make a difference, because it allows receivers to see the error created by the Earth’s ionosphere, then use advanced algorithms to refine positioning accuracy.

The 8th and final GPS IIR-M was launched in August 2009, but 2nd of type SVN-49 is “unusable”.

3 GPS-IIF. The next set of satellites are Boeing’s Block IIF. Intended life: 12 years. Their improvements include architecture updates; power, processor, and weight improvements; more accurate atomic clocks, better jamming resistance, and operational capability for a new military signal. On the civil side, there’s a 3rd “safety of life” civil signal (L5) in the aviation protection spectrum, which is expected to enable more widespread use of GPS for civil aviation, air traffic control, and high-precision measurement.

There will eventually be 12 GPS-IIFs in space, if all goes well.

GPS Control Segment
(click to view full)

Ground control: An updated ground control segment known as the Architectural Evolution Plan is also proceeding. On the control side, AEP adds a new Master Control Station at Schriever AFB, CO, and an alternate station at Vandenberg AFB, CA. More ground antennas have been added to control GPS satellites by using USAFSCN remote tracking stations, and monitoring was improved by cooperating with the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s MS network. With respect to its technical back end, AEP is designed to move control of the constellation off of 1970s-era mainframe computer systems, and onto a modern graphical interface. It will also add a distributed architecture that can run parallel applications, instead of putting everything in a single queue.

AEP first became operational in September 2007, and added the capability to control Block IIF satellites in March 2008. Nevertheless, it’s an interim solution with key limitations. It cannot put a navigation message onto, or control, modernized signals like the civil L2C, or the GPS IIR/M’s dedicated military coded signal. Nor will it be able keep up with growing demands for improved situational awareness and other required evolutions. That’s why it was considered for GPS III control, but rejected.

The GPS III Program

When fully deployed, the current vision for GPS-III is that the new satellites will feature a new L1C civil signal that will be compatible with Europe’s Galileo GNSS constellation; a cross-linked command and control architecture that allows the entire GPS constellation to be updated from a single ground station; and a spot beam antenna that provides resistance to hostile military jamming while improving accuracy and integrity.

The USAF has had issues with over-budget satellite programs in the past, in part because the technology requirements were often leaping ahead on too many fronts at once. This is a natural response to systems with a satellite’s large launch costs and long life cycle, but the lagging launch schedules and liberal cost overruns were becoming limiting. GPS III incorporates these lessons, and will be set up as an incremental acquisition, with a ground segment and 3 blocks of investment and inserts:

GPS Block IIIA. These satellites are larger than previous Navstar buses. Bigger size allows more power, which in turn creates a signal that’s easier to acquire. The wide-angle whole Earth antenna will be supplemented by a high-gain directional antenna, allowing +20db signals (roughly 105x power) to specific areas of the globe. The more sensitive a receiver must be, the easier it is to jam, and the wider the jamming radius at a specific jamming power. Additional satellite power, plus additional signals which offer signal gains of their own, plus a directional antenna boost, really adds up when you’re trying to make the signal robust.

On the civil side of the ledger, signal type gains and increased transmitting power mean something just as consequential: GPS receivers can become cheaper and more reliable. This will be especially true for high-end, high-precision civil GPS, once the new L5 signal is fully deployed.

On the signals front, initial GPS IIIA satellites will feature agreed-upon compatibility withEurope’s rival Galileo GNSS system, add a 4th civil signal (L1C) to the new L1A/ L2C/ L5 roster set; and add a stronger military GPS (m-code) signal that’s expected to deliver fourfold accuracy improvements and 3x-8x improvement in anti-jam capability. These simple requirements ensure that older GPS-IIA satellites can quickly be replaced by the newest proven designs.

The USAF would like to cap GPS IIIA satellites at 8 (2 R&D + 6 operational, all 8 will be launched), but the initial contract has provisions for up to 12 GPS-IIIA satellites if necessary.

GPS Block IIIB. The 2nd generation adds a cross-linked command and control architecture. In English, this means that the entire constellation of GPS IIIB+ satellites will be updated at once from a single ground station, instead of having to wait for each satellite to orbit in view of a ground antenna as is currently the case. These satellites are also expected to carry SAR/GPS, via a Canadian-Provided 406 MHZ Search And Rescue repeater. This used to be called the Distress Alerting Satellite System (DASS); it’s designed to improve combat SAR, and accommodate existing and planned 406 MHz beacons across the globe.

Up to 8 GPS-IIIB satellites are slated for launch.

Einstein? Really?
click for video

GPS Block IIIC. Adds a high-powered spot beam to deliver greater M-Code power, better resistance to hostile jamming, and improved accuracy. Other technologies that become mature during the development period could also be added. The USAF intends to launch up to 16 GPS-IIIC satellites.

The first launch of a GPS-IIIA satellite is expected in 2014, with all 32 GPS Block III satellites expected to be on orbit by 2022.

By 2016, the L2C signal will be aloft on 24 satellites for consistent global coverage: The GPS-IIR-Ms, the launched IIFs, and the 1st 2 GPS-IIIs.

The L5 signal is only aloft in test mode, and will take until around 2019 for global availability. That could happen earlier, or become more robust, depending on Europe’s Galileo program.

The L1C signal will only be aloft on GPS-III, so it’s likely to take until 2021 or later before it’s aloft with full GPS global coverage. L1C has been adopted beyond GPS-III and Galileo, however, which makes global coverage possible at an earlier date if the right configuration of cooperating satellites is aloft.

The new GPS-III M-Code signals won’t have full global coverage until around 2021, either, but directional antennas are likely to give the US military new options in targeted regions earlier than that.

OCX & MGUE: New Ground Control & Receivers Legacy system
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These systems will be accompanied by a next-generation global positioning system control segment (GPS OCX) intended to control both GPS II and GPS III satellites. OCX will deliver new GPS mission planning, constellation management, ground antenna, monitoring station, and satellite command and control capabilities, using open architecture electronics that allow faster improvements, and a service-oriented software architecture for much faster incorporation of its capabilities into other systems. Block I will also incorporate the new M-code military GPS signal.

The previous ground control segment incumbents both joined new bidding teams: Boeing bid as part of Raytheon’s team, while Lockheed Martin joined Northrop Grumman’s team in March 2008. Team Raytheon won the contract in 2010.

Unfortunately, software development has been a challenge, and key blocks will finish late. In response, the GPS directorate funded a stopgap Block 0 “Launch & Checkout” command and control capability, which wouldn’t work with the satellite’s jam-resistant M-code signal, or its 3 new civil signals. Block 0 won’t be an issue for long, though, because technical problems with the satellites themselves delayed initial launch by 2 years

Under the full OCX Block 1 contract, the Ground Control System will handle both existing GPS-II and new GPS-III satelites. Raytheon’s team will develop and deliver control segment hardware at Schriever AFB, CO, and Vandenberg AFB, CA, and update up to 17 monitoring stations around the globe by October 2016. The goal is to reduce the sustainment cost by 27%, then boost those savings to 50% within 3 years. When Block I’s software is done, it will also add the new M-code signal.

OCX Block 2, which will include the new L2C civil signals, has been moved back to June 2017.

DAGR drawn
(click to view full)

Outside OCX, a program called Modernized GPS User Equipment (MGUE) isn’t part of GPS-III directly, but it’s necessary in order to bring GPS III’s advantages to troops in the field. The program includes efforts like the ground-based GPS receiver application module (GB-GRAM-M), and takes advantage of GPS-III changes to the Signal-in-Space. MGUE aims to demonstrate the critical technology needed to incorporate a new M-Code military signal and security architecture, using precision-encrypted Y-code, M-Code, and coarse acquisition-code receivers that can process new and legacy signals.

GPS-III Budgets

Note that launch contracts are a separate item. The USAF is investigating the idea of cutting per-satellite launch costs by finding a way to launch 2 satellites in each boost from SV-5 onward. The question is whether evolving rocket technology and commercial competition will give them that option, without requiring expensive changes to the satellite design.

GPS-III: Industrial (click to view full)

Lockheed Martin’s program management and spacecraft development effort will be centered in Newtown, PA, with final assembly, integration and test located in Denver, CO. Their GPS Processing Facility (GPF) uses a former Atlas rocket assembly building, with nearly 40,000 square feet of spacecraft assembly and test area, including a clean room high bay designed for manufacturing efficiency by minimizing space vehicle lifts and distances between operations. The GPS team studied Lockheed Martin’s high-volume aircraft production lines, and used virtual reality modeling technology to lay out the factory floor. Each GPS III satellite will move through sequential work stations for various assembly and integration operations, much as a car or airplane does, culminating with environmental test procedures. The GPF has dedicated thermal vacuum and anechoic test chambers for that.

Outside Denver, Lockheed’s Sunnyvale, CA operations will provide various spacecraft components, and a launch support team will be based at Cape Canaveral, FL.

GPS-III: Contracts and Key Events FY 2014

Satellites #5 & 6 ordered; GPS-III and OCX reaching final testing stages: SV-1 delay. LMCO on GPS
click for video

May 14/15: The Air Force has launched a tender for the launch of a next-generation Global Positioning System satellite, releasing a RFP for the launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations. The latest Lockheed Martin GPS-III satellite was recently announced as being ready for system testing.

May 5/15: The first GPS-III satellite currently under construction by Lockheed Martin is now ready for system testing. The satellite was connected to its propulsion system on Monday and will undergo rigorous testing in coming months. The GPS-III contract covers eight satellites, which will bring improved accuracy and anti-jamming capabilities compared to current systems.

Sept 18/14: SV-1 delay. USAF Space Command officials tell Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio that the navigation payload supplied by subcontractor Exelis has had technical problems, and GPS-IIA SV-1 is now scheduled for by the end of 2015. Lockheed has earned $42.1 million in bonus fees for SV 1-2 from May 2011 to May 2014, but the May 2013-2014 period’s $17.1 million bonus was forfeit as a result. Sources: Bloomberg, “Lockheed Lost $26.2m in Award Fee Over GPS III Satellite Delay”

May 14/14: MGUE. Raytheon in El Segundo, CA receives a $22 million modification for MGUE (military global positioning system user equipment) software coding and security, bringing the total cumulative face value to $51.8 million. They need to finish the GPS receiver cards software coding, and perform security certification. The GAO has explained why this component of GPS-III is so important (q.v. March 12/14).

$7 million in FY 2014 USAF RDT&E funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed at El Segundo, CA and is expected to be completed by Aug 31/15. USAF Space and Missile Systems Center Contracting Directorate in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-12-C-0012, PO 0015).

April 1/14: SV 7-8. Lockheed Martin announces a $245 million contract from the USAF, for GPS III satellites SV-7 and SV-8. This builds on previous contracts for long-lead time items (q.v. Feb 20/13, Feb 14/14). Sources: Lockheed Martin, “U.S. Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Full Production Contracts For Next Two GPS III Satellites”.

GPS-IIIA: Satellites
7 & 8

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. GPS III’s 8 critical technologies have been assessed as mature, but 3 (incl. the timekeeping system and the key GPS signal generator) are late on qualification testing. In addition, issues identified in testing have forced fixes to components that include the mission data unit, and issues that include radio frequency isolation/ signal degradation. That forced later hardware delivery, so qualification testing is way behind. Result? a 2-year launch delay from April 2014 to April 2016.

The program is considering dual-launching GPS III satellites, potentially beginning as early as SV5. That would help to ensure a healthy constellation, but they’ll need rockets that can accomplish this. Preferably without requiring really expensive mid-stream design changes to the satellites.

On the ground, GPS III satellites will require OCX Block 1 control systems before they can be considered part of the constellation. At present, that’s a 6-month delay after SV1 launch, but additional OCX issues could push that back, wasting some of the 1st satellite’s useful time in orbit. Delays have already cropped up (q.v. March 30/12), and The 2nd GPS-IIIA satellite won’t even launch until OCX Block 1 is ready. At present, software development for OCX Block 0 is expected to finish testing by early 2015, and Block 1 development has begun development. Testing of the prototype, which requires Block 0/ Block 1 software and hardware components together, isn’t scheduled before December 2015. That’s 18 months after OCX’s Critical Design Review, and just 10 months before OCX Block 1 is supposed to be complete in October 2016. Overall, OCX will have just 7/14 technologies mature before October 2015, which is about 3 years after system development began.

March 12/14: GAO Report. The US GAO offers details of the USA’s major military space programs, in GAO-14-382T – “Space Acquisitions: Acquisition Management Continues to Improve but Challenges Persist for Current and Future Programs.” The cost figures for the GPS-IIIA and OCX programs are reflected in the charts above, and that growth has been under control. The challenge lies in the schedule, for reasons described above (q.v. March 31/14).

Overall, the OCX Block 1 ground control is slated to be ready for GPS III satellites by October 2016, 9 months after the first GPS IIIA satellite is available for launch (and 6 months after the revised launch date). The GAO adds that synchronizing receiver capabilities is equally important, via programs like MGUE:

“Satellites require ground control systems to receive and process information from the satellites, and user terminals to deliver that satellite’s information to users….. but development of satellites often outpaces the ground control systems and the user terminals…. lead to underutilized on-orbit satellite resources, and thus delays in getting the new capabilities to the warfighters or other end-users. In addition, there are limits to satellites’ operational life spans…. [so] they use up time in their operational lives without their capabilities being utilized…. budget authority for user terminals, ground systems, and satellites is spread throughout the military services, and no one is in charge of synchronizing all of the system components, making it difficult to optimally line up programs’ deliveries.”

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The overall trend is slight cuts across the board for GPS-IIIA, OCX, etc. in FY 2013-2016, with ramped-up procurement spending beginning in FY 2017. That’s normally a bad sign for a program, but R&D, OCX, and MGUE spending will be declining at the same time, and GPS is vital enough that it may have better odds than most. One interesting note in the detailed budget documents:

“The Air Force is seeking authorization to exercise the contingency options for SV09-10 under the current contract. SV09-10 would utilize the same technical baseline as SV08. Additionally, the Department is investigating the future use of a multi-year procurement (MYP) strategy for GPS III which includes fixed-price contracting of multiple satellites to establish stable production and strategic sub-tier management…”

Feb 3/14: SV 7-8 long lead. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Newtown, PA receives a $14.4 million fixed-price-incentive-firm modification, providing long lead time materials for GPS III satellites 7-8. This would be on top of the Feb 20/13 contract.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 missile budgets. Work will be performed predominantly in Clifton, NJ, and is expected to be complete by June 2015. the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center Global Positioning Systems Directorate at Los Angeles AFB manages the contract (FA8807-13-C-0002, PO 0006).

Dec 12/13: SV 5-6. Lockheed Martin in Newton, PA receives a $200.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to begin production of SV-5 and SV-6. All funds are committed immediately from FY 2013 missile budgets. This builds on previous contracts for long-lead time items in satellites SV-3 to SV-8 (q.v. Feb 8/13).

Work will be performed at Littleton, CO, and Clifton, NJ, and is expected to be complete by Dec 14/17 (SV-5) and June 14/18 (SV-6). USAF Space and Missile Systems Center Contracting Directorate at Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8807-08-C-0010, PO 0276).

GPS-IIIA: Satellites
5 & 6

Oct 17/13: Testing. Lockheed Martin’s full-sized GPS III Nonflight Satellite Testbed (GNST) at Cape Canaveral successfully communicates via cross-links with faithful USAF hardware simulators for the GPS IIR, GPS IIR-M, and GPS IIF satellites. It’s the 1st time GNST has communicated with flight-like hardware from the rest of the GPS constellation and with a navigation receiver. Got to keep checking off the boxes. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin GPS III Satellite Prototype Proves It Can Successfully Communicate With GPS Satellite Constellation”.

Oct 3/13: OCX. Raytheon Company announces that their OCX ground control system has completed its software Iteration 1.5 Critical Design Review (iCDR). It follows an Aug 1/12 announcement for Iteration 1.4’s iCDR. Iteration 1.5 software development brings OCX software development into the home stretch: it includes the mission-critical Launch and Checkout System (LCS) software, and serves as the cyber-hardened baseline to which additional capabilities will be added to complete OCX Blocks 1 and 2.

LCS recently received Interim Authority To Test certification for one year with no liens, which is a very good sign for information assurance. Full system test and evaluation will begin in late 2013, and early site integration is scheduled for early 2014 at Schriever AFB, CO and Vandenberg AFB, CA. That will be followed by acceptance testing in 2014, in preparation for an expected 2015 launch of GPS-III SV-1. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon completes critical design review for GPS OCX software Iteration 1.5″.

FY 2012 – 2013

Satellites #3 & 4 ordered; Satellites 5 & 6 begun; GAO says ground control is behind; Pathfinder satellite prototype/testbed is ready. How GPS Works
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July 19/13: Testing. Lockheed Martin’s full-sized, functional GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) prototype arrives at Cape Canaveral AFS, FL aboard a C-17 jet from Buckley AFB, CO. GNST will begin to dry run launch base space vehicle processing activities and other testing, before SV-1 arrives in 2014. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin GPS III Satellite Prototype To Help Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Prep For Launch”.

Feb 20/13: SV 7-8 long lead. Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newtown, PA receives a $58.2 million contract modification, covering long-lead materials for GPS-III satellites SV-7 and SV-8, using FY 2013 funds.

Work will be performed in Newton, PA, and is expected to be complete by June 30/17. Type of appropriation is fiscal 2013. The SMC/GPK at Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8807-13-C-0002). See also Lockheed Martin, “U.S. Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Contracts to Begin Work on Next Set of GPS III Satellites”.

Feb 8/13: SV 5-6 long lead. Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newtown, PA receives a $62 million firm-fixed-price contract for GPS-III Space Vehicles 5 and 6. Lockheed Martin has confirmed that this is a long-lead time materials contract, to ensure that key materials and sub-components are ready when the main order is placed.

Work will be performed in Newtown, PA, and is expected to be complete by June 30/17. The SMC/GPK, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8807-13-C-0002).

Feb 6/13: Lockheed Martin announces that they’ve completed Software Item Qualification Testing (SIQT) for GPS-III’s spacecraft bus flight software, which controls the spacecraft on orbit and monitors the health and safety of the satellite’s subsystems.

The flight software has already been integrated and tested on the program’s GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) prototype, and now it will go on to integration and testing in SV 1, scheduled for “launch availability” in 2014.

Nov 27/12: OCX. Raytheon in Aurora, CO receives a $7.2 million contract modification to support the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System. Work will be performed in Aurora, CO, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/13. The USAF’s SMC/GPS group at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8807-10-C-0001, PO 0079)

Nov 19/12: Testing. Team Lockheed Martin has completed thermal vacuum testing for the Navigation Payload Element (NPE) of their GPS-III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST). The milestone is one of several environmental tests, and verifies the equipment’s ability to survive the hostile space environment. Lockheed Martin.

Oct 11/12: OCX to EMD. The OCX (Next Generation Operational Control System) has successfully met all requirements to enter into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall signs the memo. USAF.

OCX Milestone B

Aug 20/12: Launch Options. AviationWeek reports that the Air Force is considering dual or triple launches for GPS satellites. Operators such as Arianespace have argued in favor of their dual-payload capabilities, as it happens used by the USAF with its CHIRP piggybacked to the SES-2 commercial satellite last year. The CEO of International Launch Services (ILS) countered with arguments in favor of single-satellite launches. In any case the Pentagon and Air Force are watching how competitors abroad are ramping up their networks: Arianespace is making dual launches for Galileo while China is using triple launches for its Beidou positioning network.

The Air Force is also looking at SpaceX as a potential (multi) launch provider, following their joint announcement with NASA and NRO that they would consider options besides EELV.

Aug 1/12: Software. Raytheon announces that they’ve successfully completed OCX software iteration 1.4’s Critical Design Review (iCDR). Based on their description, this seems to be the stopgap Launch & Checkout capability, which won’t work with the satellite’s the jam-resistant M-code signal, or its 3 new civil signals.

May 31/12: Support. Lockheed Martin announces a $68 million contract to provide GPS-III mission readiness, launch, early orbit checkout, and on-orbit operations engineering support.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will provide technical support to the Air Force’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), and provide the Launch and Checkout Capability (LCC) ground control system required to manage GPS III SV-1 in 2014. Lockheed Martin’s Newtown, PA facility will also support the operations of the 1st 2 GPS III satellites – from launches in 2014 – 2015, through their expected 15-year service lives in space.

May 29/12: Lockheed Martin announces that it has powered on the GPS III “Pathfinder” Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST), with its Mission Data Unit and advanced atomic clocks on board. The rest of the GNST’s Navigation Payload Element is scheduled for delivery to the GPS Processing Facility in fall 2012.

The GPS III SV-1 satellite will follow Pathfinder, and Lockheed touts lessons learned that include:

  • 50-80% reductions in labor hours and defect rates between similar activities on the GNST and SV-1.
  • Identification of “tens of millions of dollars in cost savings” for the production satellites, based on process improvements recognized during GNST integration and test.

GNST “Pathfinder” testbed powered on

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. With respect to the GPS III satellites:

“The GPS III is experiencing cost growth and the contractor is behind schedule, but the program does not expect these delays to affect the launch of the first satellite… In November 2011, the contractor’s estimated cost at completion for the development and production of the first two satellites was over $1.4 billion or 18 percent greater than originally estimated; the program office estimated the cost to be about $1.6 billion. [Reasons given included] including reductions in the program’s production rate; greater than expected efforts to produce engineering products compliant with more stringent parts, materials, and radiation testing requirements; test equipment delays; and inefficiencies in the development of both the navigation and communication payload and satellite bus.”

With respect to the OCX ground control system, the first 2 software packages have been completed, but the complexity of the software development effort has proven challenging. The problem is that of OCX’s 8 software iterations (6 Block I and 2 Block II), Block I phases 3 & 4 have started late, and will finish late.

The testing process is being tweaked to find defects earlier, which is standard practice in many modern methods. Even so, the bottom line is that GPS OCX Block I isn’t expected until August 2015. The first GPS III satellite launch is planned for in May 2014, so the GPS directorate is funding a stopgap “Launch & Checkout” command and control capability. Any delay in the delivery of the launch and checkout system could potentially cause the Air Force to delay the launch of the first GPS III satellite, and even if it launches on time, L&C won’t work with the satellite’s the jam-resistant M-code signal, or its 3 new civil signals.

GAO report

Jan 11/12: SV-3/SV-4 start. Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newton, PA receives a $238.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee with award fee contract, exercising the option to begin production of GPS III satellites SV-3 and SV-4. It’s the 1st major GPS-III satellite contract since 2008.

Work will be performed in Newtown, PA, and is expected to be complete by Jan 24/16. The USAF’s. SMC/GPK in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-08-C-0010, CLIN 0016).

GPS-IIIA: Satellites
3 & 4

Jan 6/12: Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newtown, PA receives a $21.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee with award fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for a launch checkout and capabilities system. It will perform launch and early orbit activities of the GPS-III satellites, from a co-located contractor facility.

Work will be performed in Newtown, PA and King of Prussia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec 18/20. The USAF’s SMC/GPK in El Segundo, CA manages this contract (FA8807-08-C-0010).

Jan 3/12: MGUE. L-3 Communications Corp. in Camden, NJ receives a $25.7 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, to correct MGUE receiver card deficiencies and complete the contract. They fell short during functional qualification testing, and these changes are needed for the cards to meet contract requirements. This modification also implements updated MGUE interface control documents, adds functionality to delivered Military-Code (M-Code) GPS receivers to provide additional military utility, and increases performance design margin in functions within receivers for future M-Code receiver developments.

Work will be performed at L-3 Communications Systems Co./Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, CA, and is expected to be complete by July 26/13. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-06-C-0003, PO 0088).

Dec 30/11: MGUE. Raytheon in Waltham, MA receives a $38.5 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, to correct MGUE receiver card deficiencies and complete the contract. They fell short during functional qualification testing, and these changes are needed for the cards to meet contract requirements (see also Dec 14/11 entry).

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete in November 2012. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-06-C-0004, PO 0073).

Dec 22/11: OCX. Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems in Aurora, CO receives a $30 million cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-plus-award-fee contract for the Launch and Checkout System element of OCX. The Launch and Checkout System is necessary to support the launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle I, which includes support exercises, rehearsals, launch, early orbit and checkout.

Work will be performed in Aurora, CO, and is expected to be complete by March 31/16. The USAF SMC in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-10-C-0001, PO 0054).

Dec 14/11: Lockheed Martin announces that they have delivered the GPS-III’s Non Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) to Denver, CO. The full-sized, flight equivalent prototype will be mated with its core structure, navigation payload and antenna elements before completing pathfinding activities and environmental test checkouts. They also announce that their new GPS-III Processing Facility (manufacturing line, see program section) has opened.

Dec 13/11: MGUE. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $20.8 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to complete the Modernized User Equipment (MGUE) effort, to correct MGUE receiver card deficiencies that were identified during functional qualification testing. It also implements updated MGUE interface control documents; adds functionality to delivered military-code GPS receivers to provide additional military utility; and increases performance design margin in functions within receivers for future military-code receiver developments.

Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, IA, and is expected to be complete on Feb 28/13. USAF SMC/GPK in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-06-C-0001, PO 0060).

Oct 10/11: Lockheed Martin announces that it has turned on initial power to GPS-III’s Non Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST). The GNST contains power subsystem components, harnesses, plus tracking, telemetry and control hardware. Flight software versions have also been delivered for all of the spacecraft and payload computer processors. In parallel, GPS III teammate ITT is integrating the GNST Navigation Payload at their facility in Clifton, NJ.

The GNST will be shipped to Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Processing Facility in Denver before the end of 2011 to demonstrate Assembly, Integration and Test procedures. It will then be delivered to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the summer for 2012, for pathfinding activities at the launch site. Launch is currently scheduled for 2014.

FY 2010 – 2011

Team Raytheon wins OCX, finishes PDR; Layoffs at Lockheed.

Sept 26/11: OCX. Raytheon announces that its OCX control segment has been certified as completing its Preliminary Design Review.

Sept 6/11: OCX. Raytheon says that it has completed the action items that emerged from the USAF’s GPS-III OCX control segment’s June 2011 Preliminary Design Review.

Raytheon VP Bob Canty says that the design itself was assessed as architecturally and technically sound, adding that about 66% of the initial software is developed, but not all of it is tested. A good rule of thumb: until software is tested, it isn’t really developed. Aviation Week.


June 14/11: Layoffs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. this branch of the firm employs around 16,000 employees in 12 states, but intends to shed 1,200 employees by year-end, including a 25% cut in middle management to reduce impacts elsewhere. LMSS’ Sunnyvale, CA; Pennsylvania; and Denver, CO sites will be hardest hit, and the firm’s release says that it’s pushed in part by several of their major programs moving beyond the labor-intensive development phase.

Space Systems says it will offer “eligible” salaried employees an opportunity for a voluntary layoff, plus career transition support for all affected employees. Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin Layoffs

March 15/11: Lockheed Martin announces that its GPS III team, has successfully completed the program’s first major flight software integration milestone, tying the initial flight software builds to the flight-like computer processors for the satellite bus On-Board Computer (OBC), the Navigation Payload Mission Data Unit (MDU), and the Communications Payload Thin Communications Unit (TCU).

The team at Lockheed’s software integration laboratory in Newtown, PA will now work to fully qualify the flight software, then load it on the GPS Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST). Meanwhile, the firm says that their team has completed more than 50% of the GPS-III program’s Manufacturing Readiness Reviews (MRRs), and remains on track to deliver the first GPS IIIA spacecraft as planned in 2014.

Jan 19/11: OCX. Raytheon touts its new El Segundo, CA GPS Collaboration Center, opening in February 2011. The 17,900-square-foot center will include an executive presentation room, state-of-the-art operations and demonstration areas, high-definition video-teleconferencing capabilities, and the ability to interact with the GPS OCX system in an operations-like environment. Raytheon VP and GPS OCX program manager Robert Canty:

“Through the center, Raytheon and Space and Missile Systems personnel will be able to collaborate with the Air Force and program partners via virtual demonstrations from Raytheon’s other program locations in Aurora, Colo., and the Network Integration and Experimentation Center in Rosslyn, Va.

The Raytheon GPS OCX team has completed Phase A of the program, and is on schedule to complete the Phase B preliminary design review in winter 2011.

Nov 2/10: OCX. Raytheon announces completion of the software specification review for the GPS advanced control (OCX) segment, which will provide command, control, and mission support for the GPS Block II and Block III family of satellites. The review includes several analyses: the architecture; operations concept; segment, prime mission and interface requirements; and allocation to the software requirements specifications, interface requirements specifications, and operational concept document.

The next step for the OCX segment is the Preliminary Design Review, scheduled for spring 2011.

Sept 28/10: OCX. Raytheon team completes integrated baseline review for the $886.4 million GPS advanced control segment (OCX), which will provide command, control and mission support for the GPS Block II and Block III family of satellites. The OCX system will include anti-jam capabilities and improved security, accuracy and reliability and will be based on a service-oriented architecture to integrate government and industry open-system standards (see Feb 25/10 entry).

Sept 15/10: The US GAO issues report #GAO-10-636, “Global Positioning System: Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Capabilities Persist.” Some excerpts:

“The Air Force continues to face challenges to launching its IIF and IIIA satellites as scheduled… GPS IIIA appears to be on schedule and the Air Force continues to implement an approach intended to overcome the problems experienced with the IIF program. However, the IIIA schedule remains ambitious and could be affected by risks such as the program’s dependence on a ground system that will not be completed until after the first IIIA launch. The GPS constellation availability has improved, but in the longer term, a delay in the launch of the GPS IIIA satellites could still reduce the size of the constellation to fewer than 24 operational satellites [required for full global coverage]. Multiyear delays in the development of GPS ground control systems are extensive. In addition, although the Air Force has taken steps to enable quicker procurement of military GPS user equipment, there are significant challenges to its implementation… GAO recommended last year in terms of establishing a single authority responsible for ensuring that all GPS segments are synchronized to the maximum extent practicable… The GPS interagency requirements process… remains relatively untested and civil agencies continue to find the process confusing… Challenges remain for the United States in ensuring that GPS is compatible with other new, potentially competing global space-based PNT systems.”

Sept 10/10: GPS-III’s 1st contract deliverable goes out ahead of schedule, as the GPS III Bus Real Time Simulator (BRTS) shipped from its Newtown, PA, facility to Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, CA. Acceptance testing for the BRTS was completed 7 days after delivery.

The BRTS is a risk reduction tool that will allow Aerospace Corporation to independently validate GPS III flight software for the USAF, as Lockheed Martin delivers bus flight software increments. Lockheed Martin.

Aug 31/10: MGUE. As an example of the system-wide harmonization the GAO refers to, officials at Rockwell Collins successfully delivers 21 modernized receiver cards for the prototype ground-based GPS receiver application module (GB-GRAM-M) under the GPS Wing’s Receiver Card Development program. These GB-GRAM-M receiver cards recently completed formal contractor qualification testing, and have been delivered to support the GPS Wing’s developmental test phase.

Asked about this effort, the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s GPS Wing responds that the cards will take advantage of the new capabilities that the GPS-III satellites will provide, and the receiver takes advantage of GPS-III changes to the Signal-in-Space but this is not part of the program directly.

The goal of their larger Modernized User Equipment (MGUE) program its part of is to demonstrate the critical technology needed to incorporate a new M-Code military signal and security architecture, using precision-encrypted Y-code, M-Code and coarse acquisition-code receivers that can process legacy signals as well. USAF.

Aug 20/10: Lockheed Martin announces that the GPS-III program has completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) phase 2 months ahead of the baseline schedule, after more than 350 representatives from the USAF GPS Wing, GPS III contractor team, and representatives from the Department of Defense, Air Force Space Command, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration participated in a 4-day Space Vehicle CDR at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company’s new Patriot Center in Newtown, PA.

Completing the CDR enables the GPS-III team to move forward into production, and Lockheed Martin says that the program is still on track for an initial GPS-IIIA launch in 2014. Lockheed Martin.

Aug 18/10: Honeywell announces that its GPS-III On Board Computer (OBC), Reaction Wheel Assembly (RWA) and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) have successfully completed Critical Design Reviews. The total contract value for these 3 sub-contracted components is more than $106 million through the life of the program.

Honeywell’s OBC is part of the telemetry, tracking and command subsystem, and runs flight software that provides attitude, power, and thermal control. It is the first radiation hardened high-speed processing system based on commercial PowerPC chip technology. Honeywell’s RWA provides momentum control for the space vehicle, which allows it to provide more accurate positioning. The IMU’s fiber optic gyroscopes provide attitude reference information for the space vehicle, extending mission capability by 50%. The RWA and IMU are part of the attitude control subsystem.

April 12/10: OCX. Boeing announces that it will develop portions of the U.S. Air Force’s new GPS OCX ground control segment, as a member of the Raytheon team. Boeing will provide infrastructure, development of the ground systems, and continued 24/7 operational and sustainment support, installing hardware and software at GPS control stations at Schriever AFB, CO; and Vandenberg AFB, CA.

Feb 25/10: OCX. Raytheon Co. in Aurora, CO won an $886.4 million contract to provide the GPS advanced control segment (GPS OCX), which will provide command, control and mission support for the GPS Block II and Block III family of satellites. The OCX development contract will be 73 months long, and will include development and installation of hardware and software at GPS control stations at Schriever AFB, CO and Vandenberg AFB, CA, deployment of advanced monitor stations at remote sites, and initial contractor support with sustainment options for 5 years. with If those sustainment options are exercised, the contract could be worth up to $1.535 billion.

The Raytheon team includes Boeing, ITT, Infinity Systems Engineering, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SRI International and Braxton Technologies. ITT’s release sees their OCX contract as the continuation of an initial phase awarded in 2007, adding that ITT payloads have been on every GPS satellite ever launched, and have yet to experience a mission-related failure in orbit.

They beat out a Northrop Grumman-led team that included includes Lockheed Martin. The 55 CONS/LGCD at Offutt Air Force Base, NE manages the contract. Raytheon | Los Angeles AFB release | ITT release [PDF].

Raytheon wins OCX

FY 2004 – 2009

Initial development contracts for satellites & OCX; Lockheed Martin wins satellite contract; Can GPS-III deliver in time? USNO Atomic Clock
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July 22/09: OCX. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee cut $97.4 million from President Obama’s FY10 request for $486.8 million for development of the GPS III operational control segment (OCX). The committee attributed the cut to a “GPS control segment contract delay.”

The two prime contractors under Phase A of the GPS OCX development are Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. Responding to the funding cut, Raytheon said it “is committed to burning down risk in our current Phase A activities and looking forward to receiving an award for the GPS OCX program Phase B activities later this year.” Northrop Grumman said, “We will work through any impacts this could potentially have to the program with the Air Force.” The Phase A contract expires in September 2009. Both companies are leading teams that are bidding on the Phase B work, which is expected to be awarded in the Q4 2009.

June 20/09: OCX. Northrop Grumman’s GPS OCX team submits its proposal to the U.S. Air Force for the single-winner OCX Phase B contract, after working in parallel with Raytheon’s team on the 22-month Phase A contract. Presumably, Raytheon also submits its proposal, but no announcement was made. NGC release.

May 21/09: PDR. Lockheed Martin announces that the GPS III team has successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) phase for the GPS III spacecraft segment. The milestone was the culmination of 70 subsystem and assembly PDRs that had been executed over the past 6 months by Lockheed Martin, ITT, and General Dynamics.

Nearly 150 representatives from the U.S. Air Force Global Positioning Systems Wing and user communities, including representatives from the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Space Command, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Agency participated in the 4 day Space Vehicle PDR at Lockheed Martin Space Systems facilities in Newtown, PA. The next major milestone is the Critical Design Review, and first launch is projected for 2014.

Satellite PDR

May 7/09: GAO Report. The US Government Accountability Office releases report #GAO-09-670T, “Global Positioning System: Significant Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Widely Used Capabilities.” The report questions the fundamental underpinnings of the GPS Block IIIA program:

“It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption… the current IIF satellite program has overrun its original cost estimate by about $870 million and the launch of its first satellite has been delayed to November 2009 – almost 3 years late. (2) Further, while the Air Force is structuring the new GPS IIIA program to prevent mistakes made on the IIF program, the Air Force is aiming to deploy the next generation of GPS satellites 3 years faster than the IIF satellites. GAO’s analysis found that this schedule is optimistic, given the program’s late start, past trends in space acquisitions, and challenges facing the new contractor. Of particular concern is leadership for GPS acquisition, as GAO and other studies have found the lack of a single point of authority for space programs and frequent turnover in program managers have hampered requirements setting, funding stability, and resource allocation…”

April 21/09: OCX. Raytheon announces a $21.5 million contract extension to perform additional risk-reduction R&D for the next-generation Global Positioning System Operational Ground Control (OCX) segment. To date, the release maintains that the program remains on budget and ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, Bob Canty, Raytheon GPS OCX vice president and program manager:

“We are working with our customer to continue to reduce program risk to ensure that we have the lowest-risk program going forward. What’s critically important on this program is to be able to deliver our team’s commitments fully and on-time.”

See also SatNews.

March 31/09: GAO Report. The US GAO audit office delivers its 7th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. Despite GPS III’s status, it focuses instead on the prior GPS IIF program, including the interim Architectural Evolution Plan ground system upgrade:

“As a result of development and production problems, the program office now estimates the launch of the first Block IIF satellite will be delayed to October 2009 – almost 3 years later than its original launch date… technical problems discovered during thermal vacuum testing resulted in additional schedule delays and cost increases on the program… The Block IIF program is also experiencing other technical problems… The delivery of the first AEP segment allowed for the transfer of operations of current GPS satellites from the existing ground control system. In March 2008, AEP was upgraded to add the capability to control Block IIF satellites… the development schedule for the final AEP upgrade, which will ensure the integrity of the GPS signal, may not allow enough time for sufficient operational testing before the scheduled launch of the first Block IIF satellite.”

March 4/09: MGUE. The Air Force is modifying a contract with the Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in El Segundo, CA for $12.7 million, changing the original system engineering and integration services contract to expand the Modernized Global Positioning System User Equipment program.

This program is designed to ensure that American military forces have receiver equipment that can beginning taing advantage of new GPS features as they’re introduced. At this time $69,368 has been obligated by the USAF GPS Wing in El Segundo, CA (FAA807-07-C-002/P00019).

Feb 16/09: OCX. Northrop Grumman’s team successfully completes the System Design Review for the GPS OCX program. The System Design Review included a comprehensive exam of the total system architecture: software, hardware, processes, interfaces and operations by USAF program managers, operators and technical experts. This is the final major milestone under the Phase A contract, laying the foundation for the final decision on which team to pick: Northrop Grumman’s, or Raytheon’s.

Northrop Grumman’s release says that the team currently includes Harris Corporation; Integral Systems Inc.; Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Service; and Infinity Systems Engineering.

Feb 2/09: OCX. Northrop Grumman announces that its team has successfully demonstrated command and control of a GPS IIR-M satellite , using its GPS OCX Modernized Capability Engineering Model (MCEM) to successfully command and control a satellite test simulator located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FLA, from a Northrop Grumman plant in Redondo Beach, CA. As part of the process, the USAF provided the Northrop Grumman team a data set embedded with several anomalies:

“The team initiated contact with the test satellite and commanded it through a series of complex procedures that demonstrated the ability to restore mission operations and the delivery of highly accurate position and time information for GPS users. The Northrop Grumman team successfully controlled a new secure military signal that will substantially improve the availability of accurate GPS data to U.S. forces.”

Dec 13/08: OCX. Raytheon’s team successfully completes GPS OCX’s System Design Review and modernized capability engineering model demonstration on time, and within budget. The team demonstrated the ability to command modernized GPS signals, provide situational awareness and expose data on the network during the modernized capability engineering model demonstration.

The originally announced team included Boeing, ITT Industries, Braxton Technologies, Infinity Systems Engineering and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; but the Raytheon SDR announcement adds SRI International to the team. Raytheon | Braxton Technologies | GPS Daily.

Aug 18/08: The US DoD releases its latest Selected Acquisition Reports. GPS-III appears as a new program, and total program cost is baselined at $4.002 billion.

SAR baseline

July 21/08: Northrop Grumman announces that its GPS OCX team recently completed the Standard Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI) software assessment, passing another significant milestone for the multi-billion dollar program and continuing Northrop Grumman’s enterprise-wide audit successes. NGC’s release adds:

“The government uses SCAMPI appraisals to identify strengths and weaknesses of software, engineering and management processes, and to reveal acquisition development risks for corrective action. These appraisals are frequently used as part of a process improvement program or for rating prospective prime contractors and their key subcontractors. The U.S. Air Force GPS Wing conducted a multi-week, comprehensive software appraisal, thoroughly examining more than 1,000 documents and measuring them against hundreds of criteria.”

July 18/08: Boeing wins an R&D contract for the “High Integrity GPS” project, which aims to leverage the Iridium constellation to improve military GPS accuracy and resistance to jamming. Victory of a sort, from the jaws of defeat?

Boeing’s HiGPS

May 21/08: After losing the GPS-III contract, Boeing will lay off 750 Southern California employees at plants in El Segundo and Seal Beach. This will reduce the staff of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems from 7,200 employees to about 6,450. National Examiner.

Boeing layoffs

May 20/08: In “Who’s Leaking Air Force Procurement Information?“, the crew at the pro-Boeing Tanker War Blog raise a interesting question: was the result of the GPS-III contract effectively leaked to the public almost a month before the award? On April 29/08, Loren Thompson of The Lexington Institute published “Boeing and the Air Force at War: The Damage Spreads.” It included this quote:

“But the tone of Boeing’s tanker campaign has led at least some service officials to believe the worst about the company, a feeling that is spreading far beyond tankers. For instance, the service has probably delayed announcing award of the GPS III satellite contract in part because it fears another Boeing protest.”

There is more than one way to read that snippet, but the betting odds reading suggests that Boeing has lost this contract. The participants in Tanker War blog include legislative assistants on Capitol, and the post adds that:

“A number of people on the Hill tell us that they have very strongly believe a main source for these leaks [is]…”

May 15/08: Winner! Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of King of Prussia, PA received a cost plus incentive fee/cost plus award fee contract for $1.46 billion for the first increment of the GPS III contract, covering 2008-2017. Lockheed Martin’s flight-proven A2100 satellite bus will serve as the base platform, and first launch is currently expected in 2014.

This initial contract funds 2 GPS IIIA research and development satellites (SV-1 and SV-2), a capability risk reduction and maturation effort to get key technologies ready for GPS IIIB and GPS IIIC, a GPS satellite simulator, “continue support for the Nuclear Detonation Detection System mission,” and a satellite bus real time simulator that lets the USAF test new electronics and additions. It also includes options for 10 additional GPS IIIA production satellites. At this time $96.8 million has been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA issued the contract (Lockheed Martin: FA8807-08-C-0010; Boeing: FA8807-08-C-0012). USAF release | Lockheed Martin release | ITT release copy [PDF format] | National Examiner.

Lockheed Martin wins GPS-III development, incl. Satellites
1 & 2

April 28/08: OCX. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that Lockheed Martin has joined its Global Positioning System (GPS) Next Generation Control Segment (OCX) team.

Nov 21/07: OCX. The USAF awards a pair of a cost plus fixed fee, firm-fixed-price 18-month contracts to Northrop Grumman of Carson, CA ($160 million, FA8807-09-C-0001) and Raytheon Company of Aurora, CO ($159.8 million, FA8807-09-C-0003). At this time $16 million has been committed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The firms will develop a new next-generation global positioning system control segment (GPS OCX) design with new anti-jamming technologies, more advanced predictive algorithms, and more frequent clock and ephemeris updates.

The dual award is designed to reduce risk, by introducing competition. Phase A is the competitive risk reduction effort which includes trade studies, requirements definition and engineering model development. That competition will include a system requirements and system design reviews, and creation of a modernized capability engineering model. These deliverables will support OCX “Key Decision Point B,” whereupon the USAF will decide on the single prime contractor to finish OCX development and field the system.

The previous GPS control segment incumbents each joined a team. Lockheed Martin lost the original bid, and eventually joined Northrop Grumman’s team. Boeing never competed alone, and was an early member of Raytheon’s team. Raytheon | Northrop Grumman | Inside GNSS.

OCX Ground control: Initial Development

Dec 16/06: Co-competitors Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corp. and Boeing Co. each receive a $50 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification to accomplish a GPS III system design review (SDR) in March 2007. The USAF’s Global Positioning Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA intends to reach its key decision point B single-selection in June 2007, when they will award the multi-billion dollar development contract for building GPS III.

In early 2005, the GPS III program was restructured from an FY12 first launch to no later than an FY13 first launch. It would eventually be moved again, to 2014. GPS World.

Phase B Development

Jan 7/04: The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA awards a $20.8 million contract to Boeing in Seal Beach, CA, and $20.786 million to Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia, PA for GPS III Phase A acquisition. These 2 contractors have been selected to “competitively mature GPS III requirements for a successful system requirements review, in support of key decision Point B acquisition milestone.” In English, this means they’ll develop key technologies so the USA can make a strong case to begin the formal System Design & Development phase.

At this time, $10.3 million of the funds have been obligated; further funds will be obligated as individual delivery orders are issued. Solicitation began September 2003, negotiations were completed in December 2003, and work will be complete by December 2005 (FA8807-04-C-0001 [Lockheed]; FA8807-04-C-0002 [Boeing]).

Phase A Development

Additional Readings GPS Generally

GPS-III Program Background

Official Reports

Other GNSS Systems – and Alternatives

News and Views

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Pentagon Unhappy with Law Sidelining ULA’s Russian Parts | Report: China Seeking STOVL | France Offering Poles Subs with Cruise Missiles

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 03:16

  • US arms sales experts are expected to travel to the Gulf following the President’s GCC summit on Wednesday and Thursday, which will include discussions on integrated defense systems. President Obama is expected to push for arms sales, particularly capable anti-ballistic missile capable defense systems, most likely to assure GCC member states of the US’s commitment to their security despite the recent framework agreement with Iran.

  • DefSec Carter and DNI Clapper have urged Congress to allow United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin/Boeing joint venture, to use Russian RD-180 engines for “assured access to space.” If the current law were to change from the current 2015 defense authorization law banning the use of Russian engines in US launches, ULA would be capable of competing for 18 out of 34 competitive launches between 2015 and 2022, versus the current 5 as the law stands, with the Air Force pushing for more launches by the private sector.

  • It has emerged that a F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed on Tuesday , shortly after takeoff from the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The two aviators were recovered and are without serious injury, with the Super Hornet in question assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 211. The carrier is in the Persian Gulf, with VFA 211 conducting operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Another Super Hornet was involved in a crash in January 2014, with that incident determined by the Navy to have been avoidable.

  • Meanwhile, Raytheon announced that it has successfully flight-tested the APG-79(V) X AESA radar system, intended to extend the service lives of F/A-18C/D aircraft by 15 to 20 years. This latest test builds on a previous successful test in January, with new features such as Synthetic Aperture Mapping (SAR) announced with the company’s press release.

  • The Air Force has test fired two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles from a F-22 Raptor fighter. This test-firing is a step towards the F-22’s Increment 3.2B upgrade program, with Lockheed Martin awarded a contract last October to modify 220 F-22 Configurable Rail Launchers to accommodate the AIM-9X. Full operational fielding of the AIM-9X by the F-22 is not expected until 2017.


  • France has reportedly offered Poland cruise missiles and submarines. The French have offered the Poles the MBDA Missile de Croisière Naval if they buy three Scorpene submarines. Poland is undertaking a substantial defense modernization program, with three submarines scheduled for delivery by 2023 under the country’s Orka program, which is reportedly already fully-funded. The evaluation of a tender for new submarines is expected to take place in Q4 this year.

  • In conjunction to reports from earlier this week which stated that the Russian Defense Ministry is planning to procure new BMP-3 IFVs, new reports have stated that these will be augmented by 250 BMD-4M and BTR-MDM Rakushka armored personnel carriers. The first batch of these vehicles is thought to have been delivered already, with paratroop units set to receive a total of 62 BMD-4M and 22 BTR Rakushkas by the end of the year. The Russian President’s Office announced Wednesday that the country’s land forces would conduct training exercises with Chinese, Indian, Mongolian and Belorussian counterparts later this year.

  • Denmark’s Terma has signed an memorandum of understanding with Turkish firm Aselsan to integrate radar and electronic warfare systems on fighter aircraft, including the transfer of ownership and intellectual property rights of Terma’s F-16 Modular Reconnaissance Pod from Terma to Aselsan. The latter opened a $157 million radar and EW manufacturing plant in March, with Terma opening an EW competence center in 2010.

  • Dutch pilots are heading to Italy to train on the Italian Air Force’s fleet of Alenia Aermacchi T-346 trainers, following a cooperative agreement signed between the two countries’ air force chiefs. The Italian firm is still in the running for the Air Force’s T-X program, despite the company’s US prime contractor General Dynamics withdrawing itself from the competition in March.


  • China has reportedly begun work on a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) capability for the PLA Navy (PLAN). The equipping of the Liaoning carrier would free J-15 fighters tasked with air defense for strike missions. China has previously attempted to acquire STOVL-capable aircraft, with these previous projects dropped owing to cost and technical limitations. The J-15, a copy of the Russian Su-33, achieved its first carrier landing in 2012. Building on previous media coverage, these latest reports state that work on the future aircraft’s engine have begun, with AVIC Chengdu Engine Group and China Aviation Engine Establishment reportedly signing an agreement to cooperatively develop the engine, with this thought to have taken place in March. Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xian is also thought to have developed a STOVL swivel nozzle last year.

  • India is reportedly looking to acquire two Boeing 777-300 (extended range) aircraft as equivalents to Air Force One and Two. The aircraft will be bought from commercial airline Air India and fitted with self-protection technologies such as missile countermeasures by manufacturer Boeing, with the Defence Acquisition Council the contracting authority.

Today’s Video

  • The T346 at Farnborough…

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

The F-22 Raptor: Program & Events

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 02:45
Into that good night
(click to view full)

The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.

Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.

This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.

The F-22 Raptor From YF-22 to F-22
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The Raptor had a long development history, in order to bring its unique capabilities together in one package. About 2 decades and 7+ quantum electronics leaps later, other countries are just beginning to test fighters with somewhat similar characteristics.

All-aspect stealth, supercruise, and thrust vectoring combine to give the F-22 unmatched abilities to engage or disengage in combat. A radar based on leap-ahead technologies, embedded sensors, and sensor fusion in the cockpit are designed to help the pilot use those capabilities wisely. The F-22’s astounding performance in competitive exercises suggests that they do, and history suggests that their intimidation value will add to their combat effectiveness.

The last Raptor
click for video

Even so, the Raptor has remained a focus for controversy, cost concerns, Congressional cutbacks, and program lessons learned the hard way. Ongoing health issues involving their pilots are equally troubling. The F-22 Raptor has racked up its share of critics, and a number of their points are valid ones. The F-22 has a limited weapon set, limited usefulness in conflicts short of full state warfare, high maintenance and readiness costs that affect training, and a very small pool of operational fighters.

Our background article, “F-22 Raptor: Capabilities and Controversies,” examines each of these factors in greater depth.

F-22 Raptor: Program F-22A over Alaska
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The F-22 program is led by Lockheed Martin. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems has responsibility for the avionics systems, and a Northrop Grumman-led joint venture with Raytheon produces the APG-77 radar, under contract to Boeing. The F119 thrust-vectoring engines are produced by United Technologies subsidiary Pratt & Whitney. As of 2011, order totals stand at 187. That number will not rise unless the production line is restarted, which means the 2009 and 2010 crashes will leave the USAF with a fleet of 185.

By the end of Lot 6 production (the FY 2007 batch), the Air Force and manufacturer expected to have all the major design changes to the Raptor worked out; there would be no major changes to the aircraft after that, unless the service wanted to produce an F-22B or F-22C model. Production of each F-22 took about 30 months from start to finish, as the various parts are sent to the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta for final assembly. Within the final production line in Marietta, GA’s 3.5 million square foot main building, the “mate and final assembly” process took about 12 months.

Flyaway Costs & Budgets

When the final aircraft was delivered in May 2012, the F-22A acquisition program was complete. It cost $67.3 billion to develop the aircraft, establish the infrastructure, and buy 187 jets.

Lockheed Martin claims that their nationwide production team achieved Lot to Lot cost reductions greater than 10% for each set from Lot 1 to Lot 4. Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F/A-22 program manager, saw that trend slowing but not stopping, as the firm continued to focus on cost reductions and efficiency improvements. A June 23/06 US Air Force article added:

“The current cost for a single copy of an F-22 stands at about $137 million. And that number has dropped by 23 percent since Lot 3 procurement, General Lewis said. “The cost of the airplane is going down,” he said. “And the next 100 aircraft, if I am allowed to buy another 100 aircraft… the average fly-away cost would be $116 million per airplane.” “

Depending on which “dollar-year” those fly-away cost figures represent, actual amounts may vary, since current year dollars include inflation. Final-stage budgets suggest figures of $150-180 million per plane, but a July 2009 USAF response [PDF] gave the F-22A’s current flyaway cost as $142.6 million each. That no longer matters, since production stopped in 2012.

Raptor, Redux: Upgrading the Fleet F-22A vs. F-15 to -18
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Even though the F-22 is out of production, the program itself will continue to attract spending on maintenance, spares, and upgrades. The F-22A began as a single-step program, with no need for significant future modernization. Reality intervened, and the USAF came up with a $5.4 billion modernization plan in 2004. As of December 2011, the current total estimated cost of F-22A modernization had more than doubled, to $11.7 billion (+117%). Around $6.2 billion remained to be spent: $1.3 billion for Increment 3.2B, $3.6 billion to maintain modernization and support infrastructure, and $1.3 billion to complete RAMMP design-for-maintenance improvements and structural repairs.

Right now the Air Force operates mostly Block-20 aircraft. The Block 10s were used for training at Tyndall AFB. The Block 20s, produced from 2007 on, use “Increment 2″ hardware and software. That lets them launch GPS-guided JDAM bombs at supersonic speeds, and improves performance with the AIM-120C AMRAAM air-air missile. Increment 2 also helped fix some previous operations and maintenance issues.

Under the Common Configuration program, the F-22A Block 10s were retrofitted to Block 20/ Increment 2 status, but retain the original core processor. They could be used operationally as air superiority planes, but present plans call for them to remain as training and demonstration platforms. The USAF intends to retain 36 aircraft in this configuration.

As of 2012, the USAF intends to upgrade 143 aircraft with the full complement of modernized Block 35/ Increment 3 capabilities by FY 2020. The Raptor’s problem is that its Increment 3 set keeps changing, with items being added and subtracted while costs climb, and the schedule lengthens. Here’s the December 2011 timeline:

(click to view full)

Note the changes below…

F-22A with SDB-Is
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Increment 3.1 began development in 2006, and finally reached OpEval in January 2011. It finished testing in November 2011, and fielding is taking place from July 2011 (via USAF waivers) through 2016. Upgrades include new ground-looking synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes for the AN/APG-77, some electronic attack capability, geo-location of detected electro-magnetic emitters, and initial integration with the GPS-guided GBU-39 Small-Diameter Bomb (SDB-I). That last change expands the F-22’s ground attack arsenal from 1 JDAM per bay to 4 SDB-Is, though a pilot will only be able to release 2 weapons at a time.

Timing Etc.: Testing shows that this upgrade has also improved the F-22’s Mean Time Between Critical Failure rates. Increment 3.1 is being fielded from 2011 – August 2017.

Changing upgrades
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Increment 3.2 was meant to be a software-focused upgrade, and was initially expected to begin delivering planes in 2010. The effort ran into funding delays, then ran into technical and cost problems. It has now split into a 3.2A and 3.2B phase, and a number of items have vanished from the plan.

Increment 3.2A will focus on Electronic Protection and Combat Identification, including Link-16 track fusion. Development began in November 2011, testing is expected to run from late 2012 – late 2013, and operational testing was expected to finish in early 2014.

Removed: Improved geo-location of detected emitters, Ground Moving Target Indication and Tracking Indicator (GMTI) radar mode to upgrade its ground-looking SAR from Increment 3.1, the MADL datalink, Anti-jam GPS SASSM retrofits, an Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS) to improve safety, and improved data recording.

Timing Etc.: Fielding of Increment 3.2A is planned to overlap Increment 3.1, and it will be fielded from FY 2014 – 2018.

Increment 3.2B has been structured as a new major defense acquisition program since December 2011. It will provide compatibility with new AIM-9X Sidewinder short range air-air missiles, and with the AIM-120D medium range air-air missile; the AIM-120D’s range, 2-way datalink, and AESA friendly features appear to be tailor-made for the F-22. Beyond that, 3.2B will finish Increment 3.1’s Electronic Protection Update, add the IFDL datalink, and improve geo-location of detected emitters (albeit to a lesser degree than initially planned).

Removed: All items removed from 3.2A are still gone, except geo-location which is added back to a degree.

The USAF also cut full SDB-I integration, which offered the ability to release all of the plane’s bombs at once against 8 separate targets. That can be very useful in some tactical situations, allowing just one screaming pass over defended and dispersed targets: airfields, air defense complexes, etc. On the other hand, FY 2013 USAF budget summary states that the GBU-53 tri-mode (MMW radar/IIR/laser) guidance SDB-II will also be integrated with the F-22A, and this has remained consistent. It’s possible that initial SDB-II integration will be done by the end of 3.2B. If added, it would give the Raptor the ability to hit moving targets, and to drop bombs using “buddy lasing” designation from other platforms.

Timing Etc.: Increment 3.2B estimated at $1.538 billion, of which $1.2 billion is R&D, and only $338.6 million is procurement. That isn’t unusual for a software-heavy upgrade.

Milestone B approval and system development was planned for Q1 2013, with fielding to take place between 2017 – 2020. Development began in February 2013, with a design review scheduled for July 2015 and a Milestone C decision in December 2015. Testing will begin in August 2016, with a “full rate production” (deployment) decision in October 2017, an expected initial operational capability in December 2018, and fielding running to 2020. The problem is that delays in completing the 3.1 and 3.2A increments are likely to push 3.2B back as well.

What Comes Next? There may be a hardware focus at the end of Increment 3.2, if a USAF effort to examine the full replacement of the F-22’s core electronics with a modern, open architecture software and hardware framework (vid. the F-35) bears fruit. If so, that would probably become Increment 3.2C, or an Increment 3.3 upgrade program. Previous wish lists have included items like side-mounted AESA radar arrays to improve radar field of view and simultaneous ground scans, multispectral/infrared search and track (IRST) systems for aerial and/or ground targets, and the JHMCS helmet-mounted sight. Improved jamming capabilities are another item that will always be in demand. At present, there are no plans to add powered weapons like HARM/AARGM anti-radar missiles, and fitting them into the weapon bays could be a challenge.

Milestones for F-22 modernization, and forecast dates for future milestones, are reproduced below:

Long-Term Maintenance Programs Ready?
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Operations and Maintenance is about 2/3s of the cost of any fighter over its lifetime, and the F-22 has been criticized for its performance. It promised better O&M costs than the F-15, but 2008 costs per flying hour were $19,750 for the F-22, vs. $17,465 for the F-15. All-in cost estimates of $49,808 vs. $30,818 are even more unfavorable. Those costs tend to rise as aircraft get older, and the F-22’s extensive use of uncommon materials like titanium and composites adds some new variables to the aging curve. An independent 2007 estimate by the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency projected a $49,549 all-in cost per F-22 flight hour at maturity in 2015 – more than double the $23,282 estimate made in 2005. It’s true that cuts in the number bought have raised fixed costs per plane, and also contributed to a shrinking industrial base that makes parts more expensive. The biggest impact, however, has come from the work required to maintain the F-22’s stealth coatings after flights and maintenance work.

The US military has a couple of programs aimed at tackling these challenges.

RAMMP. The F-22’s Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program began in 2005, and will run as long as the aircraft serves. It aims to drive continuous improvement in F-22 reliability and maintainability, as measured by metrics like Availability, Maintenance Man Hours per Flight Hour [MMH], Mean Time Between Maintenance (MTBM), and cost-saving Return on Investment. RAMMP used to include production cut-in opportunities, but that stopped when production did. It still encompasses development work and retrofits that are seen as affordable up front and technically viable, with a good return on investment. According to program officials, as of January 2014 there were over 100 RAMMP projects of varying scope and cost under way, and over 200 projects had been completed.

In April 2011, the Pentagon changed the way they measured F-22 readiness to “material availability,” the percentage of the fleet available to perform assigned missions at any given time. The GAO says that this was just 55.5% in 2011, and the current goal for RAAMP is an availability rate of 70.6% by 2015. In May 2014, the US GAO flatly said that RAMMP wouldn’t achieve this.

The program had planned to spend about $258 million between 2005 and 2011, but a May 2012 GAO report pegged actual investments through 2011 at about $528 million. RAMMP is expected to need almost $1.3 billion through 2023, and is expected to run until the F-22 leaves service around 2033.

SRP I/II. The Structures Retrofit Plan/Program (SRP) is a 2-part program designed to correct warning signs discovered during the F-22’s 2005 Full Scale Fatigue Testing (FSFT), and make sure the planes reach their 8,000 flight hour service lives. All USAF planes have a routine structural integrity process designed to proactively detect and repair damage, and SRP is the Raptor’s. Phase I was designed to correct structural deficiencies with that were less than 2,000 flight hours from their limits, while SRP II is tackling less urgent deficiencies with life shortfalls between 2,000 – 8,000 flight hours. The SRP II program was scheduled to run from 2006 – 2015, but that has been stretched to 2019.


The F-22A Raptor is currently assigned to 7 bases across the US, 3-4 of which have operational aircraft:

  • Langley AFB, VA: Operational F-22As of the 1st Fighter Wing’s 27th Fighter Squadron (FS) are assigned here. They have been certified to Full Operational Capability, and the Virginia Air National Guard’s (ANG’s) 192nd Fighter Wing is an associate squadron.

  • Elemendorf AFB, AK: 3rd Fighter Wing’s 90th FS & 525th FS. Elmendorf AFB should have its full complement of 40 aircraft by December 2009. The US Pacific Air Force’s 477th Fighter Group (302nd FS, 477th Maintenance Sqn and 477th Aircraft Maintenance Sqn) will associate with the 3rd FW, becoming the first Air Force Reserve unit to maintain and fly the F-22A; its units have historic connections to the Tuskegee Airmen, the USAF’s highly-decorated black aviators of WW2. Source.

  • Hickam AFB, Hawaii: Future base for 18-24 F-22A Block 30s; the Hawaii ANG’s 199th FS will contribute most of the personnel, and the 531st FS will be a USAF active force associate squadron to them. F-22As began arriving in July 2010, and the squadron flew its last F-15 mission in August 2010.

  • Holloman AFB, NM: Was to become base #6 as its tenants transitioned from F-117 stealth aircraft to the F-22A. The base was converted to an F-16 training center instead, and the 8th Fighter Squadron was inactivated in May 2011. The 7th Fighter Squadron’s transfer was delayed for years because of a USAF freeze on structure changes, but te last set of F-22s left in April 2014.

  • Tyndall AFB, FL: Pilot and maintenance teams training. Tyndall AFB has become the largest F-22 base, with over 50 planes. The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard also have individuals here as instructors, and Tyndall boosted its numbers with F-22s from Holloman AFB.

Temporary deployments to Andersen AFB on Guam and Kadena AFB in Japan can be expected on a regular basis. F-22s can also be found at:

  • Edwards AFB, CA: Flight testing, of course.
  • Nellis AFB, NV: Tactics development, which becomes a new issue with full stealth aircraft.

F-22 Raptor: Key Events 2014

1st combat missions; GAO on F-22 maintenance program issues; F-22 training stats; Holloman AFB squadrons finally move; USAF reprisals against whistleblower pilot?; F-22s needed as F-35 air cover? Syria later!

May 14/15: The Air Force has test fired two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles from a F-22 Raptor fighter. This test-firing is a step towards the F-22’s Increment 3.2B upgrade program, with Lockheed Martin awarded a contract last October to modify 220 F-22 Configurable Rail Launchers to accommodate the AIM-9X. Full operational fielding of the AIM-9X by the F-22 is not expected until 2017.

Sept 23/14: First combat strikes. The Pentagon touts how F-22s were used in their first combat role during strikes against ISIS in Syria. The aircraft dropped GPS-guided munitions and destroyed a building believed to be used for command and control purposes. Which makes the insurgents look like a regular military, but in some way that is how they have been fighting in past months. Given the relatively limited damage shown in the before/after pictures [PDF] released by DoD, as well as a video of one of the strikes, the bombs used were likely 250 pound GBU-39 SDB-Is optimized for penetration, rather than heavier 1,000 pound JDAMs.

The mission looks a bit out of character and underwhelming for what is primarily an air-to-air fighter, but the F-22 does have air-to-ground capabilities. Penetration against Syrian air defenses might have been an issue making the case for stealth, but then F-15s, F-16s and even UAVs were used in the same wave against northern Syria.

July 30/14: Reprisals? The Inspector General report covering allegations of reprisals against Capt. Wilson (q.v. April 20/14) is due – well, “soon” may be the wrong term to use:

“U.S. Sen. Mark Warner met Tuesday with officials of the Department of Defense inspector general and said he is pleased they’re promising to deliver their findings by Aug. 30 if not sooner…. Warner said he’s angered that the investigation has taken years instead of months, calling it a message to service members that those who sound an alarm will be punished…. “We’re now over 800 days since this process started. We’ve gone through three secretaries of defense. It’s time to get an answer.”

Acknowledgement of wrongdoing could carry a price tag for the US military. When the USAF removed him from his full time Air Combat Command job, they also removed most of his $100,000 per year salary. Sources: Virginia-Pilot, “Pentagon: F-22 whistleblower inquiry to finish in Aug.”

July 30/14: F-22 training stats. The USAF describes greater use of simulators and classroom instruction, as it moves to drastically cut the number of flight hours to qualify in an F-22. they’re hoping to pump up the volume:

“F-22 B-Course graduations increased from approximately 10 pilots per year on average to 23 pilots during fiscal year 2014. The program expects to graduate 30 pilots in fiscal year 2015. While increased numbers fall short of the 42 B-Course F-22 pilots the Air Staff said are required to meet the overall CAF fighter need, the trend is heading in the right direction… The F-22 basic qualification syllabus is one area that has seen sizable cuts and changes, primarily with the number of sorties B-Course students need to perform to graduate from the F-22 training course. Prior to the adjustments, a B-Course student required 43 sorties to graduate. The number is now down to 38 sorties. Track 1 course pilots, more experienced pilots retraining from other aircraft, also saw a reduction in the number of sorties needed to graduate, from 19 to 12 sorties.”

Meanwhile, the T-38s are taking up the aggressor role from F-22s. In 2013, T-38s flew 831 adversary air sorties in 9 months, and that number is expected to double in 2014.

At the same time, the USAF is touting improvements in the F-22’s availability rate, despite a negative recent report from the GAO (q.v. May 15/14). The 325th FW reportedly hit an 80.7% Mission Capable rate in March 2014, vs. an average rate from January – March 2013 of 49%. Software enhancements and beter availability of spare parts are cited as drivers, and the latter is helped by the 325th’s status as a training unit. Sources: USAF, “Tyndall AFB takes F-22 pilot training to next level”.

Training stats

F-22A readiness
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May 15/14: GAO Report. The US GAO looks at ongoing costs and estimates for the F-22’s SRP I/II and RAMMP programs, which aim to address the aircraft’s reliability and structural problems. The most recent combined cost estimate for these efforts from 2003 was approximately $11.3 billion, of which nearly 60% has already been invested. Of this total, $9.36 billion involves modernization, vs. $1.93 billion for maintenance efforts like RAMMP and SRP. Overall, GAO highlights 3 issues related to these efforts.

The 1st is the difficulty of tracking RAMMP, as the FY 2013 defense budget bill requested. The Pentagon says that reliability and maintainability programs can’t be baselined like regular new-item programs, because of unexpected life cycle issues that arise as the weapon system ages. GAO says that the current reporting system makes it impossible to consistently track cost and schedule progress. Both can be right.

The 2nd issue involves depot-level maintenance and turnaround time, whose lateness will now delay the fielding of key modernization increments like 3.1 (now August 2017, not FY 2016), 3.2A (now FY 2018, not FY 2016), and remediation programs like SRP (now 2019, not late 2017). The GAO cites management turnover at the contractor-run depot in Palmdale, CA, plus extra time needed for corrosion fixes, as the causes. One wonders whether the coming move to a government-operated facility in Ogden, UT will help, though they do have lower labor rates there, and have reportedly charged fewer labor-hours when performing modifications. A residual capability will be maintained at Palmdale, CA into 2015.

The 3rd issue cited is that the USAF has never been able to meet the F-22’s aircraft availability targets, and doesn’t expect to hit the required 70.6% figure by fiscal year 2018. Even that target figure isn’t all that high for a fighter, but the F-22 is handicapped by the fact that maintaining the F-22’s stealth with tapes, coatings, etc. accounts for almost 50% of off-line maintenance time. As such, “minor repairs or modifications that would take a few hours on a non-stealth aircraft can require days of maintenance on an F-22.” Sources: US GAO-14-425, “Cost and Schedule Transparency Is Improved, Further Visibility into Reliability Efforts Is Needed” | Defense-Aerospace, “F-22 Availability Lags Despite $11Bn Investment”.

April 20/14: Reprisals? F-22 pilot Capt. Joshua Wilson of the VA Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Squadron was one of the pilots who talked publicly about the F-22’s oxygen problems on the CBS’ “60 Minutes” episode that aired in May 2012. In April 2012, the USAF stopped his planned promotion to major over his reluctance to fly the jets before various fixes were made; they’ve also forced him out of his full-time desk job with the Air Combat Command at Langley, and reportedly threatened to take away his wings.

“If you guys can prove I’m a bad officer, kick me out of the military,” he said. “If not, let me get back to my job. Let me get back to what I love to do, what I’m good at and what I trained my entire life to do.”

Wilson alerted the Department of Defense’s office of inspector general, which is investigating, and his own lawyers are calling the USAF’s actions a reprisal. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R-IL-16] concurs, and Sen. Mark Warner [D-VA] has been critical.

It’s worth noting that Maj. Jeremy Gordon was also part of that 60 Minutes interview, and remains in the squadron, flying a T-38 after voluntarily stepping away from the Raptor in mid-2012. At the same time, the USAF hasn’t exactly explained themselves re: Wilson. Sources: Virginia-Pilot, “Pilot’s career stalls after criticizing oxygen system”.

April 8/14: Basing. The last 4 F-22A Raptors from Holloman AFB, NM’s 7th Fighter Squadron arrive at their new home in Tyndall AFB, FL (q.v. July 29/10, May 13/11, Oct 12/12, Jan 6/14), and become part of a new squadron. Col. David E. Graff, who commands the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall AFB, FL declares that the recently-reactivated 95th Fighter Squadron has reached Initial Operational Capability. Additional personnel and equipment still need to arrive from the F-22s’ former base at Holloman AFB, NM, and full operational capability is expected “this summer.”

The F-22s will also be flown by the 301st Fighter Squadron Air Force Reserve Command Associate unit. Including 95th FS, 43rd FS, and the F-22 training squadron, more than 50 Raptors are now based at Tyndall. Sources: Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine, “Last Raptor Leaves Holloman” and “Raptor Squadron Reaches IOC”.

F-22As over Fla.
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Feb 3/14: F-22s & F-35s. USAF Air Combat Command’s veteran leader, Gen. Michael Hostage, offers an interview answer that ignites much more controversy than he expected. After firmly stating that he intends to defend every single one of the 1,763 F-35As in the program, and adding that “adversaries are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet, no matter what I do, by the middle of the next decade”, he’s asked about expensive upgrades to the F-22:

“A. The F-22, when it was produced, was flying with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system. But I was forced to use that because that was the [specification] that was written by the acquisition process when I was going to buy the F-22.

Then, I have to go through the [service life extension plan] and [cost and assessment program evaluation] efforts with airplanes to try to get modern technology into my legacy fleet. That is why the current upgrade programs to the F-22 I put easily as critical as my F-35 fleet. If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22. Because I got such a pitifully tiny fleet, I’ve got to ensure I will have every single one of those F-22s as capable as it possibly can be.”

Gen. Hostage’s views are more complex than this, and his ideas concerning “the combat cloud” with F-35s as its backbone are especially interesting. His position is also operationally prudent. The problem is that Lockheed Martin and the USAF have been selling the F-35 as an air superiority aircraft. Meanwhile, outside commenters had looked at design tradeoffs and test data, while pointing to fighter design advances from Russia, China, et. al. and expressing skepticism re: air superiority claims. Now, the head of USAF ACC has just confirmed their skepticism. Can a very political military and industrial complex handle that? Sources: Defense News, “Interview: Gen. Michael Hostage, Commander, US Air Force’s Air Combat Command” | The Aviationist, “”If we don’t keep F-22 Raptor viable, the F-35 fleet will be irrelevant” Air Combat Command says” | Canada’s National Post, “Canada’s multi-billion dollar F-35s ‘irrelevant’ without U.S.-only F-22 as support, American general says” || Breaking Defense (2013), “Why Air Force Needs Lots Of F-35s: Gen. Hostage On The ‘Combat Cloud'”.

F-22s and F-35s kerfuffle

Jan 6/14: Basing. The first 5 Raptors arrive at Tyndall AFB, FL from Holloman AFB, NM. The 19 remaining fighters of the renamed 95th Fighter Squadron will arrive by the end of April 2014, making Tyndall the largest F-22 base with more than 50 Raptors. It will be the first time Tyndall has ever hosted a combat aviation unit.

The transfer has taken more than 3 years, thanks in part to an ongoing Congressional freeze on USAF structure changes (q.v. July 29/10, May 13/11, Oct 12/12). The F-22 move also frees up space for the transfer of 2 F-16 squadrons from Luke AFB, AZ in Arizona to Holloman AFB, which is becoming the USAF’s F-16 training center. Sources: Panama City News Herald, “‘Awesome’ new mission awaits Raptor pilots at Tyndall”.


Last F119 engine; No HMD becoming a problem? AIM-9X test
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Nov 7/13: RaIL. Technicians at the Raptor Avionics Integration Laboratory (RaIL) at Hill AFB, UT complete the conversion from a contractor-run to an Air Force-run operation. The RaIL has been performing the critical avionics sustainment function for the F-22 Raptor at Hill since April 10/14. It’s a public/private partnership with Lockheed Martin, with 10 civil service employees part of an intensive 2 year training program. Sources: Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine, “RaIL Up And Running”.

Oct 10/13: Innovation. The usual method of deploying fighters is structured around large footprint packages to a select few operating bases. That wasn’t good enough for Lt. Col. Kevin Sutterfield, a reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 477th Fighter Group at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. He circulated a white paper around the concept of mobile stealth fighter groups that could refuel, rearm, and redeploy from a number of smaller bases, greatly complicating enemy planning.

Once that paper had senior attention, Sutterfield worked with other active duty and reserve experts to flesh out the details. The new approach uses a flexible combination of 4 F-22As, 1 C-17A, a tailored package of spares and equipment, and trained personnel on board as the “cell” quickly disperses to new bases to refuel, rearm, and fly operations. To test these theories, experienced pilots and maintainers from the 3rd Wing and 477th developed exercises in 2009, 2010, 2012, and in August 2013. The USAF considers the new approach to be ready for operational use. Sources: USAF, “Innovation advances F-22 as strategic force in Pacific”.

Aug 8/13: Crash report. USAF Air Combat Command’s Accident Investigation Board report says that the November 2012 crash at Tyndall AFB, FL (q.v. Nov 15/12) was caused by a chafed electrical wire. The positive generator-feeder wire arced out, burning through a nearby hydraulic line and forcing the generator offline. When the F-22A pilot attempted to restart the generator, the spark ignited misted hydraulic fluid. That fire took out key electrical and hydraulic systems, and c’est fini for Raptor 00-4013.

Fortunately, the pilot ejected safely, but the jet became a smoking hole in the ground. Total damage is estimated at $149.6 million. Sources: USAF, “F-22 accident report released”.

May 29/13: Infrastructure. The USAF is consolidating F-22A maintenance at Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Hill AFB, UT. A a 31-month incremental transition plan will shift away from the current arrangement, which is split between Ogden and Lockheed Martin’s Palmdale, CA facility. The USAF’s business case says they’ll save $16 million per year. As with all business cases, the proof is in the results. Sources: USAF, “Air Force to consolidate F-22 depot maintenance at Hill”.

April 8/13: Squadron stand-down. The USAF is standing down 17 combat-coded squadrons in response to budget cuts that reduced the flying hours budget by $591 million for the remainder of FY 2013. The grounding includes F-22As from the 1st Fighter Wing’s 94th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA, who are returning from a high-profile exercise in South Korea. Gannett’s Military Times.

April 4/13: Some restrictions lifted. The F-22 Raptor fleet’s prohibition on venturing more than 30 minutes flight from suitable airfields is removed, after modifications to aircrew life-support equipment were completed across the fleet. F-22 crews have also resumed their aerospace control alert mission in Alaska after the Automatic Back-up Oxygen System (ABOS) was installed in the F-22s at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Altitude restrictions still remain for some of the fleet. Altitude restrictions for training flights remain for non-ABOS aircraft; however, those restrictions will be removed as each aircraft is modified. Officials expect combat fleet completion by July 2014. USAF | KHON 2 Hawaii.

April 1/13: Korea. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little underscores the fact that 2 F-22As have deployed from Kadena AB, Japan to Osan AB in South Korea, arriving in the middle of the 2-month-long Foal Eagle exercise. Little says the move was pre-planned, and it happens to coincide with a sharp escalation in tensions with North Korea. Then again, escalations and acts of war have happened to every new South Korean administration, so it was predictable in advance. US DoD | CNN.

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. The F-22 itself is no longer a major program, but its Increment 3.2B upgrade has been approved as an MDAP all its own. It’s estimated at $1.538 billion, of which $1.2 billion is R&D, and only $338.6 million is procurement. That isn’t unusual for a software-heavy upgrade.

Development will begin in February 2013, with a design review scheduled for July 2015 and a Milestone C decision in December 2015. Testing will begin in August 2016, with a “full rate production” (deployment) decision in October 2017, and an expected initial operational capability in December 2018.

GAO is worried that the AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missile won’t be ready in time to support that 2016 testing, or 2018 fielding. It would have to be pretty late, though, because its IOC is scheduled for 2014. Other GAO concerns include the possibility of testing delays from more “pilot hypoxia” fleet groundings. F-22 flight software updates could create a concurrency risk for the developers, and if the Ogden Air Logistics Center’s software development lab isn’t accredited, it will add 75 more test flights and extend testing. Finally, the GAO cites “a lack of test resources to verify electronic protection and geo-location capabilities…” as a notable risk.

Feb 9/13: NASA on Hypoxia. The Hampton Roads Daily Press used Freedom of Information requests to review a redacted copy of NASA’s 120 page August 2012 report concerning F-22 “hypoxia” issues (q.v. also Sept 13/12 entry). The 14-member NASA team cites lack of information sharing at the outset, as different bases tried different approaches. Langley AFB, VA, for instance, found that hyperbaric treatments were helpful, but pilots in Alaska didn’t receive them. They also use the ominous term “normalization of deviance” to describe initial lack of reaction to pilot health problems.

NASA is also recommending reducing oxygen levels at lower altitudes as a way of avoiding “absorption atelectasis,” in which too much oxygen at low altitudes wash away necessary nitrogen within the lungs and cause lung tissue to collapse. The USAF says that many Navy pilots have flown without issue on 100% oxygen instead of 95%, and wants more data before making that change. NASA also wanted a central F-22 Medical Consult Service in place, as a resource for flight surgeons who treat pilots. The USAF says that Hyperbaric Division of the Aeromedical Consultation Service at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine already serves in that role.

Feb 6/13: Pentagon IG Slams USAF. The Pentagon’s Inspector-General delivers a scathing assessment of the USAF Accident Investigation Board report that faulted the late Capt. Haney for the Nov 16/10 crash in Alaska. The crash led directly to fleet cockpit retrofits and changes in the flight vests, after the AIB’s own report described the absurdly difficult process for reactivating the pilot’s cut-off oxygen (q.v. Dec 14/11, March 20/12 entries). The IG’s report was sharply critical, and its main criticisms can be excerpted as follows:

“The AIB report cites three causal factors (channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan, and unrecognized spatial disorientation) as the cause of the F-22 mishap. However, these three factors are separate, distinct, and conflicting…. The AIB report’s determination that the mishap pilot’s mask was in the full up position throughout the mishap sequence was not adequately supported by the Summary of Facts or by the analysis cited in the TABs…. The AIB report’s Non-Contributory portion of the Human Factors section inadequately analyzes the human factors listed, such as hypoxia, gravity-induced loss of consciousness, and sudden incapacitation and does not contain any references and/or supporting documentation…. lacked detailed analysis of several areas, such as the Emergency Oxygen System activation as well as the physiological reactions to lack of oxygen…. Of the 109 references in the AIB report’s Summary of Facts, 60 of those references were either incorrect or did not direct the reader of the AIB report to the information cited in the paragraph.”

Reading the report in detail, the IG says there’s a lot of evidence that the pilot was “not actively flying the aircraft” for critical periods, citing inter alia 39 seconds of either unintentional or no flight control inputs just prior to the 7.4 g “recovery” maneuver and crash. Basically, the IG believes the pilot was probably unconscious.

The report is an interesting collision. Its conclusions vindicate the honor of the deceased pilot, which the Accident Board report had damaged, at the price of charging the USAF with incompetence (the alternative being dishonesty). The USAF disagrees, stating that the AIB report could have been clearer, but their conclusion was “supported by clear and convincing evidence and he exhausted all available investigative leads.” The IG responds that writing clarity was not the issue. They continue to lack confidence in both the quality of the evidence, and the thoroughness of the investigation, which means the AIB should be re-convened. The USAF is resisting that, and the IG wants more than a vague promise to “address deficiencies”. The tug-of-war continues. Pentagon Inspector General Report | ABC News | Flight International.

Inspector General slams USAF AIB’s 2010 accident report

Feb 6/13: Doc. The USAF does a feature on Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jay Flottmann, a former flight surgeon who is now a fully qualified F-22A pilot, and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety at Tyndall AFB, FL. That role began in November 2010, so he has been very involved in many of the investigations and revised procedures. Including installation of a pulseoximeter in the F-22’s helmet.

Another part of his legacy is that Air Force Instruction 11-405 now allows qualified flight surgeons to apply to pilot training through normal channels.

Feb 5/13: RAF Eurofighters. British Eurofighter Typhoon fighters are training with F-22s at Langley AFB for the first time. German Typhoons reportedly found that they could deal with the Raptor in close during a recent exercise (q.v. July 30/12 entry), but exercises like these are more about teaching other air forces how to work together with the F-22’s different capabilities and protocols. Hampton Roads Daily Press.

Jan 31/13: Missile gap? Increment 3.2B upgrades are supposed to deliver AIM-9X Sidewinder missile capabilities to the F-22A fleet, but pilots are concerned that the short-range air combat missile will fall short of required performance without a Helmet Mounted Display, and leave the F-22A at a disadvantage in close-in fights. One Raptor pilot told Flight International that:

“We’ve been screaming for years that the F-22 needs to have the capability fielded, and fast… Once the jets transitions from BVR [beyond visual range] to WVR [within visual range] with only AIM-9M-9s it is hugely vulnerable…”

The pilots like the AIM-9X’s added range, which extends to beyond visual range levels when launched at supercruise speed, and its ability to lock-on after launch. The problem is that without an HMD like the JHMCS I/II on other USAF fighters, or the Thales (Gentex) Scorpion that equips A-10s and some Air National Guard F-16s, the pilots can’t take full advantage of the missile’s full targeting cone. It doesn’t help that AIM-9X Block II’s one cited deficiency is helmetless high off-boresight (HHOBS) performance, but a fix can be expected by 2017.

The Raptor may be able to out-turn anyone, but an opponent with 30 degrees more sighting cone to work with doesn’t have to maneuver as hard. As experiences with the Eurofighter show (q.v. June 30/12 entry), some 4+ generation aircraft do approach the F-22’s capabilities in close. Russian thrust-vectoring designs like the MiG-35, SU-30SM, and SU-35 may also fall into this category, and top-end SRAAMs can even create openings against the F-22’s infrared masking countermeasures.

Jan 17/13: Engine. Pratt & Whitney delivers the last of 507 production F119-PW-100 engines for the F-22 fleet. They’ll continue to produce parts and spares, but the plant removed 100 people in December 2012: 80 layoffs, and 20 early retirement buy-outs.

The last F-22A was delivered on May 2/12. WTNH, CT.

Last F119 engine


The ‘Hypoxia’ issue; Why stealth maintenance is so expensive; F-22’s serious accident rate; 186 aircraft left; German Eurofighters claim good WVR record against F-22s. F-22A w. fuel tanks
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Dec 7/12: Fender bender. An F-22A stationed at Joint Base Preal Harbor – Hickam sustains $1.8 million in damage in a landing incident. The fighters scrapes both horizontal stabilizers on the runway, about 90 minutes after conducting a Missing Man Flyover during the 71st Anniversary Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration ceremony. The Aviationist | UK’s Daily Mail.

Nov 27/12: Stealth. The USAF discusses some aspects of stealth-related maintenance on its F-22s:

“Once a week, the LO shop conducts outer mold line inspections on the Raptor. All the information is placed into a database that rates its stealth capability, called a signature assessment system… Senior Master Sgt. Dave Strunk, 477th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight chief… said that LO application falls into two areas – the removal of coatings to facilitate other maintenance and the removal and replacement to bring the SAS rating down… “We are working all day every day,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Duque, 477th Maintenance Squadron LO technician. “We have 24/7 coverage to ensure a steady flow of progress from the start of a repair to finish.” “

All day, every day, in a highly specialized and technical job, using expensive materials, equals cost. This is normal for stealth aircraft, but it’s worthwhile to illustrate why they cost more to run.

Nov 20/12: The 325th Fighter Wing resumes flying. Tyndall AFB.

Nov 15/12: Crash. An F-22 crashes less than 500 yards from the drone runway at Tyndall AFB, FL. The pilot ejects safely. In response the 325th Fighter Wing stands down operations. Also in response, Flight International asks the intriguing question: how many F-22As does the USAF have left? The researcher’s tally is 184, and the head of USAF Air Combat Command agrees. But ACC’s press had this to say:

“This is what ACC sent me: “The F-22 inventory is 123 combat-coded, 27 training, 16 test, and 20 attrition reserve. The incident at Tyndall was a training aircraft which brought the number down from 28. There are currently 186 total.”

StrategyPage offers another useful calculation, finding that the Raptor has had just over 6 serious accidents per 100,000 flight hours. That’s about double the F-16 and F-15 fleets, and around the same level as India’s air force. In this case, a subsequent report finds that a chafed wire is to blame for the $145+ million accident (q.v. Aug 8/13). Sources: USAF | Tyndall AFB | Flight International | StrategyPage.


Oct 12/12: Delayed move. Holloman AFB, NM officials announce that the scheduled transfer of 7th Fighter Squadron F-22As to Tyndall AFB, FL will be delayed for another 18 months, due to an ongoing freeze on U.S. Air Force structure changes. The freeze will also postpone the transfer of 2 F-16 squadrons from Luke AFB, AZ in Arizona to Holloman.

Meanwhile, the 7th FS continues to perform its missions from Holloman, and they returned from a 9-month deployment to “Southwest Asia” in January. Las Cruces Sun-News, “F-22 Raptors move from Holloman AFB on hold for 18 months” | USAF, “Holloman loses F-22s to fleet consolidation, picks up F-16 schoolhouse”.

Sept 27/12: Hypoxia. Associated Press reconstructs some of the history behind the F-22’s oxygen related controversies. An informal working group of experts had flagged some of these problems a while ago:

“Internal documents and emails obtained by The Associated Press show [the Raptor Aeromedical Working Group, RAW-G] proposed a range of solutions by 2005, including adjustments to the flow of oxygen into pilot’s masks. But that key recommendation was rejected… “This initiative has not been funded,” read the minutes of their final meeting in 2007.”

RAW-G also forecast potential issues with the system providing too much oxygen at lower altitudes. Its founder, Tyndall AFB flight surgeon Wyman, is now a brigadier general, and USAF Air Combat Command surgeon general. Sources: AP, Air Force insiders foresaw F-22 woes.

Sept 13/12: Hypoxia Hearings. The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee On Tactical Air And Land Forces meets to discuss the F-22’s pilot health issues. At this point, the USAF Scientific Advisory Board’s Oxygen Generation Study Group has been delivered, but not implemented. USAF Air Combat Command’s Life Support Systems Task Force still needs to complete its report and provide its final recommendations, and so does NASA’s Engineering and Safety Center, but NASA’s core conclusions are known (q.v. Feb 9/13). Senior leaders from all 3 efforts are invited to testify, and the subcommittee chair is a Congressman who did his Ph.D in flight physiology, and has been involved in military accident investigations.

The full testimony is very detailed, and covers a complex subject. There’s no substitute for reading it in full at the link below. With that said, here are some key points and take-aways:

  • The estimated cost of fleet modifications is $82.5 million, including an Automatic Backup Oxygen System (A-BOS), Automatic Ground Collision and Avoidance System (AGCAS), Upper Pressure Garment Valve, Oxygen Hose Pass-Thru Panel, and Helmet Mounted Pulse Oximeter. Trying to mount an oximeter on pilots’ fingers kept giving incorrect readings, and it took the USAF a little while to catch on to that.

  • The USAF doesn’t have any plans to reduce “Raptor cough” (acceleration atelectasis) among pilots. Rep. Bartlett points out that oxygen feeds that rise way above 158 partial pressure leave too little nitrogen to keep the alveoli inflated in the lungs, especially under high Gs. If the systems adjust the partial pressure to stay close to that figure, he believes that many of the coughing-related problems & risks will go away. The USAF, on the other hand, says that super-oxygenating the bloodstream maximizes “time of useful consciousness” if the cockpit blows off and the pilot has to eject at altitude. Translation: get used to coughing.

  • The Raptor is different because of the amount of time spent at high altitude. Gen. Lyon notes that the has over 3,000 hours in the F-16, but less than 10.0 above 40,000 feet. In contrast, F-22 pilots spend most of their time at 40,000 – 60,000 feet. The USAF is still learning about very high altitude flying’s effects on pilots, even after 50+ years of experience with U-2 spyplanes.

  • The USAF doesn’t plan any changes for maintenance personnel either, who have also reported health issues. The USAF couldn’t find any significant toxicology traces in tests.

  • Ground testing needs to include the full life-support system, and it must be realistic. It wasn’t until the USAF started putting F-22 pilots and their flying ensembles into altitude chambers and centrifuges that they really began to see repeatable failures.

  • The USAF acknowledges that their flight medicine and aviation physiology research capabilities were cut back sharply during the 1990s. Some shifted to contractors, but it’s a high cost/ low payout field, aso much of the capability just went away. One of the recommendations is for the USAF to restore some of that capability.

  • NASA notes, dryly, that “…the investigative process could have been more efficient. The F-22 task force was never given a directive that assigned the authority to conduct the investigation. They began with two narrow hypotheses, and did not communicate well to all parties.”

  • Comprehensive testing has ruled out stealth coating by-products as an issue for maintainers or pilots.

  • All F-22 pilots and associated ground crew have received baseline pulmonary tests and blood tests, which have been put into a registry that will track them through their Air Force career “and, if necessary, beyond.” Gen. Lyon acknowledged “…if something is discovered [in future] that would be tied to this aircraft or in servicing this aircraft, we have a moral imperative to take care of those Americans.”

  • The F-35’s oxygen system is described as “designed with a bit more redundancy and robustness”, including a backup system.

Sources: HASC Subcommittee, “No. 112-154 F-22 Pilot Physiological Issues: full transcript” | WIRED, “Air Force to Stealth Fighter Pilots: Get Used to Coughing Fits” | Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Sky Talk, “More on the F-22 Raptor’s oxygen problems.

Hypoxia hearings

Sept 20/12: Hypoxia. US Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage says that the F-22’s oxygen problem is one of human physiology limits. It’s odd that Eurofighter pilots, who also fly above 50,000 feet at high gs, haven’t reported similar issues. Regardless:

“The service will “train our aviators that the issue is work of breathing,” Hostage told Air Force Times following the conference.” Gannett’s Air Force Times.

Sept 18/12: Hypoxia. USAF Gen. Gregory Martin (ret.), who headed the official investigation into the F-22’s hypoxia issues, explained the removal of the backup oxygen system to the HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee:

“It was not a cost issue… the catalyst for this particular decision was… the ‘war on weight.’ In retrospect, that was not an appropriate decision.”

ABC News says that Martin’s comments seem to contradict Gen. Charles Lyon, who cited cost-driven cuts in August. On the other hand, it’s likely that Martin has the more complete briefing on the issue. ABC News.

Sept 19/12: 20 in Hawaii. The Hawaii National Air Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron and the Active Duty Air Force’s 19th Fighter Squadron have received their last 4 F-22As. Their fleet is now complete, with 18 housed on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and 2 under depot maintenance on the Mainland. Hawaii News Now.

Sept 13/12: Hypoxia – NASA’s take. NASA’s Engineering Safety Center presents its own assessment of the F-22A’s problems to a House Armed Services Committee. They point to “absorption atelectasis,” in which too much oxygen at low altitudes wash away necessary nitrogen within the lungs and cause lung tissue to collapse. NASA also uses a term with strong echoes, when they say that acceptance of “Raptor cough” and difficulty breathing “could be seen as a ‘normalization of deviance.’ ” NASA has used that term with respect to the Space Shuttle Challenger, during their post-mortem of its explosion. Aviation Week. See also Feb 9/13 entry.

Aug 25/12: Long-term safety issue? The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been looking into the F-22 issues, and notes a disturbing piece of news: some Raptor pilots and families are complaining about long-term health problems, which include a chronic cough, impaired motor skills, loss of concentration and an inability to recall words and facts, lethargy and “crushing headaches.” There’s even one suicide that has the family raising questions, involving Brig. Gen. Thomas Tinsley.

The USAF says that contamination has been ruled out, but the article also takes a deeper look at various possibilities like contaminants, or repeated acceleration atelectasis (collapsing alveoli in the lungs). The USAF hasn’t issued its full report, so it’s hard to evaluate why it has ruled out those possibilities. As for the symptoms, they could be from contamination, they could be something that isn’t physical, or they could involve some aspect of physiology at extreme conditions that isn’t well understood yet. If it was easy to tell, we’d have answers already. Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Aug 13-17/12: Lawsuit settled. Anna Haney has agreed to a settlement in her wrongful death case against Lockheed Martin (F-22), Boeing (life support system), Pratt & Whitney (bleed air system), and Honeywell (OBOGGS). Her husband, Captain Jeff Haney, was killed in the Nov 16/10 crash in Alaska. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

An ABC News report points out that part of the problem was known to the USAF for a decade. In March 2000, a combined USAF/ contractor test group said that during certain specific high-altitude maneuvers, the Environmental Control System (ECS) system would shut down. Worse, it was built so that if it failed, a cascade of events would cut off the pilot’s primary oxygen supply. Such a real-world failure was described as “unacceptable,” but instead of installing an automatic plenum tank within the system, the USAF’s solution involved the incredibly difficult to use manual ring-pull system that contributed to Captain Haney’s death.

A June 5/12 contract (q.v.) with Lockheed Martin will retrofit 40 jets in the fleet with an automatic system, designed to kick in whenever the plane’s instruments detect an interruption in the oxygen flow. ABC News | Alaska Dispatch | Flight International.

July 30/12: Red Flag. Combat Aircraft leaks some results from the 2012 Red Flag exercises. WIRED Danger Room:

“In mid-June… [8] Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s… The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. “We were evenly matched,” Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. “As soon as you get to the [close-in] merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,” Gruene said.”

The news has even more impact because the Eurofighters are still flying without helmet-mounted displays, which expand the engagement radius for short-range missiles. That’s a gap in the Raptor’s arsenal, too, but the Eurofighters are about to field an HMD. In contrast, JHMCS HMD integration was cut from the F-22 program during cost overruns, and an HMD isn’t in their current plans.

F-22As vs. Eurofighters

July 30/12: AIM-9X test. An F-22A performs the 1st supersonic launch of an AIM-9X short range air to air missile over the Sea Test Range at Point Mugu, CA. The first launch of an AIM-9X from the F-22 was carried out in May 2012.

Note that these are mechanical and aerodynamic tests, to ensure safe separation, ignition, etc. F-22As won’t be able to really use the AIM-9X in combat until the Increment 3.2B upgrade, which is expected to debut in 2017. Lockheed Martin @ Flickr.

July 30/12: To Japan. USAF F-22As arrive at Kadena AB in Japan. They’re expected to remain on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa for several months, but will be under flight restrictions during that time since pilots won’t be wearing the Combat Edge vests. CBS News.

July 24-30/12: Hypoxia solved? The USAF says they’ve found the root cause of the hypoxia problem. Part is said to be hose and valve connection hardware in the cockpit, and part is with pilots’ Combat Edge upper pressure system, and its breathing regulator/anti-g (BRAG) valve. The valve works fine for F-15 and F-16 pilots, but they don’t have the same performance envelope, and they have different life support systems. The USAF says that in the F-22A the BRAG valve stays open, keeping the vest inflated when it shouldn’t be. That leads to shallow breathing, and hyperventilation.

Kevin Divers, a former USAF rated-physiologist and F-22 flight test engineer, isn’t so sure, He says that the problem was known in 2000, but he had been assured that the issue had been tested thoroughly. There’s also the question of why maintainers on the ground are suffering from similar symptoms to the pilots. The USAF says that the issue is unrelated, but others aren’t so sure. They cite potential causal chains involving chemicals that become much more toxic when heated, can be introduced to the pilot in ways that go beyond the breathing system, and would also affect maintainers afterward.

Meanwhile, flight restrictions of 44,000 feet, maneuvering limitations, and a mandate to remain within 30 minutes of an airfield will remain until all of the USAF’s mechanical modifications reach flight crews. That isn’t expected to begin until September 2012. CBS News | Defense Tech | Flight International in-depth report | Flight International – USAF doubles down.

June 5/12: Oops. A “ground incident” at Tyndall AFB, FL puts an F-22 out of commission, but no-one is hurt. The former F-16 pilot at the controls was making his 2nd flight in an F-22, and the incident happened during a “touch and go”. Tyndall is where F-22 training happens, so that situation is normal.

This kind of thing usually means some repair expense (tail drag? wingtip runway strike? landing gear damage?), but shouldn’t scrap the plane. With a fleet size this low, however, even minor incidents like this one can become significant. Panama City News Herald.

May 15/12: Restricted flight. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issues a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, ordering that F-22 flights remain “within proximity of potential landing locations”. The specifics will be up to individual pilots and commanders, but you don’t want to be the commander if an F-22A accident occurs very far away from any landing options.

Panetta also asks the USAF to accelerate installations of an automatic backup oxygen system, and a contract for the first 50 is later announced in early June 2012. Finally, the US Navy and NASA are to be brought in, to help solve the ongoing oxygen problems that have hampered the fleet’s effectiveness for over a year now. Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby, USN, tells reporters that in light of the recent deployment of several F-22s to the Persian Gulf, and because of pilots’ complaints, Panetta chose to “dive a little more deeply into the issue,” and then to issue the letter. Panetta letter, via scribd | Minneapolis Star-Tribune | Rep. Kinziger | Sen. Warner | WIRED Danger Room.

May 11/12: U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner [D-VA] and Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R-11-IL] send a joint letter to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, asking for a comprehensive and confidential survey of F-22 pilots and USAF flight surgeons. Rep. Kinziger.

May 3/12: 60 Minutes. Raptor pilots Maj. Jeremy Gordon and Capt. Josh Wilson of the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Fighter Wing come forward and talk to the news show 60 Minutes, explaining why they have told their command they do not wish to fly the jet.

Gordon and Wilson say the Air Force has threatened to fire F-22 pilots who express these objections, and have asked Rep. Adam Kinziger [R-11-IL, formerly USAF Maj. Kinziger] to help them gain protection under the federal whistleblower law. On May 8/12, testimony to the House indicates that the 2 pilots will not face sanctions from the USAF. CBS News 60 Minutes | Rep. Kinziger release.

May 2/12: Last F-22A delivered. Lockheed Martin formally delivers its 195th and last F-22 Raptor to the USAF, after a run of 187 F-22As and 8 test aircraft from 1997-2012. This final Raptor will join 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Lockheed Martin.

Last delivery

May 2/12: GAO Modernization, Part 2. The US GAO issues report #GAO-12-447, “F-22A Modernization Program Faces Cost, Technical, and Sustainment Risks.” The summary is not positive:

“Total projected cost of the F-22A modernization program and related reliability and maintainability improvements more than doubled since the program started – from $5.4 billion to $11.7 billion – and the schedule for delivering full capabilities slipped 7 years, from 2010 to 2017. The content, scope, and phasing of planned capabilities also shifted over time with changes in requirements, priorities, and annual funding decisions. Visibility and oversight of the program’s cost and schedule is hampered by a management structure that does not track and account for the full cost of specific capability increments… Results to date have been satisfactory but development and operational testing of the largest and most challenging sets of capabilities have not yet begun. Going forward, major challenges will be developing, integrating, and testing new hardware and software to counter emerging future threats… While modernization is under way, the Air Force has undertaken parallel [RAAMP] efforts to improve F-22A reliability and maintainability to ensure life-cycle sustainment of the fleet is affordable and to justify future modernization investments. But the fleet has not been able to meet a key reliability requirement, now changed, and operating and support costs are much greater than earlier estimated.”

F-22A vs. “Teen series”
(click to view full)

April 26/12: GAO Modernization Report. The F-22A began as a single-step program, with no need for significant future modernization. Reality intervened, and the current total estimated cost of F-22A modernization is now $9.7 billion for Increments 2, 3.1, and 3.2B. GAO explains why this is more expensive than past “teen series” fighter designs:

“In 2003… We noted that while [advertising a single-step approach] may have allowed the F-22A program to compete for funding, it hamstrung the program with little knowledge about its true technology, funding, and schedule needs. In addition, the Air Force did not make early trade-offs between requirements and available resources… Ultimately F-22A development took more than 14 years, encountered significant cost increases and quantity reductions, and has not yet fully met established requirements, specifically those related to reliability and maintainability.

…F-22A production was terminated in 2009, before… (Increment 3.1) had finished development, so the remaining modernization increments will have to be retrofitted… Based on F-22A flight hour data provided by the program office our analysis indicates that a large number of aircraft are likely to have flown more than 1,500 hours, or nearly 20 percent of their 8,000-hour service lives, before the Increment 3.2B upgrades are fielded.11 …retrofitting upgrades onto stealth aircraft with fully integrated computer systems – referred to as fused or integrated avionics – like the F-22A is a riskier and more complex process than integrating new technologies into a conventional aircraft with separate and distinct computer systems and software for each subsystem – known as federated avionics – even if the technologies are mature.”

See: GAO | Washington Examiner.

March 23/12: Increment 3.1. Flight International reports that the 3rd Wing’s 525th fighter squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska became the first Combat Air Forces squadron to receive the F-22A Increment 3.1, with greatly improved ground-attack capabilities.

Increment 3.1 fielded

March 20/12: Hypoxia. Gannett’s Air Force Times reports that Capt. Haney’s fatal Alaska crash (vid. Dec 14/11) has led to design changes and retrofits. The Air Force is replacing handles that engage the F-22A’s emergency oxygen system, at a fleet material cost of $8,400 for 200. Elemndorf’s F-22As have already been refitted, and refits to other units are ongoing.

March 12/12: Lawsuit. Capt. Haney’s widow, Anna Haney, files a wrongful death suit in Cook County Court, IL against Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell International and Pratt & Whitney. The core of the suit reportedly claims that the plane’s onboard oxygen delivery system is defective, and that the mechanism for activating the emergency backup oxygen system is essentially impossible to operate impossible in emergencies. As such, the plane “did not safely or properly provide breathable oxygen to the pilot operating the aircraft.”

Lockheed Martin’s spokeswoman was sympathetic, but added that the company does not agree with the allegations, and will contest them in court.

Jan 17/12: 2011 DOT&E. The Pentagon releases the “FY2011 Annual Report for the Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation.” The F-22A is included, and results are mixed.

On the one hand, Increment 3.1 improvements involving ground radar modes and the new Small Diameter Bomb appear to be effective, and strongly improved Mean Time Between Critical Failure rates. The fleet grounding in 2011 delayed full testing, but in July 2011, the USAF authorized early fielding anyway.

A more mixed review came in the USAF’s 5-year Low Observables Stability Over Time (LOSOT) testing. The stealth system was found to be durable and stable over time, but stealth-related maintenance “continues to account for a significant proportion of the man hours per flight hour required to maintain the F-22A.” That has always been true for stealth aircraft, though the F-22 was supposed to feature new technologies that would avoid this outcome and keep costs in line. That does not appear to have happened. The USAF continues to try and improve things by fielding an LO(Low-observable, i.e. stealth) Repair Verification Radar tool, performing periodic maintenance audits of the LO system, and fielding more people (aka. “Martians”) for low-observable maintenance. The extra Martians should improve mission-readiness, in exchange for extra costs per flight hour.


Last Raptor rolls out; Increment 3.2 upgrade gets split up; Fleet grounding; T-38s introduced to reduce aerial training costs; Cockpit design the real cause of a fatal crash. End of the day
(click to view full)

Dec 14/11: Crash cause? Terrible Man-Machine Interface. That’s certainly what a leaked USAF report appears to conclude, concerning the fatal November 2010 F-22A crash in Alaska. According to reports, onboard computers detected that bleed air was leaking out of the engine bay, which could cause a fire. They shut that system down, leaving the OBOGS with no air feed. To activate the Emergency Oxygen System (EOS) back-up, the pilot has to pull up on a small ring tucked into the side of his ejection seat. While trying to find it, Capt. Haney seems to have put his aircraft into a dive – a result repeated in ground simulations, as the pilot moves the stick and rudder while twisting in the cockpit.

It doesn’t help that to avoid hitting their canopy with protruding night vision goggles, while looking down and to the side, F-22 pilots have to brace themselves to shift their torso. A requirement that wouldn’t exist, except that the F-22 program cut JHMCS Helmet-Mounted Display integration. The accident investigation board still blames the accident on the pilot, for failing to activate the EOS. Flight International.

Dec 12/11: Last Raptor. The last F-22 rolls off the assembly line in Marietta, GA, as the US prepares to mothball the production line’s tooling, along with photos, video, and detailed instructions. Mothballing is a rare step, which would reduce the cost of re-starting production later.

About 5,600 Lockheed employees worked on the F-22 program at its peak in 2005, including 944 in Marietta. The current number is 1,650, with 930 in Marietta. More than 200 Marietta jobs have been cut in 2011, and more cuts could be coming. What’s known is that 600 Marietta, GA employees will handle F-22 technical support and modernizations. Some of the rest will be cut, while others will move to other programs. Atlanta Journal Constitution | UK’s Daily Mail | Reuters | TIME Magazine Battleland.

The Last Raptor

Oct 20-25/11: Stand-down. The commander of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, VA issues a temporary stand-down order for the squadron’s F-22As, after another hypoxia-like incident. The F-22s at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska follow suit. All F-22s are flying again by Oct 25/11, but it’s clear that whatever problems the plane has aren’t going away. AP | Gannett’s Air Force Times | WAVY TV 10 | WIRED Danger Room.

Oct 15/11: Reservists with the 477th Fighter Group in Joint AB Elmendorf, AK resume F-22 flying operations. After the fleet’s 4-month grounding, active duty pilots had priority to begin flying the F-22s. US PACAF.

Oct 5/11: USMC Maj. Christopher Cannon writes a report advocating the F-22 as a ‘Plan B’ fallback replacement for the Marines’ F-35B if it’s canceled. The challenge is that the F-22 can’t be flown from ships, and current plans call for the USMC to buy a mix of F-35B STOVL and F-35C carrier aircraft. If the F-35B in canceled, therefore, the current Plan B is the F-35C. On the other hand, Canon argues that:

“The F-22 dwarfs the F-35 in stealth, speed, survivability, deployability and firepower… F-22s could be purchased now and would be cheaper initially and cost less to maintain than F-35s in the future. The current DoD (Department of Defense) plan is to buy 50 Marine Corps F-35B aircraft… [costing] $190 million per aircraft. In 2011, flyaway costs for the F-22 are a reported $150 million per aircraft… The U.S. Air Force estimates flying hour costs for the F-22 are $44,259 per hour. The 2008 GAO (Government Accountability Office) report estimated $33,000 per flying hour in a JSF aircraft… However, F-35B costs will likely be higher than A and C models. Additionally, the 2011 GAO update states that ‘current JSF life-cycle cost estimates are considerably higher than the legacy aircraft it will replace.’ “

Short takeaway: The report is very unlikely to become policy. Walton Sun.

Sept 26/11: Return to flight. The F-22 Raptor returns to the skies in a series of test and production flights at Lockheed’s Marietta, GA facility. Lockheed Martin.

Sept 19/11: Grounding. The USAF says that it will resume F-22 flights on Sept 21/11, even though it’s not sure what the problem is. While the wait for the fall report, the USAF will continue studying the problem, run regular physiological tests on the pilots, add training and unspecified protective gear, beef up aircraft inspections, and implement some short-term flight restrictions. The timing will, however, allow pilots grounded since May 3/11 to maintain their proficiency certifications. Aviation Week | Bloomberg | DoD Buzz | Gannett’s Air Force Times.

Aug 31/11: Grounding. Defense News reports that the USAF is looking to lift the F-22 fleet grounding, even though the cause of the hypoxia-like symptoms hasn’t been determined yet. A Sept 2/11 meeting will determine what flight restrictions need to remain: the USAF wants to restrict the planes below 40,000 feet, but the pilots are pushing for the full 60,000 foot ceiling, and want the physiologists dealing with this issue to have piloting experience. A Sept 7/11 Defense News article goes into more detail:

“Sources said the man they want to help with the investigation is a former Air Force flight test engineer and rated physiologist… Kevin Divers [of] Warrior Edge. Divers was a member of the F-22 Combined Test Force during the jet’s developmental testing and operational testing… Physiologists don’t fully comprehend the safety systems built into the modern aircraft, Divers said, but moreover, most don’t have the real-world experience in an aircraft. The consequence is that it has made it harder for the Air Force to get to the bottom of the problem… also created “an aircrew perception that the career field doesn’t understand its customer any more,” Divers said… “I know all of their flight equipment – the [onboard oxygen generating system] OBOGS, the entire plumbing of the aircraft to the OBOGS… My pilot training experience taught me to break down subsystems and know the aircraft to the level that the aircrew has to know it. Air Force physiologists aren’t trained that way coming into the Air Force.”

See also: Defense News Aug 31/11 | POGO.

August 16/11: Grounding. As of this date, F-22s have been grounded for 105 days. A mix of toxins has been found in pilots’ blood after the various incidents that led to the fleet’s grounding, but how the gasses make it into the plane’s air supply is still unclear. Carbon monoxide dissolves too quickly to have been found by the tests, but it could also explain hypoxia and may make it into cockpits during hangar startups used during Alaska’s winter.

The investigation led by the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) has been expanded to other planes: F-35 Lightning II, T-6A Texan II, F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II. It is planned to be completed by early fall.

Meanwhile, a larger readiness problem is growing. Simulators help maintain a pilot’s instrument approach, but do not replace the live experience, so this is disrupting training. After 210 days without flying, pilots may have to go through extensive re-qualification.

June 16/11: Grounding. The F-22 fleet remains grounded, except for any emergency and testing missions that might be ordered.

May 30/11: New Core? The USAF is considering scrapping or heavily supplementing the F-22’s hardware/ software core with a modern open architecture system that would make upgrades much more portable from platforms like the F-35, EA-18G, etc., and also allow the USAF to open upgrades to competition beyond Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

When the F-22 was in development, VAX hardware and the Ada programming language were the most advanced mature technologies available; UNIX had not fully evolved to a military grade choice, and the project needed to lower risk. A lot has changed on the technology front since then, and now the tightly-coupled nature of the F-22’s systems, and age of their legacy underpinnings, is making improvements difficult.

The F-22 System Program Office (SPO) at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH will be trying to scope out the cost and effort via a 2011 RFI for demonstration projects. Depending on what they find, the system might become part of “Increment 3.2C” installations in 2019-2020, and allow the USAF to bring the entire Raptor fleet up to Increment 3.2 standard. Defense News | Vector Software | WSJ Tech Europe.

May 19/11: 3.2 splits up. The Senate Armed Services Committee gets bad news from USAF procurement chief David Van Buren, as he tells them that:

“Increment 3.2 that we’re currently working on for the F-22 for our war-fighting customer is taking too long to implement… We are working with the company to try to speed that up and make it more affordable.”

Software development issues are the problem for this mostly-software upgrade, which has now been split into Increment 3.2A for 2014 fielding, and Increment 3.2B for 2017 fielding. As noted elsewhere in this article, the F-22 runs on VAX computers, programmed in Ada. During the F-22’s development phase, they were the stable, mature options available. Now, they’re almost extinct. Lockheed Martin says that they’re working on it, adding that they saved the USAF $20 million by moving some electronic protection software forward from Increment 3.2B (2017) to Increment 3.2A (2014). They’re reportedly looking at 100 additional cost-cutting items for Increment 3.2B. SASC Hearing (actually focused on F-35) | Defense News | Gannett’s Air Force Times.

May 13/11: Holloman out. The active-duty 8th Fighter Squadron at Holloman AFB is officially inactivated, marking only the second time in the squadron’s 61-year history that it has been inactive. 8th FS flew F-22s, and Holloman AFB, NM is being converted to an F-16 training base. Source.

May 5/11: Grounded. The F-22A fleet, which had been restricted to flying at a maximum of 25,000 feet since January 2011, gets a full grounding order from the USAF. A few pilots have been experiencing hypoxia-like symptoms on a few flights, and the USAF still doesn’t know why, so they’ve taken a cautious approach while a full investigation is conducted.

Suspicion naturally falls on the fighter’s on-board oxygen gas generation system (OBOGGS) system, and the USAF is also investigating the OBOGGS systems on a range of other planes: F-15s, F-16s, F-35s, and T-6 trainers. With that said, the F-22A uses a new system designed by Honeywell, as opposed to the older Cobham plc systems found on many other USAF aircraft. Those kinds of systems do not usually fail, and the F-22 fleet has operated for some time without this problem. It is possible that some component may be wearing out early, or not holding up well over time, but the USAF is careful to note that they have not confirmed the source of the problem – if they knew it was the OBOGGS, this would not be an investigation. Meanwhile, the F-35 program takes pains to point out that their OBOGGS system is a newer Honeywell design. Bloomberg | DefenceWeb | Defense News | Flight International | Stars and Stripes.

Fleet grounded

March 19/11: Libya from afar. Operation Odyssey Dawn begins multinational enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, and includes strikes on a wide range of defended Libyan targets. The F-22 is completely absent from these proceedings, though the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare fighter makes its combat debut. Given a clear air superiority and air defense suppression mission, which seems to play to all of the F-22’s strengths, and a March 17/11 statement by USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz that he expected the F-22s to be employed in the early days of the conflict, many observers speculate about the F-22’s absence from the conflict.

Speculation includes political motives to force a coalition effort, lack of shared datalinks with most of the other planes participating, the fact that upgrade Increment 3.1’s ground-looking SAR mode for the AN/APG-77 radar hasn’t been delivered yet, or just an assessment that Libya wasn’t all that tough, and the F-22 wasn’t needed. A less credible reason was advanced by the USAF, who said it was because the F-22s aren’t based in Europe. All other reasons are possible contributors, but the May 2011 grounding adds an additional, and very persuasive, possibility: distrust of the plane’s oxygen system. Bloomberg | The DEW Line | DoD Buzz | Gannett’s Air Force Times.

Feb 14/11: FY 2012 budget. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, which includes over $1 billion for the F-22 program. What will that fund? No new planes, but:

“Supports procurement of equipment associated with standing up operational locations and other support required to deliver new aircraft and funds shutdown activities, preserving assets for long-term F-22 fleet sustainment. Continues critical F-22 modernization through incremental capability upgrades and key reliability and maintainability efforts. Continues retrofit of Increment 3.1 into the combat-coded F-22 fleet. Increment 3.1 provides an initial ground attack kill chain capability via inclusion of emitter-based geo-location of threat systems, ground-looking synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes, electronic attack capability, and initial integration of the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB-1), which expands the F-22’s ground attack arsenal from one Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to four SDB-1s per payload. Continues development of Increment 3.2, providing AIM-120D and AIM-9X integration, radar electronic protection, enhanced speed and accuracy of target geo-location, Link-16 track fusion, Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS), and other enhancements to improve system safety and effectiveness.”

F-22A and T-38
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Jan 10/11: T-38 substitutes. One way to keep operations and maintenance costs down is to use cheaper fighters for air combat training. Lt. Col. Derek Wyler of the T-38 Adversary Air Program at JB Langley, VA explains:

“Right now at (JB Langley) … the F-22s are having to fly against themselves for their air-to-air training… By bringing the T-38s out, we’ll be able to train F-22 pilots by flying against the T-38s, which will give them a larger number of aircraft to fly against, and it will be a far more cost-effective way to train.”

It will, but T-38s are not a full substitute for training against fully-capable adversaries. NASA officials used an Aero Spacelines Super Guppy outsize cargo plane to deliver the first 2 of an eventual 15 T-38s that will be regenerated at Holloman AFB, NM, then flown to operating locations at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA, and Tyndall AFB, FL. Holloman AFB will receive 2 T-38s at a time, with the last slated for February 2011. The first 7 regenerated planes will go to JB Langley, VA. USAF.


Corrosion. Wondering what’s next. Last few…
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Dec 16/10: Corrosion. A GAO study looks at corrosion lessons learned from the F-22 program, and provides some details. Unfortunately, the very same materials used to help ensure smooth and stealthy surfaces are responsible for corrosion problems:

“Efforts are under way to address corrosion problems with the F-22. Corrosion of the aluminum skin panels on the F-22 was first observed in spring 2005, less than 6 months after the Air Force first introduced the aircraft to a severe environment. By October 2007, a total of 534 instances of corrosion were documented, and corrosion in the substructure was becoming prevalent. For corrosion damage identified to date, the government is paying $228 million to make F-22 corrosion-related repairs and retrofits through 2016… Many of the F-22’s corrosion problems were linked to problems with gap filler materials and paint… [Also,] Environmental and occupational health concerns drove the initial use of a nonchromated primer[Footnote 6] on the F-22 that did not provide corrosion protection, and the program later switched to a chromated primer.”

According to the GAO, the F-35 program has learned from the F-22 in some areas, but is making similar mistakes in others. Other programs that could also learn from the F-22 experience include the US Marines’ EFV armored vehicle and CH-53K helicopter, the Navy’s JHSV fast transport/ support catamarans and RQ-4N BAMS naval surveillance UAVs, and the Hummer replacement JLTV.

Nov 16/10: Restart? The US Air Force Association’s airforce-magazine says that the USAF is beginning to discuss a restart of F-22A Raptor production:

“Extending F-22 production could be the dealmaker if F-35 foes carry the day and compel USAF to take mostly new-build F-16s instead. The Raptors would provide the extra stealth force required to make the non-stealthy F-16s acceptable. Also, if you’ve listened carefully, USAF has gone from saying it will retain a “portion” of F-22 production tooling to “most” and, most recently, to “all.” Gen. William Fraser, head of Air Combat Command, acknowledged last week that Lockheed Martin is filming all F-22 tooling processes as the earliest parts of production shut down, so that it can go back to production of parts… Also last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said he might spearhead an effort to get more F-22s into the budget. But he acknowledged it could be a difficult task given pressures to rein in spending.”

Nov 8/10: Industrial. Flight International reports that Lockheed Martin has entered the final 12 months of F-22A production in Marietta, GA, with the final aircraft due out of building B-1 by November 2011. Production will then shift over to F-35 inner-wing shipsets, using 250,000 square feet of space that had used for C-5M tooling storage, even as the site also works to treble C-130J production to about 36 a year.

Nov 3/10: What’s next? The USAF issues its “Next Generation Tactical Aircraft (Next Gen TACAIR) Materiel and Technology Concepts Search” solicitation, as it begins to think about what might replace the F-22 Raptor:

“ASC/XRX is conducting market research analyses to examine applicable materiel concepts and related technology for a Next Gen TACAIR capability with an IOC(Initial Operational Capability) of approximately 2030. The envisioned system may possess enhanced capabilities in areas such as reach, persistence, survivability, net-centricity, situational awareness, human-system integration, and weapons effects. The primary mission in the future Next Gen TACAIR definition is Offensive and Defensive Counterair to include subset missions including Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), Close Air Support (CAS) and Air Interdiction (AI). It may also fulfill airborne electronic attack and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capabilities. This is not an all-inclusive list and the Next Gen TACAIR definition will mature and sharpen as the market research and Capabilities Based Assessment (CBA) unfold… The future system will have to counter adversaries equipped with next generation advanced electronic attack, sophisticated integrated air defense systems, passive detection, integrated self-protection, directed energy weapons, and cyber attack capabilities. It must be able to operate in the anti-access/area-denial environment that will exist in the 2030-2050 timeframe.

ASC is issuing this CRFI to support Air Combat Command (ACC) in their effort to establish potential weapon system concepts and future operating environment definition, establish a common understanding of future capability needs, and define key enabling technologies and their path to maturity. This CRFI will support requirements generation/refinement and provide decision-making products (including cost analyses) required to estimate operational benefits. The Government is issuing this CRFI to conduct market research in accordance with Part 10 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.”

That list of requirements seems calculated to produce another bleeding edge research project; time will tell, as it gets whittled down to a set of firm requirements, and the USA’s budgetary situation becomes clearer over the next decade. See also Flight International | Reuters.

Oct 27/10: What’s next? An Aviation Week article discusses the future of fighter design in the face of widespread spending reviews, including possible plans for the F-22:

“Much of the thinking about future designs is being driven by the emergence of new threats, including the ability to deal with more sophisticated and longer-range air defenses and advanced fighters such as Russia’s PAK FA. Those developments also have U.S. Air Force officials mulling how to continue to evolve the Lockheed Martin F-22. Potential improvements in the 2020-plus timeframe include a multispectral infrared search-and-track system and introducing side radar arrays that were once part of the program but dropped in the 1990s to cut costs. Advanced data links and improved combat identification capability also could be in the cards.”

Multispectral IRST systems let fighters scan aerial targets in the non-radar spectra like infrared, allowing them to identify enemy aircraft by air friction and/or engine heat. Conventional radar stealth is not a defense, and a pilot with medium range infrared-guided air-to-air missiles can launch attacks from beyond visual range that do not rely on radar, and so do not trigger a target’s radar warning receivers.

Oct 20/10: Science! It’s good to know physics. Boeing’s F-22 manager Duane Innes does, so when he saw a truck sliding across lanes at around 40 miles an hour, he warned his passengers, slammed on the minivan’s gas, pulled ahead of the runaway vehicle, and let it rear-end him. As he explains “Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together.”

They did. The driver had suffered a heart attack and passed out at the wheel – but USAF veteran Bill Pace survived, thanks to the same combination of courage and physics that builds and then commands every F-22 in service. Well done, Mr. Innes. Seattle Times.


Sept 15/10: Industrial. Lockheed Martin announces that it has reached 86 consecutive F-22As aircraft delivered on or ahead of schedule. To date, the company has delivered 166 production F-22s, including 13 in 2010.

Aug 25/10: Hawaii. Pilots from the Hawaii Air National Guard 199th Fighter Squadron complete their last training mission with the F-15 Eagle from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The 3 remaining F-15s will depart JB Hickam Sept 1/10, with 2 joining the 56th Aggressors Squadron at Nellis AFB, NV, and 1 moving to the 120th Fighter Wing of the Montana Air National Guard. The 199th FS will use the next year to transition to the F-22, and they will fly and help maintain the 20 F-22A Raptors that will deploy there. USAF.

Aug 6/10: UAE exercise. The 2010 ATLC (Advanced Tactical Leadership Course) at Al Dhafra is an annual exercise in the United Arab Emirates that bring American, British, French, and regional aircraft together. The main 2010 exercise featured the UAE’s own F-16 E/F Block 60s and Mirage 2000v9s, along with 6 Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s, 6 Pakistani F-7PGs (Chinese MiG-21 copy), 6 French Rafales, 6 RAF Eurofighter Typhoons, and 6 USAF F-16CJ Block 52 “Wild Weasel” aircraft, which are optimized for killing ground-based air defenses.

A 6 aircraft deployment of F-22As from the 1st Fighter Wing’s 27th FS participated in bilateral training opportunities during this period, but did not participate in the main exercise. They flew 86 exercise sorties during the deployment, including 36 DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) sorties and 4 sorties at the Dubai air show. Arabian Aerospace:

“This marked the first deployment of the F-22A Raptor to… the Central Command AOR… The F-22As fought Armée de l’Air Rafales on six occasions… [in 2010. In 2009] The USAF refused to comment directly about the French claims [re: the Rafale and Raptor]… Lt Col Lansing Pilch, commander of the 27th, and of the F-22 deployment [said in 2010 that] “In every test we did, the Raptors just blew the competition out of the water.” He did praise the Rafale, however… The deployment… was undertaken to test the expeditionary capabilities of the F-22A, and particularly… operations in a harsh desert environment… Pilch was keen to stress that the purpose… “We were not there to beat up on anybody [it’s about] showing them what we can do, and learning about what they can do, and thus how best we can operate alongside them in coalition operations.” …F-22As flew only within visual range 1 vs 1 BFM (Basic Fighter Manoeuvring) sorties, and [without using] the F-22’s AN/APG-77 radar and highly advanced AN/ALR-94 passive receiver system. The Raptor pilots flew against a variety of opponents, with only the RAF turning down the offer of training against the F-22A, to the evident disappointment of Pilch and Rogers… [Using a generic support package] the F-22A operated at a higher tempo and with a smaller logistics footprint than would be required by the F-15 or F-16…”

See also Flight International. In a separate article, Arabian Aerospace adds an overview of the ATLC itself.

July 30/10: Industrial. Flight International reports that even after the F-22 production line shuts down, tooling with “near-term needs” for fleet maintenance will be retained on site. Others will be stored in large, bar-coded steel ISO containers, instead of using conventional warehousing. all of this will be funded by shutdown contracts.

Retaining the line’s tooling will allow the USAF to repair and modernise the service’s aircraft more easily – or re-start the line again to manufacture new Raptors. The latter course would not be cheap or fast, however, taking an estimated 2 years and costing about $4 billion by the time skills are retrained, new suppliers for some components are found, engineering modifications to incorporate the new components are finished and testing is done, etc. Flight International | Conservative Weekly Standard magazine.

July 29/10: Holloman out. Well, that was fast. The F-22s will be leaving Holloman AFB under a new re-basing plan, and the base will turn into an F-16 training center by adding 2 training squadrons.

The existing Holloman half-squadron (8th Fighter Squadron) will be deactivated and redistributed to Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK (6), Langley AFB, VA (6), and Nellis AFB, NV (2). The other F-22 squadron (7th Squadron) will relocate as a unit to Tyndall AFB, FL. USAF Tyndall AFB | Alamogordo Daily News.

June 2/10: Holloman in. The first 2 F-22A Raptors arrive at Holloman AFB, NM, and taxi into Hangar 301. USAF.

May 26/10: Corrosion. Rust never sleeps. DoD Buzz reports a quote from the US House Armed Services Committee, in its FY 2011 budget proposal:

“The Committee notes that it has yet to receive the congressionally directed report from the Director of Corrosion Policy and Oversight assessing the corrosion control lessons learned from the F-22 Raptor fleet – which was grounded in February 2010 for corrosion on ejection seat rods due to poorly designed drainage in the cockpit – as they apply to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.”

As DoD Buzz notes:

“Regardless of how lowly rust might seem at first glance, it is a huge problem for the military, costing about $20 billion each year. According to the House Armed Services Committee, roughly $7 billion of that rust is preventable. So, the committee… wants to substantially increase the budget of a little known Pentagon entity, the Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight… to… $10.8 million, up from a tiny request of $3.6 million.”

April 14/10: More work for F-15s. Aviation Week reports that USAF F-15Cs with new APG-82 AESA radars will now shoulder 50% of the “air dominance” burden, to compensate for the F-22A’s production shutdown.

The USAF’s F-15 A-D fleet has faced structural concerns in recent years, following catastrophic accidents that led to fleet-wide groundings.

Sukhoi’s PAK-FA
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Jan 29/10: PAK-FA competitor flies. Russia’s first prototype PAK-FA 5th generation stealth fighter lifts off from KNAAPO’s Komsomolsk-on-Amur facility for a 47 minute flight, piloted by Sukhoi test-pilot Sergey Bogdan.

Sukhoi says that the plane met all expectations. Sukhoi JSC release | NPO Saturn release [in Russian] | Russia 1 TV video | Pravda | RIA Novosti | Times of India | Aviation Week | Defense News | Agence France Presse | BBC | Canadian Press | Washington Post | China’s Xinhua | Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman: Preliminary Analysis. See also APA: “Assessing the Sukhoi PAK-FA.”



Program terminated. Japan has to look elsewhere. F-22, inverted
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Dec 21/09: To CENTCOM. A set of 6 F-22As from Langley AFB, VA complete a deployment to the Middle East, including participation in training sorties alongside pilots engaged in a multinational training exercise. The F-22s did not fly missions during that exercise, which included pilots and planes from Britain, France, Jordan, Pakistan, and the USA. USAF | UPI.

As a separate matter, F-22As have also deployed to several international air shows, including a demonstration at the Dubai Air Show in November 2009. These deployments are the first time the F-22A has been sent to the Middle East.

Nov 23/09: Japan. In the wake of the FY 2010 American defense budget that ended F-22 production, while maintaining the ban on exporting the aircraft, Japan has been forced to look at other options. Kyodo news agency reports that Japan is considering buying 40 F-35s, and that the Japanese defence ministry is seeking fiscal allocation in the 2011 budget. According to media reports, other contenders include the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, F-15 Eagle variants, and EADS’ Eurofighter. The acquisition plan is likely to be incorporated in new defense policy guidelines and a medium-term defense plan to be adopted in December 2010. Japan Today | Agence France Presse | domain-b | Times of India.

Oct 20/09: Industrial. Second Line of Defense offers “Michael Wynne on: The Industrial Impact of the Decision to Terminate the F-22 Program,” by former Secretary of the USAF Michael Wynne. His article discusses the entire sweep of the F-22 program and its key decisions. Among them are the detrimental role of the DoD’s insistence on ADA programming, which has made updating the plane’s electronics so difficult. With respect to the decision to close the F-22 production line and deny exports, Wynne cites fallout effects that include the potential for F135 engine cost increases, and other industrial impacts:

“Nationally; we have one fifth generation fighter facility left, and that ultimately will be the Fort Worth Facility. Yes, the Navy continues to buy the F-18 from the St. Louis Boeing facility, but the follow on program is the F-35, and the clock is now ticking loudly. Large Aircraft is Long Beach, and without the C-17, that facility will be history. Bomber programs – we have none, and the planned future one seems at risk. C-130 program will suffer further price increases, and the C-130J program barely made it to production as did the C-17.

While you cannot pile the entirety of two decades or more of industrial base decisions and program decisions on this F-22 decision, it is clearly correlated; it is a decision taken in a context and has strategic consequences. And it is stunning to see the money being given to industries such as the automotive industry and little or no concern being expressed about the fate and future of the aerospace and defense industries.”

July 31/09: The US House passes its “H.R. 3326: Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010” by a 400-30 vote. The bill contains a number of provisions that challenge official Pentagon decisions re: the C-17, VH-71, and F136 engine, but before it was passed, H.Amdt. 392 by H.R. 3326 sponsor John Murtha [D-PA] stripped the additional $369 million for F-22 long-lead production items out of the House Bill. It passed by a 269-165 vote.

That vote was not straight party line, but it was heavily influenced. While 26 Republicans voted in favor, 165 were opposed. While 13 Democrats were opposed, 243 voted in favor. As House members prepare for negotiations with the Senate on a single, final bill to send to the President, the amendment vote, and subsequent passage of HR 3326, effectively marks the end of the F-22 program. F-22 production will continue through remaining funded orders, and cease in 2011.

Both the House and Senate versions of the 2010 defense authorization bill require a report to study the potential for F-22A exports. The House version listed only Japan, while the Senate bill did not restrict the countries involved. Development work would be required before production, however, and is almost certain to require an expensive restart of the F-22 production line when it’s complete. While it is theoretically possible to bridge that time gap by resurrecting the American program in future defense bills, the aircraft’s supply chain will stop producing certain parts, and begin losing the people associated with them, long before the final delivery in 2011. See also: Aero News.

Raptor Program shot down

July 21/09: Politics. The US Senate votes 58-40 in favor of S.Amdt 1469, the Levin-McCain amendment to strip $1.75 billion for 7 F-22As out of the Senate’s FY 2010 defense budget. The additional funds had been inserted in committee, just as the recently-passed FY 2010 House defense budget proposal contains $369 million in initial funding for 12 more F-22s.

The vote was heavily determined by state lines, with 40/50 states voting coherently. Both Republicans voted “yea” to F-22 funding removal in AZ, SC and WY. Both Democrats voted against the amendment in CA, CT, HI, NM, and WA. John Kerry [D-MA], who often reiterated his support for the F-22 in the run-up to the vote, would have added to that trend – but he voted to remove funding, and F-22 supporter Sen. Kennedy [D-MA] was absent for medical reasons. Democrat senators split in WVA (Sen. Byrd nay) while Republicans split in AL (Sen. Shelby yea), and OK (Sen. Coburn yea). In the 7 remaining cases, the split was party-based, with the state’s Democratic Party senator supporting the amendment to remove funding, and the Republican Party Senator opposing: FL, IA, LA, NE, NH, NC, and SD.

S.Amdt 1469’s passage does not entirely end the mater, since the House and Senate bills must now be reconciled in committee before they are submitted to the President. But the 17-12-1 vote among Senate Armed Services committee members to remove F-22 funding does raise the aircraft’s obstacles, absent pressure in the interim that causes Senators to shift their positions. Bloomberg News | Washington Post | POGO re: Senate Armed Services Committee member votes | Senate Roll Call.

July 15/09: Politics. S.Amdt 1469, the Levin-McCain amendment to strip $1.75 billion for 7 F-22As out of the Senate’s FY 2010 defense budget, is withdrawn from consideration. That generally means that a measure does not yet have enough reliable votes. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) offers its own assessment of where the votes stand, then wusses out and removes its tally.

July 15/09: Politics. The Air Force Association reports that:

“It now turns out that a recent “study” touted by Pentagon leadership as the justification for terminating the F-22 fighter isn’t really a study at all, but a series of briefings by DOD’s Program Analysis and Evaluation shop and the Air Force. That word comes from the Pentagon’s top spokesman, Geoff Morrell… Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been claiming a rigorous analytical basis for stopping the F-22 since early this year. Congress has been pressing the Pentagon for a vetted analysis of F-22 requirements since 2007, when then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England was directed to provide, within a year, a comprehensive tacair plan that would specifically explain how the number of F-22s had been determined. According to various members of Congress, he never complied with this directive.”

July 13/09: Politics. President Obama threatens to veto the defense budget if F-22 funding is included. That same day, S.Amdt 1469, the Levin-McCain amendment to strip $1.75 billion for 7 F-22As out of the Senate’s FY 2010 defense budget, is introduced.

July 13/09: Politics. The right-wing Heritage Foundation discusses past and ongoing rationales for F-22 force structures, in “U.S. Air Force Fifth-Generation Fighter: The F-22A Raptor Requirements Retreat” and “Congress Should Support the Development of an Allied Variant of the F-22A.”

July 9/09: F-22 effectiveness argued. The Washington Post runs “Premier U.S. Fighter Jet Has Major Shortcomings,” an article that’s highly critical of the F-22. It alleges failure to meet key performance parameters, spiraling maintenance and operations costs, and failures of the plane’s stealth coatings in conditions like rain. The USAF offers official replies, which states that the paper got most of its cost and performance claims wrong, and furnishes figures. USAF replies, via Sen. Orrin Hatch [R-UT] | Air Force Association: “A Bagel and a Smear“.

June 29/09: Lawsuit. Stephen Trimble reports that sued former Lockheed Martin engineer Darrol Olsen has filed suit, claiming that the company knowingly supplied defective stealth coatings for the F-22. A copy of the suit is reproduced via

A July 2009 response [PDF] by Lockheed Martin states that:

“We believe the allegations are without merit. While we are aware of the Olsen lawsuit, the Corporation has not yet been served in this matter. We deny Mr. Olsen’s allegations and will vigorously defend this matter if and when it is served.”

June 25/09: Politics. H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, passes the House by a margin of 389 Ayes, 22 Nays, and 22 Present/Not voting. It includes $369 million in funding for long-lead materials to build 12 more F-22s.

In addition, Sec. 132 requires the Secretary of the Air Force to “develop a plan for the preservation and storage of unique tooling related to the production of hardware and end items for F-22 fighter aircraft.” Sec. 1237 requires “a report on potential foreign military sales of the F-22A fighter aircraft to the Government of Japan.”

June 18/09: Politics. House Armed Services Committee disagree with SecDef Gates’ F-22 decision, and prepare to go their own way with respect to F-22 funding. Christian Science Monitor | Aviation Week.

April 22/09: Collision. CF-18 kills! An F-22 Raptor collides with a Canadian CF-18 while taxiing on the runway at Tyndall AFB, FL. This is the 5th F-22 Class A accident in the last 6 years, and it’s a Class A accident because damage is over $1 million. That’s easy on a $150 million F-22A, even if wing damage is minor as it reportedly was in this case.

A higher accident rate per 100,000 flying hours is normal for new aircraft, and the F-22’s rate is reportedly around 7. Older F-16s and F-15s have rates around 3-4, while the venerable B-52 sits at just 1.5 per 100,000 hours. By comparison, unmanned MQ-1 Predator UAVs have a rate of close to 30 per 100,000 hours. Gannett Air Force Times | StrategyPage.

F-22 Accidents

F-22 and F-16s
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April 6/09: Politics. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announces his recommendation to terminate F-22 orders at the end of FY 2009, leaving the USA with a fleet of 187 aircraft. Let the political fight begin.

The Hill magazine describes the production implications. The Christian Science Monitor’s “You can’t kill F-22, Georgians tell Gates” looks at the local impact of that announcement, the likely 2011-2014 production line hiring gap between the F-22 and F-35, and the role of the unions in any lobbying effort.

March 30/09: GAO Report. The US government’s GAO audit office issues its 7th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. This includes the F-22A modernization and improvement program, which began in 2003. It aimed to add better air-to-ground capabilities, leverage the plane’s electronics to offer information warfare, reconnaissance, and other capabilities, and improve the aircraft’s reliability.

The plan was to field these capabilities in 3 increments, to be completed in 2010. Funding decreases, schedule slips, and changes in requirements have pushed the development date back to 2013. The USAF now plans to integrate additional capabilities beyond the three increments in a separate major defense acquisition program, and some planned enhancements have been deferred. GAO:

“One of the F-22A modernization program’s three critical technologies-processing memory-is mature. The two remaining technologies-stores management system and cryptography-are approaching maturity, and have been tested in a relevant environment… According to the F-22 program office, implementation of the modernization program’s three increments has been delayed by 3 years because of numerous budget decreases and program restructurings. Since fiscal year 2002, the F-22A’s modernization budget has been decreased by over $450 million.”

March 29/08: Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports that:

“The [Israeli] Defense Ministry will closely follow discussions in Congress next month over the United States’ 2010 fiscal defense budget amid growing speculation that a ban on foreign sales of the stealth F-22 fighter jet may be lifted to keep the threatened production line alive… “If this happens we will definitely want to review the possibility of purchasing the F-22,” explained a top military source. “In order to have strong deterrence and to win a conflict we need to have the best aircraft that exists.”

Speculation is that Israel would seek to order F-22As immediately, then wait until later in the F-35’s production cycle, when the plane will be cheaper to buy, fully tested, and more technically mature.

March 25/09: An F-22A crashes during a test mission at around 10am, about 35 miles northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, CA. The pilot is killed. For decades, Edwards has been the USAF’s Flight Test Center, where pilots push the envelope in existing and experimental aircraft. Edwards AFB was also the scene of the last F-22 crash, in December 2004.

The 49 year old Lockheed Martin test pilot, David Cooley, was a 21-year USAF veteran. He worked at the F-22 Combined Test Force, a joint team of Lockheed Martin and USAF pilots. Pentagon, initial release | USAF statement | Lockheed Martin statement | Wall St. Journal. A July 2009 Washington Post article says that the pilot was performing a high speed run with weapon bay doors open when the plane crashed.


Feb 24/09: Australia. Australian Liberal Party MP Dr. Dennis Jensen used to be a defense research scientist. He pens “US Allies Sold Short on New Fighters” as a DID guest article, decrying America’s refusal to export the F-22 to loyal allies like Australia as insulting and strategically short-sighted.

It’s significant that Jensen is a Liberal Party MP, since the previous Liberal Party government had consistently promoted the F-35A over the F-22A as Australia’s future fighter. While in opposition, current Labor Party Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon also expressed a preference for the F-22, and a desire to remove US export controls on the aircraft.

Feb 8/09: Specs. Aviation Week reports that a number of the F-22’s performance parameters are above specifications. Desired radar signature from certain critical angles is -40 dBsm, it can supercruise at Mach 1.78 rather than Mach 1.5, has better acceleration, can operate from about 65,000 feet using afterburner, and its APG-77 AESA radar has 5% better range than originally specified.

See also John Young’s Nov 20/08 transcript, below, for some contrasting but less specific comments.

Above spec.

Jan 20/09: Politics. President-elect Barack Obama receives letters from 200 members of Congress, urging him to continue building F-22s. The letters from the Senate (44: 25 Republican, 19 Democrat) and House (194, led by Phil Gingrey [R-GA], David Scott [D-GA], Kay Granger [R-TX], and Norman Dicks [D-WA]) also claims that his “certification” is needed by March 1/09. Otherwise, a progressive set of shut-downs in the manufacturing supply chain may begin, as final long lead-time item orders for various aircraft components are filled.

The letter cites military arguments involving advanced jet fighter projects underway abroad, and the global proliferation of advanced SA-10/20 anti-aircraft missiles, but its main focus is economic. The figure given is more than 25,000 Americans working for more than 1,000 companies in high-tech and manufacturing jobs. Stated economic multiplier effects deliver $12 billion annually once all monies paid are spent several times throughout that economy; statistically, models predict that another 70,000 local jobs would be indirectly dependent on the F-22 program. House letter text | AOL Political Machine, incl. Senate letter | Defense News.

Jan 19/09: To PACOM. A flight of 14 F-22As deployed from their home base at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska arrive at Andersen AFB in Guam for a 3-month forward deployment. A second set of 12 F-22As arrives in Kadena, Japan from Langley AFB in Virginia.

One of the things the USAF will be paying attention to is the effect that the change from Alaska’s winter to Guam’s tropical climate will have on the aircraft. This difference seems trivial, but it has a variety of implications. The Raptor’s stealth characteristics, for instance, are partly dependent on very smooth fits of its component parts. USAF re: Guam arrival | USAF re: deployment in general | Gannet’s Air Force Times | The Virginian-Pilot.


Readiness data. BACN. Exports? F-15E and F-22A
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Dec 16/08: The USAF announces that in January 2009, 12 Raptors will deploy to Kadena Air Base, Japan, from Langley Air Force Base, VA, and another 12 will deploy to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, from Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK. The deployments will last for approximately 3 months.

Dec 9/08: Multi-year order? Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that he has talked to USAF chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz about buying “60 or so” more F-22As beyond the 183 now on order, which would bring the total to 243. He adds that “I am concerned that it is such an expensive system,” but added that systems like the F-35 often run into delays, and “it’s very important we have capability to bridge to that system with respect to the broad range of capabilities for the country.” Reuters.

Based on existing patterns, 60 F-22As would represent another 3-year, multi-year contract, stretching from 2010-2012. Some analysts believe this will be combined with an F-22EX push to address pressure from Australia, Israel, and Japan, and lift F-22 production numbers in order to bring down the price.

The F-35A’s initial operational date in USAF service is scheduled to be 2013, but the JSF testing program was recently pushed back 6 months, and reports indicate that the phase may be headed for financial shortfalls. With the structural viability of its F-15 Eagle fleet also a question mark, the option of keeping the F-22 production line open has support. One wild card is continuing Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, whose look ahead for the Pentagon sees the USA de-emphasizing fighters as a class, in favor of longer-range options like the “2018 bomber.

Nov 20/08: Readiness & Upgrades. John Young, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition technology and logistics, speaks to the Defense Writer’s Group. Full DWG Transcript [PDF] | Partial transcript at The DEW Line. Key excerpts:

“The recent mission capable data for FY2008 on F-22s had a mission capable rate somewhere in the 62 percent range. I think that’s troubling. Follow-on operation tests in 2007 raised operational suitability issues and noted that the airplane still does not meet most of its KPPs. It meets some, but not all… The trend in those operational tests… is actually negative.

The maintenance man hours per flying hour have increased through those tests. The last one was a substantial increase… the Air Force had planned and expected to have kind of a two-tiered structure where some of the earlier jets were not fully capable jets, not to the block 35 or increment 3.2 configuration which provides important capabilities… But the cost of that is $6.3 billion of R&D. This is in a platform we’ve already developed. We’re going to spend six billion more of R&D to engineer the 3.2 upgrade for the software and the changes in the jet, and then about $2 billion to modify on the jets. That’s $8 billion more, and $8 billion I think needs to be spent in order to make sure the 183 airplanes we have will be highly capable fighters. Those discussions need to be had before I think you talk about buying more jets.”

Nov 19/08: Politics. The House Armed Services Air/Land subcommittee is not satisfied with the Pentagon’s response re: unfreezing F-22 funds, and holds hearings on the matter. The bottom line? The Pentagon is able to do whatever it wants, because the bill used the term “not more than,” instead of simply mandating that the full amount be spent on long-lead parts. While that was the bill’s clear intent, the normal GAO process that could force the Defense Department to obey Congress would take too long, given the coming end of the current term of government. Since the officials in question are also likely to see their terms end with the incoming administration, a damaged relationship with Congress doesn’t really mean anything to them at this point. Gannett’s Air Force Times | Aviation Week.

See also Nov 26/08 contracts.

Nov 10-18/08: Politics. Congress appropriated at least $140 million to the Pentagon to buy long-lead items for 20 F-22s, a move that would extend the production line’s life. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England is believed to angry at the USAF’s success in getting that funding approved, despite Pentagon plans to end production. Whatever the motive, the funds were not being spent.

In an early November 2008 letter, 4 key House members pressed Gates to obligate the entire $140 million that Congress appropriated. Bipartisan signatories included House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton [D-MO] and ranking member Duncan Hunter [R-CA], Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee Chairman Neil Abercrombie [D-HI] and ranking minority member Jim Saxton [R-NJ].

In response, the Office of the Secretary of Defense put out a release that unfroze funds, but allocated only $50 million for 4 fighters, adding that they would request additional money to buy the 4 fighters in the FY 2009 war-supplemental request. In January 2009, said Mr. Young, the next administration can decide to release additional advanced procurement funds, up to the Congressional $140 million ceiling. Office of the Secretary of Defense release via Washington Post | USAF | Aviation Week | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Gannett Air Force Times | The Hill | | Washington Post | Fort Worth Star-Telegram op-ed.

Nov 10/08: Israel. Flight International reports that sticker shock over the proposed $200 million per plane price of F-35As, and a need for rapid delivery, may push Israel to renew its F-22EX request with the new Obama administration.

“This aircraft can be delivered in two years if the deal is approved [DID: 2011, vs. 2012-14 for F-35s], and that is very important for the security of Israel,” comments one Israeli source.”

Read “Israel Requesting F-22EX Fighters” for more.

Oct 27/08: Pilot retention issue. StrategyPage reports:

“Despite signing bonuses of up to $125,000, the U.S. Air Force was unable to get many pilots to sign on for another five years (after they hit their eighth year of service, usually the mandatory service for someone to become a pilot). The bonus program did enable the air force to get 68 percent of pilots to extend their service, but the percentage that did so varied according to aircraft type. At the low end, only 43 percent of F-22 pilots stayed in. At the high end, it was 81 percent for rescue helicopter and F-15E pilots. The other signup percentages were, transport 71 percent, F-15C 68 percent, A-10 53 percent and F-16 51 percent… the air force is still trying to figure out why so few F-22 pilots, and so many F-15E and rescue helicopter pilots, want to stay.”

One possible explanation involves promotion. The USAF is now headed by a career rotary wing/special operations transport pilot, rather than the fighter pilots that had come to dominate top positions. If F-22 pilots believe they will not receive “before the zone” promotions just for being F-22 pilots, the criteria shift toward combat time and service. Which F-22 pilots will not receive, either. F-22s are optimized for precision strikes on difficult strategic targets, and wars with peer-class competitors. To date, the Secretary of Defense has elected not to deploy F-22s to counterinsurgency theaters like Iraq or Afghanistan, and that’s not likely to change.

Oct 10/08: Japan. Flight International’s “Eurofighter gets serious about Japan’s F-X contest” discusses political developments in Japan, where the Eurofighter Typhoon appears to be gaining ground as a possibility.

Flight International’s sources indicate that Japan will make one more push in 2009, after the American elections. If that fails, it is likely to abandon efforts to secure the F-22, and move to buy other options. See DID’s “F-22 Raptors to Japan” for more.

Sept 4/08: Alternative fuel. An F-22 based at Edwards AFB performs an aerial refueling using a synthetic 50/50 mix of JP-8 jet fuel and a natural gas-based fuel. The test was the culmination of Edwards test points in certifying the F-22’s use of the fuel.

It is the first time an Air Force aircraft has refueled in mid-air using an alternative jet engine fuel. USAF.

May 20/08: Hawaii. DTI’s Ares reports on the Hawaiian Air National Guard’s transformation to become the first Air National Guard commanded F-22 unit. The first F-22 simulator is scheduled to arrive in 2008, the first pilots start training in 2009, and they get their first F-22A Block 30 aircraft and a repair facility that can handle stealth fighters in 2010. Hawaii’s 15 F-15Cs will go to Nellis AFB, where they will serve as the aggressor unit for Nellis’ F-22As.

Despite the relative cost of the F-22s, the Pacific’s importance to the USAF is illustrated by the fact that Hawaii was slated to receive from 18-24 F-22s as replacements, all of which will have full ground attack capabilities. Personnel will also increase from 1.2 pilots per aircraft (18) to as much as 1.75 pilots per aircraft (up to 42), with a mix of about 25% active duty USAF pilots and 75% US ANG.

May 13/08: Make mine BACN! If you’re a stealth fighter, opening radio communication can be a bad idea – see our Aug 4/06 entry for details and coverage. At the same time, the F-22A’s tremendous information gathering capabilities have a lot to offer other American fighters.

The US military’s Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2008 (JEFX-08) just finished testing one option: the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) Intra-Flight Data Link subsystem (BIS). In JEFX-08, BACN-BIS received and translated selected F-22 sensor data into the standard tactical data link format and distributed the data to F-15s, F-16s and to ground-based operations centers at Nellis Air Force Base, NV and Langley Air Force Base, VA. BIS did not require modifications to either hardware or software in the F-22 aircraft, and did not compromise any of the F-22’s stealth characteristics. NGC release | DID: Bringing Home the BACN to Front-Line Forces.

May 7/08: Politics. Reuters reports that the US House Armed Services Committee’s Air & Land Forces subcommittee has recommended an additional $523 million as a down payment on long-lead items required for 20 more F-22A fighters in FY 2010. See “C-17A, F-22A May Get Reprieves from Congress.”

April 9/08: Seagulls 1, Raptors 0. F-22 airfields are being bombed, and planes are being damaged. The attackers? Gulls dropping clams onto the runways to break them, whereupon the shells get sucked into the Raptor’s $10.2 million jet engines. Langley AFB in Virginia is trying to defend them. USAF story.

Feb 18/08: Australia. Australia’s new Labor Party government formally announces a major Air Combat Capability Review. The case for and against buying F-22 Raptors, based on regional air power trends until 2045, is one of the explicit items in the ACCR’s terms of reference. See “Australia Unveils Comprehensive Airpower Review” for full details.

Feb 14/08: Radar SAR test. Northrop Grumman announces that tests aboard a company BAC 1-11 test aircraft have successfully demonstrated the AN/APG-77v1 radar’s ability to generate high-resolution, in-flight synthetic aperture radar (SAR) ground maps and moving target tracking. The test flights are the first phase of a planned multi-year contract with Boeing to add SAR capability to the existing fleet of F-22As, and incorporate them into new production aircraft. “F-22As to Add SAR/GTMI Capabilities” explains why this matters to the Raptor’s offensive and defensive capabilities.

February 2008: F-15 age-out. The US Air Force Association’s Washington Watch reports that the recent grounding of the USA’s entire F-15A-D Eagle fleet is sparking questions in Congress re: the viability of the Eagle force. The ripples are being felt by the F-22 program:

“On Dec. 12, 28 Senators and 68 members of the House of Representatives wrote to Pentagon chief Robert M. Gates, urging him to keep buying F-22s, at least through the end of the 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review. They said that, in light of the F-15 groundings and reports indicating that “significantly more than 220″ Raptors are needed to fulfill national strategy, ending F-22 production now would be, at best, “ill advised.”… In late December, Pentagon Comptroller Tina W. Jonas directed USAF to shift $497 million marked for F-22 shutdown costs to fix up the old F-15s instead. The move effectively set the stage for continued F-22 production.

…Replacing [the F-15A-D Eagles] with F-22s – above and beyond the 183 Raptors now planned – would require buying at least 20 a year to be minimally efficient. At that rate, it would take nine extra years of production to replace the F-15 fleet fully. Raise the rate, and replacement time would decrease. At 30 per year, the F-15s could be wholly replaced in six years. However, USAF is also struggling to fund the F-35 fighter. It needs to build 110 per year to replace the F-16 in a timely manner, but can only afford 48 per year in its budget…”

Jan 20-27/08: F-22, Pro and Con. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram publishes pro and con articles re: the F-22 program. On the anti F-22 side are F-16 designer Pierre Spey, John Stevenson, and Winslow Wheeler of the left-wing Center for Defense Information: “The F-22: expensive, irrelevant and counterproductive.” The Star-Telegram story appears to be incomplete, so here’s a similar op-ed from the trio on Defense Tech. Their 3 key points regarding the F-22 program deal with force structure, pilot training, and actual unit costs, which they believe to be $180 – $215 million.

On the pro F-22 side, deputy editorial page director J.R. Labbe writes “F-22 is still what the U.S. needs.” See also Oct 30/07 entry re: USAF studies, and February 2008 entry re: the US F-15 fleet, for backward and forward extensions of this ongoing debate.


Lots 7 to 9. Flying costs. FOT&E. Full Operational Capability. Ice Braker
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Dec 12/07: F-22 FOC.. The USAF’s 1st Fighter Wing’s 27th Fighter Sqn at Langley AFB, VA, have been training since their F-22s were certified for Initial Operational Capability on Dec 15/05. IOC made them capable of emergency combat operations and limited operations like exercises and homeland defense. Now Gen. John D.W. Corley, the commander of Air Combat Command, has officially certified that the F-22 Raptors at Langley AFB have reached Full Operational Capability. This makes them available for combat deployments of any kind, around the world. USAF release.

Full Operational Capability

Nov 29/07: Ice, ice baby. A lot goes into fully fielding an aircraft. November 2007 tests at Eiselson AFB, Alaska focused on the F-22’s braking and anti-skid system, which is unique to the aircraft. In addition to looking at wheel slip like a car’s anti-lock brakes, the F-22’s system also accounts for deceleration through its pinpoint GPS/INS navigation system, in order to improve control on any surface.

Operating – and stopping – on snow, ice fog, and similar surfaces is mandatory for any USAF jet. The tests started with basic ground maneuvering on an icy surface before progressed to high-speed braking tests and eventually, both real and aborted take-off and landings under “low runway condition reading” conditions. Fortunately, the Alaska weather obliged and the team was able to finish all mandatory test points within the first 5 days of the 3-week test period. They went on to gather more data and updated the F-22’s landing charts, flight manuals, and cold-weather maintenance procedures. USAF story.

Oct 30/07: Politics. The Lexington Institute releases “Policymakers Suppress Expert Findings on Future Fighter.” The key excerpt:

“The world’s pre-eminent repository of air power expertise [DID: he means the USAF] says it needs 381. Is there some other authoritative source of insight into the right number? It turns out there are three such sources, because three separate studies on the subject were commissioned during the quadrennial review — including one requested by Mr. England himself from the same outfit that provided an earlier plan for streamlining naval aviation. So what do the studies say? The Pentagon won’t tell us… And here’s why… each study concluded that 183 F-22s isn’t enough. They all found a requirement for more, with the analysis requested by Mr. England recommending a number somewhere in the 250-aircraft range…”

Oct 29/07: Active in Alaska. The 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base activates the 525th Fighter Squadron during a ceremony at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. The second active-duty F-22 Raptor squadron had been based in Bitburg, Germany, and was formally activated nearly 3 months after the new F-22s officially landed on base. Lt. Col. Chuck Corcoran assumed command of the squadron with its initial cadre of 5 pilots and 4 support staff. USAF release.

Sept 28/07: Testing – GBU-39 SDB. The USAF announces that the F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force staff has conducted the first airborne separation of a small diameter bomb from the internal weapons bay of an F-22, to ensure the SDB would have a clean separation when released. Testing confirmed expectations. The tests are part of the F-22A’s Increment 3.1 upgrade.

Sept 26/07: Lockheed Martin announces that the US Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) has designated the F-22A as “effective, suitable and mission capable,” following a second increment of Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E II). capabilities evaluated during the operational test included the areas of mission generation, mission support, and enhancements to air-to-air and air-to-ground employment capabilities. AFOTEC Commander Maj. Gen. Steve Sargeant:

“This second FOT&E was a significant milestone in terms of validating the F-22A’s combat capability to conduct Offensive Counter Air-Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (OCA-DEAD) We are confident we have provided Air Combat Command and senior Air Force leaders with an accurate and complete picture of the Raptor’s impressive operational capabilities. AFOTEC also highlighted where additional resources can be focused to further mature and sustain this fifth generation fighter.”

“Effective and Suitable”

Aug 29/07: Air Force officials receive the 100th F-22 Raptor from Lockheed Martin. The milestone aircraft (USAF serial number 05-0100) will be assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. USAF release.


Aug 13-17/07: F-117 to F-22. More than 70 49th Fighter Wing operators and maintainers gathered at the 1st Fighter Wing in at Langley Air Force Base, VA to hand off 25 years of stealth knowledge, as well as stealth integration tactics. This training is the third and final combined training between the F-117 and the F-22. Previous combined events were held at Tyndall AFB, Fla., and Nellis AFB, Nev., each with a different focus. Holloman AFB, NM will be receiving the F-22, and transitioning from the F-1117 Nighthawk. Lt. Col. Todd Flesch, the 8th Fighter Squadron commander, said that:

“This is the first time we will really be able to talk full capabilities of both jets at an operational level … The F-117 mission is going away. It’s being handed off and we need to make sure what we’ve learned is passed on correctly. In the Air Force, when one plane takes over another, we tend to reinvent the wheel. This time, it’s a total hand-over of knowledge.”

USAF: “Holloman Airmen hand stealth knowledge to F-22 community

Aug 8/07: PACOM. Ceremonies are held at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska to mark the formal beginning of operations for the F-22 Raptor in the Pacific region, where the 90th Fighter Squadron is deployed. The Pacific Alaska Range Complex’s 67,000 square miles of space to train in played a role in this basing decision. USAF report | Lockheed Martin release. NOTE: Lockheed Martin changed its web back end and URLs recently, but did not include a redirect feature, thus breaking all previous links to its site.

Raptors first visited Alaska in June 2006 when the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, VA deployed to participate in Northern Edge, a large-scale, force-on-force exercise. Lockheed Martin states that Raptor pilots flew 97% of their scheduled missions, and achieved an 80-to-1 kill ratio against their Red Air opponents. See June 9-16/06 entry for more.


July 2/07: Multi-Year buy OK. Air Force officials announce authorization from Congress to pursue multi-year agreements for Lots 7, 8 and 9. The multi-year contract approach has been controversial, with competing claims as to whether it will save money or not. Contracts with Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney are expected to follow later this summer [DID: and did, see July 31/07 contract entries]. USAF: “Materiel Command on track to deliver more F-22s.”

May 18/07: Air shows. The USAF is beginning to exhibit the F-22A at air shows. An Air Force Association Magazine article “Raptor Puts on the Ritz” describes some of the maneuvers, including the “tail slide” that is also executed by SU-30s as a way of breaking doppler radar locks.

May 10/07: PACOM. The 27th Fighter Squadron leaves Japan and begins their return to Langley Air Force Base, VA. In addition to sharpening their understanding of foreign deployment requirements, the unit also flew over 600 sorties against pilots from various US services, and the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (which is interested in buying an export version). The squadron also “conducted almost 30 tours and briefings for visiting dignitaries” during their 3 month deployment. USAF report.

April 27/07: South Korea. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency: “Seoul eyes advanced jets beyond F-15K” contends that the issue of F-22 exports to Japan will be under discussion during the imminent summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week. The decision will be watched closely by South Korea, which also wants 5th generation fighter jets for its 3rd phase F-X purchase. An excerpt:

“China is modernizing its air force at a rapid pace,” said Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian Affairs at the White House National Security Council. “And so we are very positively disposed to talking to the Japanese about future-generation fighter aircraft.”

DID’s coverage of South Korea’s F-X program looks at some of the obstacles in the way of granting South Korea similar treatment. See esp. its April 27/07 update.

April 20/07: Israel. Flight International reports that Israel has approached the USA about acquiring Lockheed Martin F-22s, as concern mounts about new threats to the IAF’s regional air superiority from proposed sales of advanced US weapons to the Gulf states, and Israeli assessments of a growing threat from Iran. Sources say that the issue was raised during a recent one-day trip by US defense secretary Robert Gates to Israel.

April 2/07: GAO Report – fatigue issues. The US Government Accountability Office releases #GAO-07-415 – ‘Tactical Aircraft: DOD Needs a Joint and Integrated Investment Strategy’, which describes the Pentagon’s current fighter modernization plans as “unexecutable.” The F-22 is discussed in many places, but this excerpt has immediate relevance:

“The Air Force is working with the contractor to fix structural deficiencies on the F-22A. Fatigue testing identified cracks in the aircraft near the horizontal section tail of the aircraft. The Air Force is planning modifications to strengthen the structure to get the 8,000-hour service life. The Air Force estimates the costs to modify 72 F-22As will be approximately $124 million. These modifications will not be fully implemented until 2010.”

March 26/07: APG-77v1 certified. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces radar flight-test certification for the next-generation variant of the F-22’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, the AN/APG-77v1. It will be installed beginning with Lot 5 production that will finish by the end of March 2007. It supposedly improves search and targeting modes, though exact details were not discussed. The flight tests were conducted as part of an overall flight-test certification of the Raptor by the Combined Test Force team at Edwards Air Force Base from Jan. 18 – March 7, 2007; it included AIM-9 and AIM-120 missile launches, and JDAM bomb drops. The flight-test certification is one of the prerequisites for the aircraft to begin the Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) phase, after which Raptors with the new radar are considered available for combat.

March 20/07: Air shows. Pratt & Whitney announces that the USAF has selected the F-22 Raptor for their East Coast Demonstration Team beginning in April 2007 at Langley Air Force Base, VA. This marks the end of more than 20 years of showmanship by the F100-PW-100 powered F-15 Eagle East Demonstration Team, which performed for more than a million spectators annually at air shows and demonstrations.

The East Coast Demonstration air show season runs from April through mid-November 2007. The F119-powered F-22 Raptor will perform multiple flyby passes that will include a series of high and low speed climbing and turning maneuvers during its first season.

March 13/07: UID. Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne toured Pratt & Whitney’s East Hartford and Middletown operations to recognize their implementation of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Unique Identification (UID) marking initiative. Pratt & Whitney began the UID marking program in January 2005, with data tracking on nearly 200 F119 engine parts, and is working toward UID marking on all of its military engine products. Steve Finger, Pratt & Whitney president, is quoted as saying that “We have experienced numerous measurable benefits as a result of implementing UID technology…”

See “UPC Body Publishes New Supply Chain Standards” for more information concerning the DoD-wide UID initiative. Government defense suppliers must deliver UID-compliant hardware by 2010.

March 7/07: Flying cost. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Air & Land Forces Subcommittee, Congressional Research Service defense specialist Christopher Bolkcom says, inter alia [PDF]:

“The military services generally would prefer to invest in new aircraft rather than modernize older aircraft. They often argue that new aircraft will be cheaper to operate and maintain than the aircraft they will replace. Frequently, this has not proven to be the case. Newer aircraft are often more complex than those they replace, and cost more to operate. The estimated flying hour cost of the F-22, for example, is $22,284.00. The estimated flying hour cost of the F-15C/D it will replace is $14,139/$13,524.”

The F-22 had been sold as being cheaper to maintain than its F-15 predecessor, just as the F-15 was sold relative to the F-4. Neither of those claims turned out to be true. This consistent trend is an important explanation for shrinking fleet numbers, even as budgets rise.

Flying costs

February 2007: Testing – SDB-I. The 411th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB begins formal integration testing of the F-22A Raptor and the GBU-39/B Small-Diameter Bomb. See USAF Link article.

Feb 20/07: Australia. Controversy continues in Australia regarding the F-35, and has spread to include the 24 F-18 E/F Super Hornets the government is moving to buy as a stopgap until the F-35A arrives.

Feb 17-18/07: PACOM. Kadena Air Force Base (AFB), Japan received 10 F-22A Raptors in the aircraft’s first overseas deployment. The F-22As are assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, VA, and are under the command of Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver. The aircraft started their deployment with a stop at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, but a software issue affecting the aircraft’s navigation system was discovered on February 11th, causing the aircraft to return to Hickam. The issue was corrected and the aircraft continued on to Kadena.

The 27th FS deployed more than 250 Airmen to Kadena for the 90-120 day deployment, which is part of a regularly-scheduled U.S. Pacific Command rotational assignment of aircraft to the Pacific. See USAF release.

Feb 11/07: Glitched out. The F-22A’s first foreign deployment to Kadena Air Force Base (AFB), Japan runs into a serious problem. The aircraft started their deployment with a stop at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, but a software issue affecting the aircraft’s navigation system was discovered on February 11th, forcing the aircraft to return to Hickam without navigation or communications.

The planes were very fortunate that KC-10 aerial tankers were flying with them.

Software shootdown

Jan 17/07: Multi-Year deal. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne tells Inside the Air Force that “We promised the Congress a savings of about $225 million,” in the FY 2007-2009 multi-year procurement (MYP) of 60 aircraft, and “we think that is very achievable and we continue to think that is very achievable… Every program has its ups and downs, but I do believe that the $225 million is achievable, and I think we can demonstrate it.”

The multi-year buy was resurrected by Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R-GA] as an amendment despite opposition from fellow Republicans Warner [R-AK] and McCain [R-AZ], but the case for it was based largely on a business case analysis conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, VA. Their now-departed CEO’s shareholdings in F-22 subcontractor EDO have cast a shadow over those findings, however, and the final FY 2007 defense bill required a new business case analysis as a condition of the MYP’s continuation.

Jan 12/07: Collier Trophy. 2006 Collier Trophy Win for F-22 Raptor aircraft team. The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is the oldest national aviation organization in the United States, and is dedicated to the advancement of the art, sport and science of aviation in the U.S. The Collier Trophy was established in 1911, and is granted each year “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America… during the preceding year.” Lockheed release.

F-22A: Colonial Flag
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Jan 16/07: F-22 at Red Flag. “Colonial Flag” the first of three Red Flags this year, and the F-22 Raptor is participating for the first time. The USAF says that more than 200 aircraft and about 5,200 military members from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia are taking part over a pair of 2-week periods.

Other combat aircraft platforms at colonial Flag included B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters, B-1 Lancer heavy bombers, F-16 Falcons, F-15E Strike Eagles, Royal Air Force GR-4 Tornado strike aircraft, Australian F-111 Aardvark strike aircraft, and the AH-64 Apache Army helicopter. The F-22’s role was primarily air-to-air fighter escort, but it also demonstrated air-to-ground capabilities since Red Flag exercises include ground-based air-defense systems. See the USAF’s “F-22 Raptors make mark at Red Flag” for details. Fence Check Magazine adds that:

“February’s Red Flag 2007-2 at Nellis Air Force Base may prove to be the only true “Stealth Flag” involving all three US stealth aircraft… In a tour de force Red Flag debut, the 1st Fighter Wing’s 94th FS cleared the skies of “Red Force” fighters with only one purported loss during the entire two-week exercise. The Langley AFB, Virginia based squadron’s exceptional success surprised even the most experience Raptor pilots.”

Jan 10/07: PACOM. Air Force officials are scheduled to deploy a squadron of F-22 Raptors to Kadena Air Base, Japan, as part of U.S. Pacific Command’s Theater Security Package in the Western Pacific in early 2007. See USAF article.


Multi-year buy. Unit cost. Side-bay door open
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Nov 13/06: Politics. Aviation Week’s Aerospace Daily & Defense Report publishes “Rumsfeld’s Ouster, Dems’ Arrival Could Bring TACAIR Changes.” There are a number of predictions that the changes will involve more F-22As, followed by fewer F-35s and more F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Nov 1/06: Australia. AVM Criss: Does Groupthink Power Australia’s JSF? Follow-on to DID’s updated Oct 2/06 article. Retired Australian Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss pens a guest article, and discusses both the JSF decision and what he contends is a larger problem of groupthink within Australia’s DoD.

Oct 20/06: Maintenance pros & cons. Aviation Week has a report covering the F-22’s maintenance history to date. The short version: Integrating all the systems through the avionics supercomputer brain offers plusses in self-diagnostics, preventative maintenance, fewer spare parts required, and fewer repair roles.

On the other hand, avionics is 70% of the maintenance workload, and even false alarm failures can affect several systems. Some systems like the F119 engines have been better than expected, while other systems like pumps have been problematic. Read the full article.

Oct 19/06: New radar tricks. DID’s article “Elec Tricks II: $9.7M for Further Research” is a follow-on to our December 2005 piece that cites the potential to use the F-22A’s AN/APG-77 AESA radar as a secure, high-bandwidth communications relay. It seems the concept is being taken seriously, and given additional funding.

Oct 2/06: Australia. Recently-retired Australian Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss has publicly broken ranks with Australia’s DoD, and advocates buying the F-22A Raptor for Australia instead of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. DID has the coverage – including a very in-depth submission to a Parliamentary Committee that supports Criss’ view and explains some of the thinking behind it, and submissions from the Australian government and Parliament.

Note that Australia’s planned buy of early-production F-35A aircraft could result in costs of over $100 million each, considerably narrowing the gap with the F-22 whose recently quoted price per aircraft could be as low as $130 million.

Sept 27/06: Multi-year buy. House and Senate defense appropriators have tentatively approved multi-year procurement of the F-22A, “realigning” $210 million in additional funds from the base budget line to the advance procurement line and bringing the total budget for advance procurement to $687.4 billion. The move would fund 20 fighters each year through FY 2006, 2007, and 2008; but it must remain in the final FY 2007 budget in order to become official. A move to consider foreign sales of the F-22, however, was rejected. See full Aviation Week article.

Aug 8/06: Industrial. Boeing Starts Production of Aft Fuselage for 100th F-22 Raptor. A corporate release that normally wouldn’t draw DID’s interest – but they describe a couple of the manufacturing improvements implemented during the program.

Aug 4/06: Training for stealth. Learning to handle a new and stealthy aircraft like the F-22 to its full potential isn’t just a job for its pilots. Tyndall AFB in Florida is the first base to develop integration tactics for ground and air command and F-22s, and is using the new capabilities to train all new F-22 pilot and air battle manager students.

One change is a greater emphasis on stealth-friendly mission protocols: the goal is for an F-22 pilot to leave his home base, locate, cue in on and destroy all targets, receive the locations of all possible threats, receive landing instructions and come home safely without being seen or heard, on radar or via more obvious radio intercepts. This USAF Link article covers some of the efforts along those lines, including the use of Link 16 and other relatively ‘silent’ encrypted data channels for text messaging, situation updates, etc.

July 26/06: Multi-year buy. In testimony to the Senate, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne said the USAF has met 5/6 legislative requirements for proceeding with multi-year funding on the F-22 aircraft – the last being full funding authorization from Congress, which he intends to meet in the FY 2008 program objective memorandum. The 6 requirements under Title 10 U.S. Code, Section 2306B are: (1) promotes national security, (2) the number of aircraft required is stable, (3) the aircraft design is stable, (4) the contract will result in substantial savings, (5) the cost estimates for the contract and cost avoidance are realistic, and (6) able to provide stable funding throughout the contract period.

July 25/06: Multi-year buy. The July 25, 2006 Congressional Budget Office testimony to the Senate regarding the proposed multi-year buy of F-22s is lukewarm at best. The short version? The percentage is small relative other aircraft programs, funding for the 60 aircraft involved is not set, any cancellation costs aren’t covered, and savings are uncertain.

June 23/06: Multi-year buy & retrofits. An Air Force Link article notes that the USAF and manufacturers are finalizing F-22 design issues. Those issues include changes to the canopy actuator, the air recharge system, the nose gear retraction system, the forward boom heat treatment, and several structural retrofits. The total cost to make these repairs to the existing fleet of Raptors comes to about $105 million, and these issues will be corrected in the production line for lots 6 to 9 (each lot = 20-25 aircraft).

The USAF is also lobbying for a multi-year procurement buy for the 60 aircraft in Lots 7, 8 and 9 of the F-22A. The last jet in that series would be delivered around 2011, and the USAF estimates that bulk buys would allow savings of up to $225 million. See USAF Link article. The Project On Government Oversight disputes the savings, and the US Congress is reportedly very lukewarm on the idea so far.

June 23/06: The same USAF Link article cited above contains a quote from Maj. Gen. Richard B.H. Lewis, US Air Force executive officer for the F-22 program, which gives some precise program figures:

“By the time all 183 jets have been purchased, around $28 billion will have been spent on research and development. An additional $34 billion will have been spent on actually procuring the aircraft. That’s about $62 billion for the total program cost. Divided out, that’s comes to about $338 million per aircraft.

But the reality is, if the Air Force wanted to buy just one more jet, it would cost the taxpayer less than half that amount. The current cost for a single copy of an F-22 stands at about $137 million. And that number has dropped by 23 percent since Lot 3 procurement, General Lewis said.

“The cost of the airplane is going down,” he said. “And the next 100 aircraft, if I am allowed to buy another 100 aircraft … the average fly-away cost would be $116 million per airplane.””

Cost per jet

June 9-16/06: Exercise Northern Edge. Exercise Northern Edge in Alaska, which includes Army troops, Navy ships, and Marines in addition to the Air Force. Participating fighters on the “Red” side included front-line F-15s, F-16s, and Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. In one Northern Edge engagement, USAF and its sister services put more than 40 fighters in the air at once, as well as E-2C Hawkeye and E-3 AWACS aircraft. Red Air units were allowed to regenerate and return to the fight after being killed, but lost forces on the F-22’s “Blue” side could not. In the largest single engagement, F-22-led forces claimed 83 enemies to one loss, after facing down an opposing force that had generated or regenerated 103 adversary fighters.

The final air-to-air tally for the F-22’s “Blue” team was a favorable 241-2 kill ratio – and the 2 lost aircraft were F-15Cs. “They [the Red Air adversaries] couldn’t see us,” said Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver. This was reportedly true even when the opponents were assisted by AWACS. Close-in, where radar-guided missiles are just one option among many, the Raptor was equally formidable. Col. Thomas Bergeson, the 1st Operations Group commander said that he and a captain engaged 6 F-16s at close range, but it was “no problem.” Even when all of their missiles were gone, the Raptors remained in the fight, flying as stealthy forward air controllers and guiding their colleagues to enemies hiding in their AWACS’ blind spots, behind mountains and such.” When the AIM-120D AMRAAM missile enters wider service, F-22s will also have the option of actively guiding missiles fired by other aircraft.

The F-22s also dropped 26 inert 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, responding to close air support requests from ground troops, with 26 hits. Col. Tolliver had a sensible take: “We’re not an A-10; we’re not an F-16. We don’t do close support like that, but we do carry two 1,000-pound JDAMs, and we can support that ground troop, and that’s … what we proved.” USAF release | AFA article.

June 12/06: Testing – JDAM. The F-22 Combined Test Force team of The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, and the US Air Force successfully tested the F-22’s precision strike capabilities at White Sands Missile Range, NM. The F-22 flew at a speed of Mach 1.5 at 50,000 feet, released a 1,000 pound GPS-guided JDAM from a range of 24 nautical miles to destroy a ground target. The drop tested the Raptor’s Launch Acceptability Region (LAR) supersonic algorithm, developed by a Boeing collaboration of F-22, Phantom Works and JDAM engineers. It defines the area in the sky from which the pilot can release a weapon to successfully attack the desired target, factoring in in navigation, weather, target and weapon information. See Boeing release.

May 10/06: Titanium. Titanium prices have been cited as potential future cost issues for the F-35 and F-22 fighter programs, but a 1973 US law called the Berry Amendment has the effect of restricting supply and raising prices. On May 10, the Aerospace Industry Association reported that they’ve reached agreement in principle with senior leaders of the Defense Department on changes to the Berry Amendment.

April 29/06: Politics. Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee chair Rep. Curt Weldon [R-PA] criticized the USAF’s new F-22A buying strategy, and his subcommittee proposes a different funding approach for the F-22A. Read the full Inside Defense article for all the maneuvering involved, which surely rivals most dogfights for intricacy.

Feb 20/06: F-22 Raptors to Japan? Inside The Air Force (ITAF) reports that momentum is building within the Air Force to sell the ultra-advanced F-22A Raptor abroad to trusted U.S. allies, as a way of plussing up numbers and production. The Japanese are lobbying, and some military personnel think it’s a good idea (updated May 2007).

January 10/05: Force shift? US Plans to Retire B-52s, C-21s, F-117 & U-2 for more F-22s. The move was designed to add $1 billion to the F-22A Raptor program in order to keep the production line running. As long as it is running, then future contingencies and needs leave the USAF with the option of ordering more.

The F-117 was retired, but the U-2s turned out to have no effective replacement. As of 2012, the full fleet is still serving the USAF.

2005 (Partial)

F-22A over Ft. Monroe
(click to view full)

Dec 15/05: Elec Tricks: Turning AESA Radars Into Broadband Comlinks. The F-22’s large AESA radar may have an important capability that it’s builders hadn’t suspected. If so, the Raptor’s ability to securely share information with other AESA-equipped planes like the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and some F-15s could rise by several orders of magnitude.

Nov 15/05: In its annual Selected Acquisition Reports (SARs) submitted to the Congress for FY 2005 (ended Sept. 30, 2005), the US Defense Department had no slippages or cost increases to report for the F/A-22, just normal milestone reporting. Its SAR was submitted to rebaseline because it progressed from a Development to a Production Estimate, following the April 2005 approval of Full Rate Production (Milestone III) for the F-22A.


Oct 24/05: Supersonic SIGINT: Will F-35, F-22 Also Play EW Role? The F-22’s abilities in this area had been kept under wraps, but it’s coming out as a result of budget lobbying. The F-22 may have electronic warfare capabilities out of the box that rival dedicated aircraft like the EA-6B Prowler, and eavesdropping and scanning capabilities that rival 707 airliner-based aircraft like the RC-135 Rivet Joint.

Oct 6/05: Titanium. Boeing is trying to get out ahead of the titanium supply issue. This issue matters to the F-22, which uses a lot of titanium.

October 2005: Air Force Magazine Online (October 2005) – England Launches New Fighter Review. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England’s upcoming new air power review, which may provide further cuts in the F/A-22 and F-35 programs after all is said and done (in the end, the numbers remained stable).

F-22 Raptor: Contracts & Production F-22 Cutaway

The F-22A Raptor was built at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics facilities in Palmdale, CA; Meridian, MS; Marietta, GA; and Fort Worth, TX, as well as Boeing’s plant in Seattle, WA. The Raptor program also included 1,000 nationwide suppliers and subcontractors in 42 states. Final assembly and initial flight testing of the Raptor took place at Lockheed’s Marietta, GA plant facilities.

Unless otherwise specified, the Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issues all contracts listed here, and Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX (near Dallas) is the recipient.

FY 2015

AIM-9X integration work. Combat debut

Oct 27/14: Support. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $486.5 million contract modification, exercising a 3rd option year for F-22 sustainment. $1 million in FY 2014 USAF RDT&E budgets are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Hill AFB, UT manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2897 PO 0566).

Oct 24/14: 3.2B: AIM-9X. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a maximum $33.4 million unfinalized contract for AIM-9X Configurable Rail Launcher (CRL) modification to the F-22. They’ll provide upgrade to 220 AIM-9 CRLs with AIM-9X capability. $5.8 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 USAF aircraft budgets.

The ability to fire AIM-9X missiles is part of Increment 3.2B upgrades, and limited testing has begin (q.v. Events, July 30/12) but a fielded capability isn’t expected until at least 2017. The lack of a corresponding helmet-mounted display is a concern for Raptor pilots (q.v. Events, Jan 31/13).

Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be completed by Feb 28/17. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Hill AFB, UT manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0559).

FY 2014

Talon HATE and 5-to-4 for comms. F-22 Simulator
(click to view full)

Sept 16/14: Talon HATE. Boeing Advanced Network & Space Systems, Phantom Works has completed the final design review for the USAF’s Talon HATE pod program, which is designed to enable existing fighters to share information with F-22s over stealth-friendly secure datalinks. The core of this effort integrates the same IFDL datalink used on F-22As with MIDS-JTRS, a Link-16 box whose new software-defined electronics allow it to use different waveforms concurrently. Fighters equipped with the Talon HATE pod can bridge the gap between the F-22A and everyone else, serving as a distribution node over more universal modes like Link-16. As a bonus, pod-equipped fighters also get IRST long-range infrared to find targets – a method that bypasses radar stealth. This is especially useful against low-flying cruise missiles.

Note that unarmed platforms like the BACN UAVs and business jets can already handle datalink bridging, but you wouldn’t take them into enemy airspace. Hence the fighter pod approach. Tactically, Talon HATE allows the F-22 to act as a “bird dog” forward observer of sorts, transmitting the position of enemy aircraft and key ground systems to pod-equipped legacy fighters, who share the data with the rest of the force. To the extent that legacy fighters employ new missiles with full 2-way datalinks and compatibility with F-22 retargeting, the F-22s could even serve as terminal guidance. The idea isn’t entirely new, and was demonstrated during the Northern Edge 2006 exercise when F-22s were used to find opponents whose positioning behind obstacles made them invisible to standard AWACS (q.v. Key Events, June 9-16/06). What’s new is the ability to do this without giving away the F-22’s position: Talon HATE is an initial effort, and may be followed by a “5-to-4″ program.

F-15C air superiority fighters are Talon HATE’s initial platform, but MIDS-JTRS is being deployed on the US Navy’s multi-role F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, as is expected to spread to other fighters as a standard. Boeing is scheduled to deliver several Talon HATE systems to operational F-15C squadrons in 2015. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Completes Design Review for U.S. Air Force’s Talon HATE Program”.

Sept 16/14: Engines. United Technologies subsidiary Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT receives a $7 million contract modification for a rotable F119 PW-100 engine parts pool. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 USAF O&M budgets.

Work will be performed at East Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/14. USAF Life Cycle Management Center in Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2896, PO 0125).

Sept 12/14: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT has received a $7,627,698 contract modification for F-22 sustainment, including the purchase of an additional 112 Rotor 5s for the F119 engines. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 USAF O&M budgets.

Work will be performed at East Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by Dec 17/17. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2896 P00127)

June 18/14: 5-to-4. The USAF is planning an RFP by March 2015, for a “5th to 4th” system that would allow F-22s to communicate with F-35s and other fighters, in ways that they hope won’t give away their position. What they still don’t have, are specifications. Boeing, Northrop Grumman (Jetpack Link-16 translator) and Lockheed/L-3 (Chameleon waveform/ Missouri project) are expected to bid.

“Underscoring the need for a quick program is the fact that communications are a limiting factor to using F-22s operationally. They were considered for use in the Libya campaign in 2011, but planners were stymied by an inability to deliver data collected by the F-22s back to other forces, according to one industry source.”

They’re reportedly considering a Multi-Domain Adaptable Processing System (MAPS) that will fit on older “teen series” fighters, similar to the “Talon HATE” IRST + MIDS/IFDL datalink pods slated for trials on F-15Cs by the middle of 2015. The catch is that this approach depends on having non-stealthy translator aircraft within range of the stealth jets, in an era when advanced air defense systems have ranges of 100 miles or more, and enemies are developing advanced stealth fighters. Sounds risky for the translators. Sources: Aviation Week, “5th-To-4th Gen Fighter Comms Competition Eyed In Fiscal 2015″.

Dec 23/13: Support. A $108.2 million cost-plus-fixed-price contract modification for F-22 calendar year 2014 depot throughput and touch-labor sustainment. $36.3 million in FY 2014 O&M funding budgets are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/14. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WWUKH at Hill AFB, UT, is the contracting activity (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0501).

Dec 20/13: FASTeR. A maximum $562 million, unfinalized contract modification will incorporate 9 months of FASTeR support in 2014. $157.3 million in FY 2014 RDT&E, Air National Guard, and O&M funding is committed immediately.

Under FASTeR, Lockheed Martin provides all sustaining engineering, field service, modifications, heavy maintenance, supply chain management, technical data maintenance, and reliability and maintainability upgrades for the F-22 Raptor. Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/14. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0212, contract change proposal 0362).

Dec 20/13: Engines. UTC subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT receives an maximum $231.5 million unfinalized contract modification for calendar year sustainment of their F119-PW-100 thrust-vectoring turbofans. $106.9 million in FY 2014 O&M funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at East Hartford, CT; Edwards AFB, CA; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Hill AFB, UT; Holloman AFB, N.M.; Langley AFB, VA; Nellis AFB, NV, Sheppard AFB, TX; Tinker AFB, OK; and Tyndall AFB, FL, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/14. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2896, PO 0116).

Nov 7/13: Training. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $19.8 million option to retrofit fielded mission training centers with “out the window visual systems upgrade” (i.e. the surrounding screens in the simulator) and night vision goggles capability. This will include F-22 training systems at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB), TX; Tyndall AFB, FL; Langley AFB, VA; Hickam AFB, Hawaii, and Elmendorf AFB, AK. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at St. Louis, MO, with an expected completion date of Dec 31/16. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0050).

FY 2013

Major upgrade contract; 5to4 aims to improve fighter communication; Sustainment; structural retrofit. F-22 air show
(click to view full)

Sept 3/13: Engines. United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney division in East Hartford, CT receives an $18.4 million contract modification for 5,434 more F119-PW-100 low pressure turbine blades. The total cumulative face value of this contract is now $1.848 billion, but engine production has stopped (q.v. Jan 17/13, in Events). All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at East Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/14. The USAF’s Life Cycle Management Center/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2896, PO 0110).

Feb 20/13: FREDI An maximum $6.9 billion indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for F-22 modernization. Lockheed Martin has confirmed that this is the Follow-on Raptor Enhancement, Development and Integration (FREDI) contract. Program officials later tell the GAO that about $6.2 billion will continue work on defined modernization efforts, with $700 million available for unexpected costs or undefined needs. An updated cost estimate that reflects all modernization costs through the life of the aircraft won’t be done until late in 2014.

The previous REDI contract reached a $7.4 billion maximum (vid. Nov 18-22/11 entry). It fully funded Increment 3.2A modernization, and has funded all of Increment 3.2B to date, which includes all of the design portion and unique hardware development requirements.

FREDI will complete software development for Increment 3.2B upgrades, and then complete systems integration, developmental testing and operational testing needs until 2023. Note that $6.9 billion is far less than FREDI’s $16 billion maximum (vid. Jan 26/11 entry).

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA; Scottsdale, AZ; San Diego, CA; Nashua, NH; and Wayne, NJ. Work is expected to be complete by Feb 20/23. This award is a result of a sole source acquisition by AFLCMC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8611-13-D-2850). See also GAO-14-425, “Cost and Schedule Transparency Is Improved, Further Visibility into Reliability Efforts Is Needed”.

FREDI Modernization

Feb 13/13: 5 to 4.

“AFLCMC located at Hanscom, AFB, MA, requests information from industry to identify qualified, experienced, and interested sources for procurement of communications gateway products that will digitally connect and exchange data between 5th Generation Fighters (e.g., F-22 and F-35) and 4th Generation Fighters (e.g., F-15, F-16, F-18) with the potential to connect to additional platforms (e.g., Command and Control (C2) units; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) units; bomber aircraft; and national assets).”

The BACN E-11A jet and EQ-4B UAV already do this, but there are places you wouldn’t send them. 5to4 aims to field a TRL 6+ system that allows the fighters themselves to digitally connect, connecting existing Link 16 platforms with F-22s via the Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL), and eventually to F-35s via the Multifunctional Advanced Data Link (MADL).

Dec 18/12: FASTeR. A $613.3 million contract modification for the continued sustainment support of the F-22 part of the follow-on agile sustainment to the Raptor (FASTeR) program. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX until the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30, 2013 (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0165).

Dec 18/12: Support. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT received an $85.3 million contract modification for F119 Engine Sustainment at East Hartford, CT; Edwards Air Force Base, CA; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Hill AFB, UT; Holloman AFB, NM; Langley AFB, VA; Nellis AFB, NV; Sheppard AFB, TX; Tinker AFB, OK and Tyndall AFB, FL. Work will run until Dec 31/13 (FA8611-08-C-2896, PO 0100).

Oct 23/12: SRP-II, etc. A $133.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for F-22 modifications and heavy maintenance sustainment, depot throughput and installations, signature analysis system reduction, contractor field teams, structural retrofit plan (SRP-II) and modernization and common configuration work.

Work will be performed at Hill Air Force Base, UT, and Palmdale, CA until Dec 31/13 (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0153).

Oct 16/12: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $22.4 million cost plus fixed fee contract for F-22 modifications and heavy maintenance sustainment, depot throughput and installations, signature analysis system reduction, contractor field teams, structural retrofit plan and modernization and common configuration work.

Work will be performed at Hill AFB, UT and Palmdale, CA, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/13 (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0153).

FY 2012

REDI contract raised by $1.4 billion; Oxygen issues getting backup fix; Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program. F-22A and KC-135
(click to view full)

Sept 26/12: FASTeR. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $10.4 million contract modification to support the F-22 program until Dec 31/12.

Work will take place in Marietta, GA; Fort Worth, TX; Seattle, WA; Edwards AFB, CA Elmendorf AFB, AK; , Hickam AFB, Hawaii, Holloman AFB, NM, Langley AFB, VA; Nellis AFB, NV; Sheppard AFB, TX; Tinker AFB, OK; and Tyndall AFB, FL. The AFLCMC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH ,manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 00158).

Aug 28/12: RAMMP. A $12 million contract modification for additional development work and feasibility assessments under the F-22’s RAMMP (Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program). Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and will be complete by Dec 3/12 (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0150)

June 5/12: Oxygen backup. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX received a $19.2 million (face value) cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for automatic backup oxygen supply in the F-22’s Life Support System. The contract includes 40 retrofit kits, plus non-recurring engineering, and 10 spares. Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and is scheduled to be complete by April 30/13. The ASC/WWUK at Wright Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0145).

This won’t solve the F-22’s ongoing “hypoxia” problem, but it will provide an automatic safety backup if the F-22’s Environmental Control System (ECS) system shuts down under certain maneuvers, turning the main oxygen supply off. This is a known defect (vid. Aug 13-17/12 events entry), and the USAF’s “solution” of using a manual system that many pilots couldn’t even activate while sitting motionless ended up killing at least 1 pilot in a 2010 Alaska crash.

In May 2012 (vid. May 15/12 events entry), US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta halted long-distance F-22A combat air patrols in Alaska until Elmendorf AFB’s Raptors had this automatic backup oxygen system installed. Retrofitting the fleet will start in December 2012, and finish in 2014. See also ABC News | AP.

July 17/12: Infrastructure. Cutting Edge Concrete Services Inc. in Oro Grande, CA receives an $11.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to build a 15,000-square-yard parking apron for the F-22 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, with an estimated completion date of July 31/13. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 5 bids received by the US Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Shafter, HI (W9128A-12-C-0007).

June 18/12: Infrastructure. Creative Times, Inc. in Ogden, UT received a $9.6 million firm-fixed-price contract to build a 2-story F-22 system support facility at Hill AFB, UT, with an estimated completion date of Dec 3/13. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 13 bids received by the US Army Corps of Engineering in Sacramento, CA (W91238-12-C-0014).

March 29/12: Fleet support. A $664.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, paying for CY 2012’s Raptor fleet support services. Work will be performed in Marietta, GA; Fort Worth, TX; Palmdale, CA; and Seattle, WA, and will run until Dec 31/12 (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0119).

Adding 2012 aircraft and engine support together totals $886.4 million for 185 operational planes, or about $4.8 million per year per fighter.

Jan 20/12: O2 Know… Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives a $7 million firm-fixed-price contract for installation of a commercial sensor and associated hardware to measure the oxygen concentration and pressure within the oxygen system. The contract is the F-22’s contract, and the result will be a real time logging and display of O2 concentration, and a warning if oxygen partial pressure drops below a threshold value. Data is always good, of course, and this may help shed light on the F-22’s operational problems – but what this says is that the USAF still isn’t exactly sure what’s going on.

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/12. The ASC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2897 PO 0109).

Dec 22/11: Support. United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT received a $202 million cost-plus-incentive fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee and firm-fixed-price contract for CY 2012 sustainment of the Raptor fleet’s F119-PW-100 engines.

Work will be performed in East Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/12. The F-22 Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2896, PO 0075).

Nov 18-22/11: REDI. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives a multi-year, maximum “$7.4 billion” indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for F-22A upgrades. Work will include upgrades to existing systems, and new systems to improve performance and widen the plane’s capabilities. It’s actually just a move to raise the 2002 Raptor Enhancement Development and Integration (REDI) contract’s ceiling value by $1.4 billion to this new number, as the contract moves toward expiry at the end of 2012. Flight International reports that the USAF is preparing a $16 billion REDI II contract. Meanwhile:

“The [$1.4 billion in] extra money was necessary to pay Lockheed to change the F-22’s advanced tactical data link, accelerate the production line shutdown by four years, launch two structural upgrade programmes and fund unexpected costs of upgrading F-22s with reliability and maintainability improvements.”

One firm was solicited, and one firm submitted a proposal to the HQ Aeronautical Systems Center’s Fighter Bomber Directorate at Wright Patterson AFB, OH (F33657-02-D-0009). See also Dayton Business Journal | Reuters.

More REDI upgrades

Oct 19/11: Smarter. AFRL’s clever cost-saver. The US Air Force Research Lab’s Propulsion Directorate has developed a $35 vibration damper to prevent cracks in the F119 engine’s inlet case – a spoked, ring-like device that helps control the air going into the engine. Their fix is expected to save the USAF about $40 million, by preventing cracks. Those cracks force repair attempts, which sometimes break the $362,000 inlet case.

AFRL’s dollar-coin sized orange snubber looks like an exotic pencil eraser, and 7 of them fit in the gap opposite where the J-seal is welded to the inlet case. Each F-22 has 2 engines, so outfitting a plane costs $490. They were designed to last for half the life of the engine, but because they’re so cheap, they’ll be ordered in bulk, and new ones will be installed whenever the engine is pulled out. USAF.

Oct 17/11: SMART. A $7.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for the F-22 SMART (Structural Maintenance and Repair Team) program. See March 2/10 entry for more context (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0093).

FY 2011

Array of maintenance contracts; Mission Planning Environment improvements. Pacific flight
(click to view full)

Sept 26/11: Support. A $24.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for engineering and depot partnering associated with F-22 non-destructive inspections, hypoxia root cause analysis, titanium crack growth, site activation, slider seals, and radar cross-section turntable (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0098).

Sept 21/11: Support. A $7.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for F-22 software maintenance based on root cause analysis. This may well refer to hypoxia-like pilot issues. Work will be performed at Marietta, GA (FA-8611-08-C-2897, PO 0099).

Sept 13/11: MPE. Boeing announces an F-22 mission planning systems contract worth up to $24 million, if all options are exercised. It was awarded under the USAF’s June 2010 Mission Planning Enterprise Contract-II. Boeing will continue development and integration of the existing F-22 Mission Planning Environment (MPE), which gives F-22 crews a full range of mission information, from preflight data reports to postflight debriefing materials.

Aug 31/11: United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT receives an $11.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to finalize the buy at 39 F-119-PW-100 priority initial spare engines. That’s up from earlier plans: vid. Nov 11/10, Sept 29/10 entries. Based on published announcements, the final total would be $424.6 million.

The ASC/WWUK at Wright Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-08-C-2896, PO 0060).

July 6/11: IMIS. Sources sought for the Raptor’s Integrated Maintenance Information System (IMIS) Oracle/Solaris platform and associated hardware. Expected contract award in July 2013. This function has so far fulfilled under the current F-22 sustainment contract (FA8611-08-C-2897) but a path to cost savings is sought. FBO (FA8211-11-R-2000).

June 20/11: Infrastructure. Leebcor Services, LLC in Williamsburg, VA wins a $6.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for the design and construction of a paint spray hangar bay addition to an existing low observable/composite repair hangar.

Work will be performed at Langley Air Force Base, VA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 15/12. The contract didn’t explicitly make the connection, but F-22s fly from Langley, and the F-22A’s stealth is a combination of shape, tapings made of special materials to cover key seams, and special paints that interfere with full radar reflection. Bids were solicited through the Internet, with 12 bids received by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Norfolk, VA (W91236-11-C-0040).

May 17/11: RAMMP. A $49.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for retrofit installations, including retrofits associated with the Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program (RAMMP), and Structural Retrofit Program Phase II (q.v. March 2/10 entry), for aircraft scheduled to be inducted during the Q2-Q3 of CY 2011 at the Palmdale Depot facility, as well as contractor support for depot throughput at both the Ogden and Palmdale depot facilities.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA; Fort Worth, TX; and Seattle, WA. $9.8 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0071).

Feb 10/11: FASTeR. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $726.6 million contract modification for calendar year 2011 sustainment of the F-22 fleet. At this time, $388 million has been obligated by the ASC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.

Follow-On Agile Sustainment for the Raptor (FASTeR) is a Performance-Based Logistics contract providing sustaining the F-22A fleet at all operational bases, including training systems, customer support, integrated support planning, supply chain management, aircraft modifications and heavy maintenance, sustained engineering, support products and systems engineering. Based on earlier releases (vid. Aug 20/10), the value of this contract set has just jumped to around $1.4 billion for 2008-2011 (FA8611-08-C-2897; P00061). See also Lockheed Martin release.

Jan 26/11: Do the FREDI. Sources sought on for F-22 Follow-on Raptor Enhancement, Development and Integration (FREDI) indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract, with an estimated maximum amount of $16 billion.

Jan 11/11: Sub-contractors. Matrix Composites in Rockledge, FL ships its last critical F-22A structure. Matrix was one of only 4 companies qualified worldwide to produce specific components related to the aircraft’s fuselage and critical airframe components, and had been manufacturing Raptor components since 2005, with a notable pickup at the end of October 2006.

More than 20 trained aerospace technicians were employed on the project, specializing in the use of close-tolerance resin transfer molding (RTM). Despite the end of F-22A work, Matrix anticipates significant growth over the next 3 years, including some F-35 opportunities they’re pursuing.

Nov 11/10: Engines. Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT received a $100.7 million contract modification for 8 F119 engines. It increases an unfinalized contract for priority initial spare F119 engines to 33 total (q.v. Sept 29/10).

All funds have been committed by the ASC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8611-08-C-2896; P00044).

Oct 25/10: RAMMP. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $15.2 million contract modification covering installation of the F-22 reliability and maintainability maturation program’s engineering change proposals on fielded fighters. At this time, all funds have been committed by the ASC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8611-08-C-2897; P00060).

See also entries for Sept 23/10, March 2/10.

FY 2010

Last 4 ordered; RAMPP; FASTeR; SRP II. F-22A on Ice
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Sept 29/10: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT receives a not-to-exceed $33.1 million contract modification to buy 3 priority initial spare F-119-PW-100 engines, bringing the totals to $312.8 million for 25 engines. At this time, all funds have been committed by the ASC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8611-08-C-2896; P00041).

Sept 24/10: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT receives a not-to-exceed $279.7 million contract modification to buy 22 priority initial spare F-119-PW-100 engines. At this time, all funds have been committed by the ASC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8611-08-C-2896; P00040).

Sept 23/10: RAMMP. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $12 million contract modification for development of the F-22 reliability and maintainability maturation program. This change will increase the ceiling cost for “over and above work” beyond regular efforts, and buy wet weather repairs for actuator interface module components. At this time, all funds have been committed (FA8611-08-C-2897; P00057).

Sept 1/10: Spares. A $15.6 million contract modification for 20 spare integrated F-22A forebodies. All funds have been committed (FA8611-06-C-2899; P00102).

Aug 31/10: Support. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT receives a $9.1 million contract modification finalizing calendar year 2010 sustainment, combined test force operations, and support for the F-22A’s F119-PW-100 engines. “At this time, $90,157,719 has been obligated.” (FA8611-08-C-2896; PO0030).

Aug 20/10: FASTeR. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $111.4 million contract modification to provide “sustainment” (spares and support) for the F-22 program in calendar year 2010. “At this time, $241,645,563 has been obligated” by the ASC/WWUK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0049).

Actually, Lockheed Martin’s release places the total value of the Follow-On Agile Sustainment for the Raptor (FASTeR) contract at $709 million, including the initial 2008 contract and 2009 extension.

FASTeR is a Performance-Based Logistics contract providing sustaining the F-22A fleet at all 7 operational bases for the 2010 calendar year, including training systems, customer support, integrated support planning, supply chain management, aircraft modifications and heavy maintenance, sustained engineering, support products and systems engineering.

July 6/10: Support. A not-to-exceed $23 million contract modification for continued funding of F-22 sustainment services and activities, including items over-and-above the base contract. At this time, $17.4 million has been committed by the 478th AESG/SYK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8611-08-C-2897, P00050).

March 2/10: RAMMP/ SRP-II. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX received a $568.5 million contract, incrementally funding an unfinalized Dec 15/09 contract for the F-22’s Structural Retrofit Program II and Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program during calendar year 2010. At this time, $411.2 million has been committed by the 478 AESG/SYK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8611-08-C-2897, P00040).

Mr. Glenn Miller, F-22 Program Office advisor for the 478th Aeronautical Systems Group, later offered these explanations:

“The structures Retrofit Program (SRP) II is phase II of a 2-part structural retrofit program designed to correct structural concerns discovered during the F-22 Full Scale Fatigue Test (FSFT) conducted in 2005. The process… is a routine structural integrity process performed on all modern Air Force platforms to proactively detect and repair damage… SRP I was designed to correct structural deficiencies with life short falls less than 2000 flight hours while SRP II was designed to correct structural deficiencies with life short falls between 2000 and 8000 flight hours. The SRP II program is scheduled to complete in 2015.

The Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program (RAMMP) [aims] to drive continuous improvement in weapon system reliability and maintainability… metrics [include]… Availability… Maintenance Man Hours per Flight Hour [MMH]… Mean Time Between Maintenance (MTBM)… Return on Investment. The scope of RAMMP includes: development, retrofit, and the earliest possible production cut-in of the change. In summary, RAMMP projects must be affordable, technically viable, and provide a high return on investment.”

Feb 25/10: Infrastructure. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Albuquerque, NM issues solicitation #W912PP-10-B-0032, an Invitation for Bid (IFB) open only to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. The project is a 1,347 square meter munitions maintenance facility for the F-22 weapons systems at the Munitions Storage Area on Holloman AFB, NM. This project will provide 6 munitions maintenance bays to support the F-22 Raptor, and a small administrative area for meetings, office, break, locker, toilet, training and support areas. This building is being constructed as a permanent facility with a life expectancy exceeding 25 years.

NAICS code is 236210/SIC 1541, with a size standard of $33.5 million, and a magnitude of construction estimate between $1-5 million. Bonding will be required for this acquisition, and bidders must be registered with Central Contractor Registration in order to receive a contract. Plans will be issued on or about March 15/10 with bids due on or about April 15/10.

Dec 24/09: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT received a $95.4 million modified contract for 8 F119-PW-100 installed engines under Lot 10 production. They will equip the last 4 F-22As ordered. At this time, $25 million has been committed (FA8611-09-C-2901).

Dec 11/09: Support. A $550.4 million contract “which will provide for the F-22 weapons system during the CY2010.” This appears to be a fleet sustainment contract. At this time, $312.1 million has been committed (FA8611-08-C-2897, PO 0036).

Dec 11/09: Support. United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford, CT receives a $148 million contract which will provide “CY20 sustainment of the F119-PW-100 engines.” Presumably, the Pentagon means “CY 2010.” At this time, $59.9 million has been committed (FA8611-08-C-2896, P00020).

Nov 26/09: Flares. Kilgore Flares Co. in Toone, TN, a subsidiary of UK-based Chemring Group, received an indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract, with a potential value of $54 million, to supply MJU-39 and MJU-40 infrared (IR) decoy flares for the F-22 aircraft. The flares are designed to defeat air-to-air IR guided missiles. The contract extends over a 4-year period; the 1st delivery order of $24 million, for delivery in 2010 and 2011, has been placed by the US Air Force. The 784 CBSG/PK at Hill Air Force Base, UT manages the contract (FA8213-10-D-0012).

Oct 29/09: Last 4. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives a $474.2 million contract for full production of 4 Lot X F-22A aircraft, alternate mission equipment, production engineering support and work in process through Aug 11/09 for 16 shipsets of raw material aircraft fuselage titanium. The 478 AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8611-09-C-2900, P00007).

FY 2009

Lot 10 lead-in. Production line

2009 orders are being conducted under a multi-year buy. See July 31/07 for key entries.

Sept 29/09: Support. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives an $11 million contract to provide F-22 field team support at various bases. At this time the entire amount has been committed by the 573th AESS/SYK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8611-08-C-2897, P00033).

Sept 14/09: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney of East Hartford, CT received a $6 million contract to provide nozzle modules for F119 Combined Test Force Engines. At this time the entire amount has been committed by the 478th AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8611-08-C-2896,P00010).

Sept 9/09: Training. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX received a $77.7 million contract modification for procurement of multi-year F-22 pilot training devices in 4 simulated cockpit configurations (FA8611-06-C-2899).

April 2/09: The Watterson/Davis JV in Anchorage, Alaska received a $38.6 million firm-fixed-price contract to design and build the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve F-22 squadron operations/aircraft maintenance unit’s 6-bay hangar facility, (PROJ: ELM297/292) at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. The estimated completion date is March 24/11.

The U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska at Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK solicited 8 bids, received 4, and will manage this contract (W911KB-07-D-0013).

Dec 16/08: Support. The USAF exercising a $784.1 million option with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, TX, for pre-priced calendar year 2009 F-22 Weapon System Sustainment. Work will be performed in Marietta, GA.

Dec 16/08: SPaRE. The USAF is exercising a $285 million option for 2009 sustainment of the Raptor’s F119-PW-100 Engines with United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group in East Hartford, CT. The Support Program for the Raptor Engine (SPaRE) includes spare parts, labor support, fleet management and technical support. Pratt & Whitney.

Dec 4/08: Infrastructure. A $29.1 million modification to a cost plus award fee contract, to incorporate CCP 0184 re: F-22 Depot Activation Equipment for fiscal years 2007 and 2008. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated (FA8611-08-C-2897, #P00006).

Nov 26/08: Lot 10 lead-in. An estimated $180 million not-to-exceed contract, providing for long-lead time materials and assemblies to cover 4 Lot X F-22A aircraft, with an option for an advance buy on behalf of 16 additional Lot X F-22As. At this time, $49 million has been committed (FA8611-09-C-2900).

Nov 26/08: Engines. A $7 million not-to-exceed, firm-fixed price contract to United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT. The contract will buy long-lead time materials for 8 Lot X F119-PW-100 engines, which would equip 4 F-22A fighters. At this time, $1 million has been committed (FA8611-09-C-2901).

See Nov 10-19/08 entries in the “Events: 2008″ section for further background regarding this partial-compliance move by the Pentagon.

FY 2008

Contractor infrastructure. Fill ‘er up!
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2008 orders are being conducted under a multi-year buy. See July 31/07 for key entries.

July 31/08: Sub-contractors. EDO Corp. Defense Systems, of North Amityville, NY received a firm-fixed-price contract not to exceed $18.2 million for 139 of their BRU-46 and 220 of their BRU-47 Bomb Release Units.

Both designs are fielded as bomb racks for the F-15E Strike Eagle. The F-22A’s standard ground attack weapons will be up to 8 of the derivative GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, a 250 pound, GPS-guided glide bomb weapon designed to penetrate hardened structures. On the F-22, the BRU-47 is reportedly used to carry external fuel tanks.

At this time $9.1 million has been obligated. 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing, Contracting Division, 782nd CBSG/GBKAA, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (FA8520-08-C-0013).

April 25/08: Testing. Lockheed Martin Corp. of Orlando, FL received a modified contract for $5.5 million, in exchange for 20 Common Organizational Level Testers (COLT) and accessory kits under F/A-22 Option 5. At this time, all funds have been committed (FA8626-04-C-2060 P00029).

April 23/08: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman announces multiple contracts for the F-22A’s communications, navigation and identification (CNI) systems. Lockheed Martin has awarded them contracts worth $252 million since Jan 1/08, covering F-22 Production Lots 7-9, spares, and CNI modernization efforts.

Northrop Grumman’s integrated CNI system uses software-defined radios and provides 14 critical functions, including advanced multichannel/multiband voice and data links, flight navigation and friend-or-foe identification to F-22 pilots. Northrop Grumman’s F-22 CNI production, integration and test and modernization activities take place at Northrop Grumman facilities in San Diego, CA, and are supported by approximately 70 suppliers in 22 states. NGC release.

April 22/08: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group of East Hartford, CT received a modified contract for $6.9 million. The firm will refurbish 3 F-22 Raptor F119 Test Engines (FA8611-05-C-2851).

April 15/08: Infrastructure. Bristol Environmental & Engineering Services Corp. in Anchorage, AK won a $5 million firm-fixed price contract to design and build Elmendorf Air Force Base’s F-22 infrastructure Phase II, and F-22 taxiway, taxi lanes, and arm/de-arm sites. Work is expected by be complete on Oct 30/09. Web bids were solicited on Nov 8/07, and 3 bids were received by the U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska (W911KB-08-C-0007).

April 14/08: Infrastructure. Native-owned business Chugach Government Services, Inc. in Anchorage, AK won a $14.1 million firm-fixed price contract for construction of the F-22 jet inspection and maintenance facility at Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK. Work is expected to be completed on Sept 28/09. Web bids were solicited on Nov 17/07, and 3 bids were received by the U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska (W911KB-08-C-0009).

Feb 20/08: Support. A contract modification for $182.6 million for “sustainment of the F-22 Weapon System during Calendar Year’s 2008 and 2009. At this time $258,763,747 has been obligated” (FA8611-08-C-2897).

Feb 20/08: Support. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney of East Hartford, CT received an undefinitized contract modification for $101.2 million to provide CY 2008 support for the F-22 Raptor’s F119 Engines. Each aircraft carries 2 F119 engines with thrust-vectoring capabilities. “At this time $129,834,373 has been obligated” (FA8611-08-C-2896).

Dec 13/07: Support. An undefinitized contract for $512.1 million, to provide sustainment & support of the F-22 fleet during the calendar year 2008. “At this time [$384.1] million has been obligated” (FA8611-05-C-2850 P00076).

Dec 13/07: Support. A firm fixed price contract for $9.1 million; at this time $5 million has been obligated. The US Defense Department adds, helpfully: “This effort supports F-22 aircraft.” One would hope so (FA8611-06-C-2899 – P00023).

Dec 13/07: SPaRE. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group of East Hartford, CT received an undefinitized contract of $114.7 million for F119-PW-117-PW-100 engines, and calendar year 2008 sustainment (the part that isn’t finalized yet). At this time $86 million has been obligated (FA8611-05-C-2851).

This support program for the Raptor engine (SPaRE) involves activation of Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and sustainment for fielded engines in 2008, with an option to support activation of Hickam AFB in Honolulu, Hawaii, and sustainment services in 2009. Sustainment activities include spare parts and labor support, fleet management and technical support of the F119 engine.

Dec 12/07: Infrastructure. BAE Systems opens a new 30,000-square-foot facility in its South Nashua, New Hampshire campus for production work on the F-22A Raptor and F-35 Lightning II electronic warfare suites, which provide threat warning and jamming. About 60 suppliers from New Hampshire provide products and services to support the programs, and the site will support more than 1,400 of BAE Systems’ 4,500 New Hampshire employees who contribute to the F-22 and F-35 programs.

In BAE’s release, Nashua VP Operations Mike Dow says that the new facility is “capable of assembling and testing complex microwave products and performing assembly, integration, and acceptance testing at significantly reduced cost and cycle times.”

Oct 16/07: Training. Boeing announces a $46 million contract from Lockheed Martin to integrate the F-22A the U.S. Air Force Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) training network, which will enable Raptor pilots to train with other aircrews flying different simulated aircraft at locations throughout the world. Once the contract is complete, Raptor pilots on the East Coast would be able to train with AWACS crews in the Midwest and F-15 pilots in Europe, as part of a joint synthetic battlespace made up of a combination of live, virtual, and programmed-in elements.

The contract allows for the design and test of new software and systems for the F-22 Full Mission Trainer (FMT), and the Boeing team will incorporate the enhanced FMTs into an F-22 Mission Training Center (MTC) that is scheduled to begin operations in 2009. The Boeing release adds that Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, GA facility recently delivered Raptor no. 103 to the Air Force. See “F-22s to Become Part of Joint Simulated Training.”

FY 2007

Contract for 24 aircraft. F-22, bays open
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July 31/07: A firm-fixed-price, firm-fixed-price w/economic price adjustment and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification for $5.05 billion for the F-22 multi-year aircraft advance buy. This is an Economic Ordering Quantity and Full Rate Production contract for 60 aircraft: Lots 7, 8 and 9. At this time, $332.5 million has been obligated. Work will be complete June 2012. (FA8611-06-C-2899/no modification number at this time).

Lockheed Martin’s release states that this order is on top of $2.3 billion used to buy long lead- time parts and maintain continuous manufacturing flow, bringing the total cost to $7.35 billion. The release says that the multi-year contract is estimated to save approximately $400 million compared to a corresponding annual procurement program, which equates to a savings of $6.85 million per aircraft. To date, 105 Raptors have completed final assembly at the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, GA, and 99 have been delivered to the USAF.

July 31/07: United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney received a $1.28 billion fixed-price with economic price adjustment and firm-fixed-price contract modification from the United States Air Force to deliver F119 engines for the F-22 Raptor in a multi-year contract spanning 2008, 2009 and 2010. The number of engines was not specified, but the USAF plans to order 60 aircraft during this time, which means at least 120 engines plus spares.

At this time, $367.6 million has been obligated. Solicitations began April 2006, negotiations were completed in July 2007, and work will be complete February 2011 (FA8811-06-C-2900/No modification number at this time). P&W release – which came out a day before the DefenseLINK announcement. A contract of this magnitude also attracts dignitaries.

Multi-year buy: 60 more

April 10/07: An $11 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. “This contract action will definitize Lot 8 Advanced Buy through 12 October 2007, in support of the F-22 program.” At this time, all funds have been obligated and work will be complete December 2011 (FA8611-06-C-2899, PO 0015).

April 10/07: Sub-contractors. GKN Aerospace announces 2 new contracts, with a combined value of just under $15 million, raising the value of GKN’s work per aircraft to over $5 million. Overall, GKN supplies high performance metallic and composite assemblies for the aircraft wing, body and engine, plus the complete advanced cockpit canopy system.

The first contract covers the Inlet Lip Assembly that surrounds the engine intake. It is made up of multiple hand lay-up and resin transfer molded composite details which are assembled into extremely tight tolerance requirements. GKN Aerospace will manufacture and assemble this part for 50% of the aircraft in lots 5 – 9, with deliveries from 2007-2009.

The second contract covers the chine edge, the co-cured composite structural cover over the area where the cockpit and fuselage transition into the wing. That contract covers aircraft Lots 6-9 on a sole-source basis, with deliveries commencing by the end of 2007 and continuing to 2009.

Work on both contracts will take place alongside the F-22A stabilator manufacture and assembly (see Nov 22/06), at GKN Aerospace’s St Louis, MO plant.

April 2/07: Engines. United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford, CT received a $107.6 million fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for “12 install and 1 spare F-119-PW-117-PW-100 engines.” Hard to say what that means, as the designation seems to be off and may also be referring to engines that power other aircraft. At this time, $96.8 million have been obligated. Work will be complete July 2008 (FA8626-07-C-2076).

March 30/07: Support. United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford, CT received an $116.2 million cost-plus-fixed fee, firm-fixed-price, and cost-plus-award fee contract modification to provide F-119 engine Lot 6 for CY 2007 sustainment. At this time, $80.7 million have been obligated. Negotiations were complete March 2007, and work will be complete December 2007 (FA8611-05-C-2851, PO 0015).

March 9/07: PALS. A $248.4 million cost-plus-award fee & cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification finalizes Performance-Based Agile Logistics Support (PALS) contract line items 0207, 0216, and 0217. Work will be complete December 2009 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0030)

March 9/07: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT received a $27.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, finalizing the purchase of F119 engine Lot 7 long lead items. At this time, $13.6 million has been obligated, and work will be complete September 2007 (FA8611-06-C-2900, PO 0002).

Feb 27/07: Support. A $107.3 million cost-plus-award fee and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification, extending the contractor’s current authorization to provide F-22 sustainment from Jan 31, 2007 – Feb. 28, 2007 to April 30, 2007. At this time, $80.4 million have been obligated. Work will be complete December 2009 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0041).

Feb 27/07: Support. United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group in East Hartford, CT received a $49.6 million cost-plus fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price and cost-plus award-fee contract for F119-PW-119 Engine Lot 6, calendar year 2007 sustainment. At this time, $24.8 million has been obligated, and work will be complete June 2007 (FA8611-05-C-2851).

Feb 26/07: Engines. United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group in East Hartford, CT received a $45 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. It covers “F-119 Engine Multi-Year Economic Order Quantity Effort, Undefinitized Contract Action (UCA)” – in other words, they’re ordering key parts and materials in advance, in order to bulk up the order and drive prices for each item down. The F-22A’s current multi-year contract framework lets them do more of this, instead of just ordering year by year. All funds are already obligated, and work will be complete January 2010 (FA8611-06-C-2900, PO 004).

Feb 5/07: Engines. United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group in East Hartford, CT received a $18.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 2 Lot 6 F119-PW-100 engines for F-22 replacement test aircraft. This work will be complete January 2008. (F33657-05-C-2851, PO 0014)

Jan 8/07: Multi-Year lead-in. A $255 million firm fixed price contract modification “for an F-22 multiyear economic order quantity procurement.” To date all funds have been obligated, and work will be complete December 2011 (FA8611-06-C-2899/No Modification number at this time).

Dec 29/06: Engines. United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group in East Hartford, CT received a $27.2 million firm fixed price contract modification. This provides for long lead undefinitized buys in preparation for F119-PW-100 Engine Lot 7. To date, $13.6 million has been obligated. Work will be complete September 2007 (FA8611-06-C-2900)

Dec 27/06: PALS. A $204.8 million cost-plus-award fee and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification, authorizing Lockheed to provide F-22 Performance Based Agile Logistics Support (PALS), from January 1, 2007 through February 28, 2007. At this time $153.6 million have been obligated. Work will be complete December 2009 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0042)

Dec 27/06: Support. United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford, CT received a $12.1 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification for F119-PW-100 Engines Support to Combined Test Force (CTF) Infrastructure at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. At this time $4.2 million have been obligated. Work will be complete July 2007 (F33657-05-C-2851, PO 0012).

Dec 21/06: Titanium. A $379.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the remaining Lot 8 Advanced Buy Requirements and for Lot 9 Advanced Procurement for Titanium in support of the F-22A Lot 9 aircraft. This is one of the major advance purchases as part of the ongoing multi-year buy – see Sept 27/06 entry in “Program and Events” for more. Work will be complete December 2011 (FA8611-06-C-2899, PO 0009).

Dec 21/06: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT received a $50 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification. This action provides for Lot 6 F119-PW-100 Engines (46) for the F-22, and associated Field Support and Training (FS & T) for calendar year 2006. Work will be complete January 2008 (FA8611-05-C-2851/PZ0008).

Dec 5/06: Landing gear. A $9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the upgrade of the F-22 engineering, manufacturing, and development landing gear trainer to an “aircraft 4041 configuration” (the designation for the first operational F-22A Raptor), to be consistent with other training devices delivered to Sheppard Air Force Base. At this time, total funds have been obligated. Solicitations began August 2005, negotiations were complete September 2006, and work will be complete by October 2008 (FA8611-04-C-2851, PO 0060).

Nov 22/06: Sub-contractors. GKN Aerospace announces a $50 million contract to be the sole source provider of the complete horizontal stabilator for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. This brings the total value of GKN Aerospace work on the F-22 to $4.9 million per ship set.

This contract covers lots 7-9 of the aircraft program. and requires fabrication of advanced composite assemblies, machining of complex titanium parts, and full assembly of the complete stabilator for delivery to Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA. Work will take place at the GKN Aerospace plant in St Louis, MO, with deliveries commencing in the fourth quarter of 2007 and continuing until the end of 2010.

Nov 21/06: A $1.05 billion firm-fixed-price contract modification for 24 F-22A aircraft: 23 service aircraft and 1 replacement test aircraft (TL 24). This action supports the F-22 Lot 6 Full Production contract, and the Pentagon oddly notes that “$1,466,447,970 have been obligated.”

Work will be complete February 2010 (FA8611-05-C-2850). Note that this doesn’t represent the aircrafts’ full cost, just the parts that haven’t been covered by long-lead procurement, and by the separate buys of “government furnished equipment” like engines, etc.

Lot VI: 24 more

Nov 20/06: Sub-contractors. GKN Aerospace has won a $50 million contract from Lockheed Martin to be the sole source provider of complete horizontal stabilators (i.e. fully-moving horizontal tail fins) for Lot 7-9 F-22A Raptors, with delivery from Q4 2007-2010. This brings the total value of GKN Aerospace work on the F-22 to $4.9 million per aircraft. This contract is the culmination point of several capabilities and processes, all placed under one roof – see full DID coverage.

Nov 15/06: Flares. Kilgore Flares Co. LLC in Toone, TN received an $18.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to procure replenishment spares for the F-22 aircraft. The products purchased are flares, specifically MJU-39, MJU-40 and BBU-59 designed to defeat air-to-air guided missiles. At this time, total funds have been obligated. Solicitations began February 2006, negotiations were complete October 2006, and work will be complete June 2008. The Headquarters Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, UT issued the contract (FA8213-0-C-undefined).

Nov 1/06: Lot 7 lead-in. A $1.23 billion firm-fixed-price contract modification supporting the F-22 Lot 7 Long Lead Procurement. This is technically a “funding modification to the ongoing undefinitized contract action,” but it’s part of the multi-year 2007-2009 production contract for 60 F-22As that was recently agreed upon. At this time, $403.2 million have been obligated, and work will be complete October 2009 (FA8611-06-C-2899, PO 0007).

FY 2006

Lot 6, 7. F-22A Raptor, ready
(click to view full)

Sept 29/06: Support. United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford, CT received a $6 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification for the Lot 4 F119 engines Life Cycle Reduction Program. Work will be complete August 2009 (F33657-03-C-2011). See the presentation “Cost Reduction Task Force Key to Raptor Affordability” [PDF, 8.6 MB] for more context.

Sept 27/06: Lot 6 lead-in. A $98.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. This undefinitized contract action increase is not-to-exceed, F-22A Lot 6 long-lead procurement and funding through Oct. 31, 2006. At this time, $74.1 million has been obligated. Work will be complete February 2010 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 003).

Sept 27/06: A $17.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification provides for production support systems in support of F-22A Lot 6 production; all funds have already been obligated. Work will be complete February 2010 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0029)

Sept 21/06: Engines. United Technologies Corp. in Hartford, CT received a $455.1 million firm-fixed-price & cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification covering Lot 6 production of 48 F119 engines, plus calendar year 2006 field support and training. Solicitations began July 2005, negotiations were complete September 2006, and work will be complete December 2006. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8611-05-C-2851/ P00010).

Sept 5/06: Sub-contractors. Defense Systems in North Amityville, NY received a $10 million firm-fixed-price contract for “bomb rack units in support of F-22 aircraft.” Half of the funds have already been committed, and work will be complete in January 2009. The Headquarters 542d Combat Sustainment Wing at Robins Air Force Base, GA issued the contract (FA8520-06-C-0015).

Aug 16/06: PALS. A $119.9 million firm-fixed price and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification. This undefinitized contract action increases the current undefinitized contract action amount in order to extend the period of performance for Performance Based Agile Logistics Support (PALS). PALS for F-22A Lot 6 Contract Line Item Numbers will extend until September 30, 2006. At this time, $89.9 million has been committed (FA8611-05-C-2850)

Aug 8/06: Titanium. A $19.6 million firm-fixed-price undefinitzed action contract for advance procurement of titanium in support of F-22A Lot 8 aircraft, with full funds committed. Work will be complete in October 2009, which is when Lot 8 production is scheduled (FA8611-06-C-2899).

As noted above, the F-22 makes heavy use of titanium in order to give it the lightness, strength, and temperature resistance required. Someone obviously thinks the price is about to rise – and given increased global demand, they’re hardly alone.

July 12/06: Engines. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, CT received a $16.5 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification. This undefinitized contract action for Lot 6 production F119 engines covers long lead items and field support, and a training period of performance extension. Solicitations began July 2005, negotiations were complete in July 2006, and work will be complete by December 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2851, PO 0007).

July 5/06: We’re just going to quote this one. It’s a firm-fixed-price contract modification to Lockheed Martin, for $552.7 million. Negotiations were complete in June 2006, and work will be complete February 2010:

“This undefinitized contract action extension period of performance is through Sept. 30, 2006, for F-22A lot 6, long-lead activities and increase not-to exceed.” …The public affairs point of contact is Capt. Everdeen, (937) 255-1256… (FA8611-05-C-2850).

We’ve been inquiring with Capt. Everdeen for a translation of exactly what’s going on here for over a week now, and have received no response from the F-22 Program Office. Even they probably can’t understand language like this.

July 5/06: Support. A $99 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. This undefinitized contract action is for F-22 lot 6 program support/annual sustaining period I through Sept. 30, 2006. Negotiations were complete in June 2006, and work will be complete by September 2006 (F33657-97-C-0031).

June 15/06: Lot 7 lead-in. A $187.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide for an extension to the advance buy period of performance from June 2006 through September 2006, and increases the outlay amount. This action supports F-22A Lot 7 production. Work will be performed at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA (33%) and Fort Worth, TX (35%); and Boeing Information and Space Defense Systems, Aircraft and Missile Systems group in Seattle, WA (32%). Work will be complete in October 2009 (FA8611-06-C-2899, PO 0005)

May 19/06: Engines. United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford, CT received a $5 million firm-fixed-price contract to cover advance procurement items for 40 Pratt & Whitney F119 engines. This work will be complete December 2006 (FA8611-06-C-2900).

May 15/06: PALS. A $62 million firm-fixed-price & cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification that increases the current undefinitized contract for Lot 6, F-22 aircraft performance based agile logistics support (PALS) activities. Specifically, this modification funds PALS 3010 activities through June 2006, plus authorized work to begin on 3600 funded support equipment development activities. Additionally, this modification increases the obligation amount for the Lot 6 PALS effort to 75% – $137.3 million has been obligated at this time. Work will be complete December 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0015).

May 3/05: 1 more. A $143.1 million firm-fixed price contract modification, which is an undefinitized contract action for F-22 Lot 6 replacement test aircraft. This work will be complete February 2010 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0014).

April 24/06: Support. A $103 million firm-fixed price & cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification to increase fund production long lead diminished manufacturing sources activities and performance-based agile logistics support of 3400 funded activities through June 30/06. The location of performance is Lockheed Martin Corp., in Marietta, GA(33%), Fort Worth, TX (34%); and Boeing in Seattle, WA (33%). Work will be complete December 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0012)

March 13/06: Support. A $383.5 million modification to increase Lot 6 F-22 production long lead activities, (including target price curve and diminishing manufacturing sources); and long-lead performance-based agile logistics support activities; and the aircraft structural integrity program. Work will be complete December 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0009).

PW F119 engine:
vectored thrust
(click to view full)

Feb 28/06: Support. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group in East Hartford, CT received a $153.5 modification that will support the F119 Engine’s Lot 6, Long Lead Items and Field Support and Training period of performance extension. Solicitations began July 2005, negotiations are expected to be complete May 2006, and work will be complete December 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2851).

Feb 15/06: PALS. A $144.3 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification. This undefinitized contract action provides for F-22A Lot 6 Weapon System Support as a Capability Performance-Based Agile Logistics Support (PALS). Negotiations were complete in January 2006, and work will be complete by May 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0010).

Jan 25/06: Support. United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Group in East Hartford, CT received a $56.7 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification. This undefinitized contractual action will “support the F119 Engine Lot 6,” and work will be complete by March 2006. Hard to say if they’re buying components, or help (FA8611-05-C-2851, PO 0003).

Jan 11/06: PALS. A $191.1 million not-to-exceed firm-fixed-price contract modification. This action provides long lead activities and Performance Based Agile Logistics Support (PALS) for F-22 Lot 6 aircraft and associated equipment. Negotiations were completed in December 2005, and work will be complete in February 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2850, PO 0008). As one might guess from the dates, a large chunk of the work had been done already, which is why $95.4 million was already obligated.

Jan 11/06: Support. A $116.5 million firm-fixed-price fee contract modification provides for F-22 Lot 6 Program Support/ Annual Sustaining (PSAS) for period I, i.e. through June 2006. Negotiations were completed in December 2005 (F33657-97-C-0031, PO 0070). As a point of reference, the FY 2005 Lot 5 PSAS contract mentioned in DID’s November 17, 2005 article was a $160 million firm-fixed-price/ cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification that definitized FY 2005 production support/ annual sustainment associated with the F-22 Lot 5 batch.

Dec 23/05: long-lead buy. An $18 million, undefinitized, firm-fixed-price contract modification. It covers Long Lead Effort for Replacement Test Aircraft (RTA) for the F-22A program, and work will be complete by February 2006 (FA8611-05-C-2850).

Nov 10/05: Lot 6 lead-ins. A $39.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to support F/A-22 Lot 6 production. This action provides for advanced procurement for 24 Lot 6 aircraft and associated equipment. Work will be performed ar Lockheed Martin Corp. in Marietta, GA and Fort Worth, TX, and Boeing in Seattle, WA. At this time, the full amount has been obligated, and work will be complete November 2005. Negotiations were complete October 2005 (FA8611-05-C-2850/ P00006)

Nov 9/05: A $2.99 billion firm fixed price contract modification to definitize the F/A-22 Lot 5 production acquisition for 24 aircraft. The location of performance is Lockheed Martin Corporation, Marietta, GA. At this time, $1.98 billion has been obligated.

This work will be complete November 2007. Solicitations began July 2004 and negotiations were complete November 2005. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH issued the contract. (FA8611-04-C-2851). Note that this doesn’t represent the aircrafts’ full cost, just the parts that haven’t been covered by long-lead procurement, and by the separate buys of “government furnished equipment” like engines, etc.

Lot V: 24 more

Nov 9/05: Support. A $160 million firm-fixed-price/ cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification to definitize the undefinitized action for calendar year 2005 production support and annual sustainment activity. This effort supports the F/A-22 Lot 5 production aircraft. The location of performance is Lockheed Martin Corporation, Marietta, Ga. Solicitations began July 2004, negotiations were complete November 2005, and work will be complete by December 2005 (F33657-97-C-0031). Both November 9 awards were covered in this DID article, as was this engine-related award…

Nov 7/05: Support. United Technologies Corp. in East Hartford, CT received a $17.3 million firm-fixe-price and cost plus fixed fee contract modification to provide for contractual action for F119 engine, FY 2006-2007 to support the combined test force infrastructure at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Solicitations began December 2003, negotiations were complete June 2005, and work will be complete December 2006 (FA8611-04-C-2852).

FY 2005 and Earlier (Incomplete) F/A-22 Raptor landing
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Sept 30/05: Support. A $17.7 firm-fixed price contract modification to support the F/A-22 Lot 5 Support System. The location of performance is Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA. Total funds have been obligated, and work will be complete by November 2007. Negotiations were complete October 2005 (FA8611-04-C-2851/ P00026)

Before this, the most significant contract is…

March 12/03: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX received a $6 billion indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification to provide for development of system upgrades to existing requirements, incorporate new requirements, add capability and enhance performance in the F/A-22 Weapon System. Funds will be obligated as individual delivery orders are issued. The Air Force can issue delivery orders totaling up to the maximum amount indicated above, though actual requirements may necessitate less than this amount.

Locations of performance are: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX; Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in Marietta, GA; and Boeing ISS Aircraft and Missile Systems in Seattle, WA. Solicitation began in March 2002, negotiations were complete in March 2003, and work will be complete by June 2013. The Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (F33657-02-D-0009).

F-22 upgrade contract

Additional Readings & Sources Background: The F-22

Background: Official Reports

Background: F-22 Program

  • DID Spotlight – F-22 Raptors to Japan? The Japanese, Australia, Israel, and South Korea all lobbied at one time or another for an “F-22EX”. Exports were prohibited right to the end of the program, and Japan ended up buying F-35As.

  • USAF Maxwell AFB Air & Space Power Journal (Nov-Dec 2012) – The F-22 Acquisition Program: Consequences for the US Air Force’s Fighter Fleet. By Lt. Col. Christopher J. Niemi, USA. “First, given the clear need to recapitalize its fleet, why did the Air Force acquire just 25 percent of the F-22s originally planned? Second, could it have realized a better result by making alternative decisions during F-22 development?”

  • DID Spotlight (to 2010) – The Australian Debate: Abandon F-35, Buy F-22s?. The opposition Labor party favored a request for F-22s over the previous government’s purchase of 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornets, and question the proposed timing and numbers for the proposed F-35. In the end, the USA refused to sell F-22s to anyone, and Australia bought the F-35A. DID compiles the various arguments and briefings over time, pro and con, from the politicians, DoD, civilian defense experts, the media, et. al.

  • Aviation Week (Feb 8/09) – F-22 Design Shows More Than Expected [dead link]. Summary: Desired radar signature from certain critical angles is -40 dBsm., supercruise at Mach 1.78 rather than Mach 1.5, better acceleration, operation from about 65,000 feet using afterburner, 5% greater range from its APG-77 AESA radar.

  • DID (Oct 24/06) – Supersonic SIGINT: Will F-35, F-22 Also Play EW Role? The F-22’s abilities in this area had been kept under wraps, but emerged as a result of budget lobbying. The F-22 may have latent electronic warfare capabilities out of the box that rival dedicated aircraft like the EA-6B Prowler, and strong eavesdropping and scanning capabilities.

  • Aviation Week (Oct 20/06) – F-22 Maintainers Focus More On Avionics, Less On Engines [dead link]. Good history to date of F-22 maintenance benefits and issues, notes avionics as 70% of the non-stealth maintenance workload.

  • DID (Dec 6/05) – $96.7M for Theory of Constraints & 6-Sigma Support in US Naval Aviation. What is Theory of Constraints, and why is it so powerful? DID explains, and notes the method’s use as part of the F-22 Raptor program, via Critical Chain project management.

  • DID (Oct 18/05) – RAND PAF: Lessons Learned from the F/A-22 and F/A-18 Super Hornet Programs.

  • MIT Lean Aerospace Initiative (March 23/05) – Cost Reduction Task Force Key to Raptor Affordability [HTML Google cache | PDF format, 8.6 MB]

  • US Air War College, Maxwell AFB (June 2003, Paper #30) – The Air Superiority Fighter and Defense Transformation: Why DOD Requirements Demand the F/A-22 Raptor

  • Air University School Of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell AFB (June 2000) – U.S. Military Aircraft For Sale: Crafting an F-22 Export Policy [PDF format]. Excellent discussion of the F-22’s capabilities, as well as potential export issues and the considerations that will influence US policymakers.

  • Crosstalk Journal of Defense Software Engineering, via WayBack (May 2000) – F-22 Software Risk Reduction. The plane’s software is fundamentally based on the VAX system; the article explains why, and notes the modernization challenge ahead.

  • Northrop-Grumman Analysis Center (April 2000) – Analogues of Stealth [PDF]. This paper briefly explores antisubmarine warfare, examines the development and fielding of low-observable “stealth” aircraft and emerging countermeasures, and suggests analogues between past experience with stealthy platforms and countermeasures in the sea and the future of stealthy platforms in the air.

  • Australian Aviation (1999) – Deedle, Deedle, Deedle, BANG! The Paradigm Shift in Air Superiority. Discusses the evolution of missiles, how this has affected aircraft design, and the significance of the F-22’s capabilities against aerial and ground targets.

  • Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine (April 1998) – F-22 Design Evolution. This wasn’t even the end of that evolution, merely the end of the first stage that eliminated the Northrop / General Dynamics’ F-23 Black Widow. The YF-23 was faster and stealthier than the YF-22, but less maneuverable. The Navy reportedly thought it was also less amenable to modification for carrier use, though the NATF program was canceled shortly thereafter in 1991.

  • YouTube – Northrop YF-23 Black Widow II. Very good documentary about the competing YF-23.

News & Views

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

The Rockets’ Red Ink: from EELV to a Competitive Space Launch Future

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 14/05/2015 - 02:38
Boeing Delta IV Heavy
(click to view full)

The EELV program was designed to reduce the cost of government space launches through greater contractor competition, and modifiable rocket families whose system requirements emphasized simplicity, commonality, standardization, new applications of existing technology, streamlined manufacturing capabilities, and more efficient launch-site processing. Result: the Delta IV (Boeing) and Atlas V (Lockheed Martin) heavy rockets.

Paradoxically, that very program may have forced the October 2006 merger of Boeing & Lockheed Martin’s rocket divisions. Crosslink Magazine’s Winter 2004 article “EELV: The Next Stage of Space Launch” offers an excellent briefing that covers EELV’s program innovations and results, while a detailed National Taxpayer’s Union letter to Congress takes a much less positive view. This DID Spotlight article looks at the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, emerging challengers like SpaceX and the new competition framework, and the US government contracts placed since the merger that formed the United Launch Alliance.

The EELV System

When comparing launch vehicles, note that Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) between 1,240 – 22,240 miles above the Earth’s surface is preferred for high-end satellites. It’s much easier to lift objects into Low Earth-orbit (LEO), up to 1,240 miles above the Earth’s surface. On the other hand, your payload’s coverage will suffer, and its lifespan might as well.

A quick primer on reading EELV configurations is in order. “AF” is the US Air Force, while “NRO” is the USA’s National Reconnaissance Office. The numbers after the rocket type represent its payload cover (fairing) diameter, and the number of boosters attached to the core rocket.

For example, in the Atlas models, 501 means a 5m diameter fairing, 0 boosters, and everything always ends with a 1. If we strapped on 4 boosters, it would become an Atlas V 541.

For Boeing’s Delta rockets, the attributes are broken out more clearly: (4,2) means a 4m diameter fairing and 2 boosters. If we switched to a 5m fairing instead, it would become a Delta IV 5,2.

Delta IV Delta rocket family
(click to view full)

The Delta IV’s history dates back to the late 1950s when the US government, responding to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957, contracted for development of the Delta rocket. The first successful Delta launch was NASA’s Echo 1A satellite on Aug 12/60.

Over the years the Delta family of rockets has become larger, more advanced, and capable of carrying heavier satellites into orbit. Design changes included larger first-stage tanks, addition of strap-on solid rocket boosters, increased propellant capacity, an improved main engine, adoption of advanced electronics and guidance systems, and development of upper stage and satellite payload systems.

Following a 1989 contract from the US Air Force for 20 launch vehicles, the newer, more powerful Delta II version emerged. Then, in response to market needs for a larger rocket to launch commercial satellites, Delta III began development in 1995. Its first launch occurred in 1998 and its final launch in 2000, paving the way for the Delta IV.

The Delta IV offers customization options by adding booster rockets, including a Delta IV Heavy that uses 2 additional Common Booster Cores. The Delta IV Heavy has the highest payload rating to Geostationary Transfer Orbit of any American rocket, and also beats the Ariane 5 ECA. It’s expected to stay on top even after SpaceX launches its Falcon Heavy, though the Falcon Heavy will offer greater capacity to Low Earth Orbits.

Delta IV medium-to-heavy launch vehicles became operational in 2002. The first Delta IV launch, of Eutelsat’s W5 commercial satellite, took place on Nov 20/02. The first payload delivered for the EELV program was the DSCS A3 satellite, on March 10/03.

Atlas V Atlas family
(click to view full)

Developed in the late 1950s as the USA’s first operational intercontinental ballistic missile, the Atlas launch vehicle went on to become the first commercial ride to space.

The 1990s opened a new chapter in Atlas history with the first commercial satellite launch. The growing demand for satellite entertainment presented new opportunities in the launch business. The Atlas I was developed to serve these needs and to continue the evolution of the Atlas vehicle.

Launched on Dec 7/91 with a Eutelsat satellite on-board, the first Atlas II ushered in a family of Atlas vehicles that would go on to launch many commercial payloads. The Atlas II family of launch vehicles was retired in 2004.

Developed as an evolutionary bridge, the Atlas III launch vehicle, like the I and II before it, debuted by delivering a commercial payload to orbit. First launched on May 24/00, the Atlas III family was retired in 2005. There was no Atlas IV.

The Atlas V launch vehicle comes in 400 and 500 series variants, and made its debut on Aug 21/02. It uses the Russian RD-180 rocket engine, which has become a problem as tensions between the USA and Russia have reignited. Like the Delta IV, each rocket can be customized by adding boosters, in order to launch heavier payloads. Atlas V can also rise from 1 to 2 Centaur second-stage engines, in the XX2 configuration.

The Atlas V has been used to launch several NASA missions, and a July 2011 agreement with NASA began the process of certifying the design for manned missions as well. ULA partnered with Blue Origin, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corp. for NASA’s Commercial Crew program, and Boeing was 1 of the 2 final winners, which helps to ensure additional orders down the road.

Military Satellite Payloads AEHF concept
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A rocket’s key specifications involve how much it can lift to various orbits, and the US military pushed for the EELV program in part to expand that range. There’s controversy over the military’s success in meeting other goals, but lift and range have clearly improved.

EELV rockets are currently being used to launch satellites for a number of the major military satellite programs, including:

  • Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communication satellites that will support twice as many tactical networks, while providing 10-12 times the capacity and 6 times higher data rate transfer than that of the current Milstar II satellites.

  • Wideband Global SATCOM satellites that will support the USA’s warfighting bandwidth requirements, supporting tactical C4ISR, battle management, and combat support needs.

  • Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High satellites that will provide a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world.

  • GPS IIF navigation satellites that are an upgrade of the original GPS, which is a worldwide timing and navigation system that utilizes a constellation of satellites positioned in orbit approximately 12,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. GPS-III will also launch using EELV rockets, instead of the Delta IIs.

EELV Budgets & Structure Competition Again? The New “Open” Launch Framework SpaceX Falcon
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Emerging competition from privately developed solutions like SpaceX’s Falcon-9 will give NASA and the US military additional options for all kinds of medium-heavy launch projects. EELV itself may even provide competition for NASA. The Delta IV has been considered as an alternative for a manned return to the moon, and a NASA-sponsored report concluded that using a modified Delta IV capable of human spaceflight could save billions of dollars, in place of NASA’s developmental Ares rocket. It would also provide a quickly-fielded solution to the expected gap in US space lift capabilities, now that the Space Shuttle program has ended.

As of July 2012, NASA and the Pentagon intend to pursue separate rocket buys, within a common framework. That framework is a huge departure from past practice, with big long-term implications for EELV.

In October 2011, NASA, the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the US Air Force announced a game-changing development: “certification of commercial providers of launch vehicles used for national security space and civil space missions.” In English: the market for national security launches just opened up beyond EELV, which will have to compete in some segments. That simple change incorporates 4 payload types (A-D), and 3 risk categories (1-3), where 3 is lowest risk. It’s both more, and less, than it seems.

For high-value “Class A, failure is not an option” long-lived national security satellites, whose added presence has a high marginal value to the existing constellation, EELV’s “Category 3″ low-risk certified rockets will remain the only option. Barring a huge national emergency and Presidential orders, A1 or A2 combinations are impossible. At the other extreme, “Class D” payloads could fly on anything, even “Category 1″ launch vehicles classified as high risk or unproven.

Once a new entrant demonstrates a successful launch of an EELV class medium-heavy launch system, the Air Force awards integration studies, and they can begin working toward EELV certification of specified systems and configurations. If no competitor has a certification rating that matches a competed launch, ULA gets a sole-source contract as a pre-priced option.

This framework will help NASA most, but each category now has a specific number of successful launches needed for eligibility, as well as a known set of technical, safety and test data needed to verify that record. Technically, competition exists now. In reality, it will take a while.

On the other hand, the new framework’s flexibility means that every successful launch by a non-EELV platform brings it closer to a new category, which will grant access to a forecastable set of new opportunities. That makes the investment payoff clear, and should spur a long-term sea change toward a number of qualified providers for many of the US government’s launch contracts. The big and obvious potential winner here in SpaceX (vid. May 23/11), whose Falcon 9 is poised to compete in the EELV’s segments once the certification paperwork is done on its 3 qualifying launches. Orbital’s Minotaur family may also benefit at some point.

Going Forward: Block Buys in a Broader EELV Program Delta IV, waiting
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The US military made an EELV multi-year block buy of some kind part of its procurement strategy in November 2011, as an attempt to improve a shaky industrial base and drive costs down. Boeing and Lockheed Martin saw this as their opportunity to push a multi-year deal for 40 ULA rockets and launches from FY 2013 – 2017 inclusive. That would make it much more difficult for other private firms to secure launch orders, regardless of the certification framework, while EELV annual orders nearly doubled to over $2 billion per year.

Their lobbying ended up securing a 35-core block buy from FY 2013 – 2017, but their prices kept rising, and the contract’s exact terms are murky. Note, however, that cores =/= launches. The Pentagon’s FY14 plan involved 29 total launches from FY 2013 – 2017, vs. 45 booster cores. EELV launch services are usually ordered at least 24 months before a planned mission launch, so this multi-year buy actually covers US government missions into FY 2019.

FY 2015 – 2017 was supposed to see the beginnings of competition, with 14 “cores” (about 28%) supposedly open to competition, but there are reports of restrictions in the block buy agreement that essentially remove competition before 2018. Those allegations are now the foundation of a court case involving SpaceX and the USAF.

As of March 2014, SpaceX has completed the required number of successful Falcon 9 certification missions to begin competing for some national security launches. What they don’t have yet is certification, as government employees go over every aspect of their business. The USAF is working hard on this, but SpaceX’s Silicon Valley propensity to keep innovating adds to the challenge of certifying their configurations, even as it helps improve their costs and performance. Their entire approach is a major culture clash with the standard model for space access, explaining SpaceX’s 66%+ cost advantage and better pace of innovation, as well as their solid-but-not bulletproof reliability record. The long-term bet in this race is obvious. In the short-term, it’s a tougher call.

A March 2014 GAO report explained the USAF’s options, which became even more complex after Russia invaded Crimea, and the Atlas V’s dependence on Russian RD-180 engines became a glaring problem:

Contracts & Key Events AEHF-2 launch
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Military satellite launches will be covered in their respective satellite type’s articles. This section will generally be reserved for contracts, but significant military-related launches that are not covered elsewhere on DID may receive a pointer here. We’ll also cover EELV rocket-related issues that delay launches, but not external delays stemming from weather issues, ground equipment, etc.

FY 2014 – 2015

FY 2014 base and production contracts to ULA; GAO repport looks at USAF options; SAR report shows program costs down, but still $67.6 Bn; USAF reduces the number of competed launches; SpaceX meets cert. requirements, claims 75% savings are possible, launches lawsuit to force competition; Europe scrambles to compete with SpaceX; ULA also begins to move, hooking up with Bezos’ Blue Origin; Friction with Russia makes access to Atlas V’s RD-180 engines an issue. Launch, Deliver… Compete?

May 14/15: DefSec Carter and DNI Clapper have urged Congress to allow United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin/Boeing joint venture, to use Russian RD-180 engines for “assured access to space.” If the current law were to change from the current 2015 defense authorization law banning the use of Russian engines in US launches, ULA would be capable of competing for 18 out of 34 competitive launches between 2015 and 2022, versus the current 5 as the law stands, with the Air Force pushing for more launches by the private sector.

Feb 26/15: The Air Force is looking nervously at its capacity to meet the congressionally-mandated deadline of 2019 to stop relying on Russian rocket engines. Air Force Secretary Deborah James told senators on Wednesday that to try to meet the deadline by 2019 would mean exchanging one monopoly franchise for another. Except, of course, it wouldn’t be controlled by Russia, a quality that of late has started to have more and more charm. It was an interesting remark given that the new monopoly in question might be that of SpaceX, the firm that has shown unprecedented speed to development. James indicated a decade was more realistic, which sounds more like the preferred timeframe of the Air Force’s long-time partner United Launch Alliance, which has a good record, but not one for sprightliness.

Feb 3/15: In addition to a new GPS III satellite procurement, the new Air Force budget would pay for five launches, two of which would be “set aside” for competition. This follows the very public recent settlement of a SpaceX protest that the Air Force had deliberately prevented competition when it awarded United Launch Alliance a bevy of launches over many years not long before SpaceX was expected to gain certification to compete. ULA uses Russian engines to loft satellites into orbit, and the new Air Force budget also has a line item to reduce reliance on Russian hardware, although the mechanism for doing so isn’t yet clear.

Jan 26/15: SpaceX has said it will call off the legal dogs on the Air Force. SpaceX sued after the Air Force bundled up a great number of future space launches and pre-contracted for the services without letting SpaceX bid. In an odd sort of settlement, SpaceX will drop its suit, and in return, the Air Force will add more launches that will not necessarily go to the Boeing-Lockheed-led United Launch Alliance consortium. When asked directly this morning an Air Force representative said that there was not a specific number of launches attached to that settlement. The Air Force has also agreed to work toward getting SpaceX certified for launches, although it is unclear if that last aspect is actually part of the settlement, as it is something that wouldn’t be properly withheld. When asked, the Air Force referred back to the single-paragraph statement. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk previously accused an Air Force official of seeking employment from the bidders during the process, an offer SpaceX had refused. That accusation made news at the time (May 2014) partly because of the significance of the contract size, but primarily because it is fairly rare for a contractor to speak of such alleged behavior publicly.

Sept 29/14: United Launch Services LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $127 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 1 Air Force Atlas V 531 (5m fairing, 3 boosters), and the exercise of an option for backlog transportation. It’s a FY 2014 launch vehicle configuration, will all funds committed immediately using FY 2013 and 201 USAF missile budgets.

Work will be performed at Centennial, CO, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, and is expected to be complete by Aug 15/15. USAF Space and Missile Systems, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8811-13-C-0003, PO 0055).

Extra Atlas V ordered

Sept 7/14: ULA & Blue Origin. United Launch Alliance partners with founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to jointly complete development of Blue Origin’s 550,000 pound thrust BE-4 LNG/LOx rocket engine, a fuel choice that helps reduce costs and complexity. The announcement hints at coming consolidation of ULA’s rocket lines.

The BE-4 has been under development at Blue Origin for the last 3 years, and the new joint agreement expects another 4 years of development, with full-scale testing in 2016 and a 1st flight in 2019. They won’t discuss the new engine’s costs, except to say that they expect it will cut costs for customers when 2 BE-4s are used to power ULA’s next-generation rocket. What the new engine won’t do, is fix the Atlas V’s reliance on a Russian engine. ULA’s FAQ says:

“The BE-4 is not a direct replacement for the RD-180 that powers ULA’s Atlas V rocket, however two BE-4s are expected to provide the engine thrust for the next generation ULA vehicles. The details related to ULA’s next generation vehicles – which will maintain the key heritage components of ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets that provide world class mission assurance and reliability – will be announced at a later date.”

The BE-4 will be available to other customers beyond ULA, beginning with Blue Origin itself. If the new CEO (Aug 12/14) was looking to inject a bit of Silicon Valley’s DNA into ULA, in order to compete with SpaceX and lower costs, this is a good start. Sources: Blue Origin, “United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin Announce Partnership to Develop New American Rocket Engine” | ULA, “United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin Announce Partnership to Develop New American Rocket Engine” and FAQ | BE-4 Fact Sheet [PDF].

Sept 16/14: NASA CCiCap. NASA issues its main Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) contracts: up to $4.2 billion to Boeing, which will use the CST-100 on top of the Atlas V, and up to $2.6 billion to SpaceX, which will use its Dragon v2 on top of its own Falcon 9.

SpaceX isn’t certified yet, but by the time flights begin taking place, it will be. Which means that each NASA CCiCap mission will improve production volume, and hence likely prices. Read “NASA’s CCiCap: Can Space Taxis Help the Pentagon?” for full coverage.


Sept 16/14: FY 2015 ELC. Sept 16/14: United Launch Services LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $938.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for FY 2015 EELV Delta IV and Atlas V launch capability. This contract covers mission assurance, program management, systems engineering, integration of the space vehicle with the launch vehicle, launch site and range operations, and launch infrastructure maintenance and sustainment. As one might guess, actual rockets and launches are separate. $231.8 million in FY 2015 USAF missile budgets is committed immediately.

Work will be performed at Littleton, CO; Vandenberg AFB, CA; and Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL, with an expected completion date of Sept 30/15. The USAF Launch Systems Directorate’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8811-13-C-0003, PO 0048).

FY 2015 base (ELC) award

Aug 12/14: ULA Leadership. ULA names Lockheed Martin’s VP and GM of Strategic and Missile Defense Systems, Tory Bruno, as its next President and CEO, effective immediately. He will replace Michael Gass, who has held these roles since ULA’s founding in 2006. Former Boeing executive Daniel Collins will remain COO.

In a separate statement, Gass said he had planned to retire “in the near term” but with “the changing industry landscape over the next several years, the Board of Directors and I have agreed that the immediate appointment of my successor to begin the leadership transition is in the best interest of the company.” Lockheed Martin Space Systems EVP and ULA Board member Rick Ambrose praised Gass’ launch record, and stated that:

“Tory is an ideal leader to take the reins at ULA. He’ll bring the same unwavering commitment to mission success that has been ULA’s hallmark, and will apply his proven track record of driving customer focus, innovation and affordability to shape ULA’s future.”

It would seem that ULA is beginning to take the prospect of competition with SpaceX et. al. seriously. Sources: ULA, “United Launch Alliance Names Tory Bruno President and Chief Executive Officer” | Space News, ” United Launch Alliance Taps a Lockheed Executive To Replace CEO Gass”.

Aug 4/14: SpaceX Infrastructure. SpaceX picks a site in Brownsville, TX as its private launch site, beating a location in Shiloh, FL just north of Cape Canaveral. They plan to stage up to 12 commercial launches a year from there, but the need to steer clear of populated areas forces them into a “keyhole” area between Florida and Cuba that restricts missions to equatorial orbits. “Dogleg” maneuvers could expand the range of orbit allowed, but there’s a performance cost. The good news for SpaceX, who wanted a range clear of NASA or USAF restrictions, is that 3 of 4 SpaceX launches from Cape Canaveral since December 2013 would fit Brownsville’s launch profile.

SpaceX plans to invest $85 million in the site, with another $15.3 million coming from the Texas state government: $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), plus $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. FAA certification will be part of that development, and the Texas government has already made moves to support that. These Texas investments aren’t coming from out of the blue. SpaceX has operated a Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, TX since 2003. It now has over 250 employees, and a TexasOne visit to California in 2011 launched Texas’ bid for this project.

Government missions under contracts like EELV will still be launched from Cape Canaveral, as will some commercial missions. Sources: Governor of Texas, “Gov. Perry Announces State Incentives Bringing SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility, 300 Jobs to the Brownsville Area” | Florida Today, “Despite SpaceX plans, Nelson pushes for Brevard launches” | Space Politics, “As Texas celebrates winning SpaceX spaceport, Florida regroups”.

July 17/14: Political. The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a $489.6 billion base FY 2015 budget, plus $59.7 billion in supplemental funding. The issue of launch infrastructure, which is currently an almost $1 billion per year award to ULA, gets a small but interesting twist:

“The Committee believes additional competition can be achieved by creating new opportunities within the United States launch infrastructure, including commercial and State-owned launch facilities. Increasing the capability and number of launch facilities helps to ensure our Nation’s ability to launch priority space assets. Therefore, to promote competition at launch facilities, $7,000,000 is provided to spaceports or launch and range complexes that are commercially licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and receive funding from the local or State government. These funds shall be used to develop the capacity to provide mid-to-low inclination orbits or polar-to-high inclination orbits in support of the national security space program.”

At the same time, however, the SAC directs the USAF to dispose of DSP-20, rather than storing a $500 million satellite for $425 million until its planned 2020 launch. It also votes to add $125 million for a competed EELV launch order in FY 2015, which could help the USAF kill 2 problems with one launch (q.v. July 10-15/14). Note that the FY 2015 budget still has to be voted on in the whole Senate, then reconciled in committee with the House of Representatives’ defense budget, then signed into law by the President. There is no guarantee that this provision will survive. Sources: US Senate Committee on Appropriations, “Committee Approves FY 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill – Report: Department of Defense”.

July 16/14: Disclosure. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the Senate Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hold a joint hearing titled, “Options for Assuring Domestic Space Access.” There’s a lot of back-and-forth on a number of issues, including requests from representatives in ULA strongholds of Alabama and Colorado:

“In the interest of full disclosure and accountability to the American taxpayer, we request that NASA publicly release all anomalies and mishap information, un-redacted, so that Congress can gain a better understanding of what has occurred and ensure full transparency”…. They also ask for information “on the various aspects of risk and reliability with these programs” and the agency’s “understanding of the specific technical issues, failures and resulting consequences for ISS.”

That’s trickier than it seems. Export control restriction may prevent unredacted reports, Elon Musk says that no government funding was used to develop Falcon 9, and the SpaceX contracts were carefully set out for cargo services rather than launch vehicles. See also: Space Politics, “House members press NASA for information on “epidemic of anomalies” with SpaceX missions” and “Senators debate RD-180 replacement, EELV competition”.

July 10-15/14: DSP-20 to compete. The USAF got some pushback about the ULA block buy at the House Armed Services Committee hearings on July 10th. USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James is telling reporters that they’re looking to reprogram $100 million, and move the DMSP-20 weather satellite launch into FY 2015 as a competed contract. That would raise the number of purchased FY 2015 launches to 6, but the amount committed strongly suggests that SpaceX would win the deal. Sources: DID, “FY15 US Defense Budget Finally Complete with War Funding” | DoD Buzz, “Air Force Seeks $100 Million for Rocket Rivalry” | Space Politics, “DOD official defends EELV block buy, endorses launch competition”.

July 15/14: SpaceX. USAF Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center has declared that SpaceX’s Dec 3/13 and Jan 6/14 flights qualify toward EELV certification, completing the Falcon 9 v1.1’s 3-flight requirement. The rocket must still pass a number of technical reviews, audits and independent verification and validation of the launch vehicle, ground systems, and manufacturing processes before EELV certification is complete. Sources: USAF, “SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 Flights Deemed Successful”.

July 10/14: Competition. The ripples of competition are extending beyond the USA. Europe, at least, is taking the competition extremely seriously:

“In June, it became obvious that Europe has made a major collective error, underestimating SpaceX’s capability to successfully market commercial launches at a fraction of Ariane’s costs. Today everyone is trying hard to maximize the impact of an Airbus Group-Safran initiative to form a joint venture and take control of the Ariane program. Jointly, the two groups own two-thirds of the heavy-lift booster and this is most probably just the beginning of a far-reaching consolidation strategy…. In other words, Ariane, despite an excellent reliability record, suddenly appears too complex and far too expensive…. In June, Genevieve Fioraso, the French minister in charge of space, candidly admitted the looming U.S. competition had been underestimated…. Now will come technical disagreements, such as solid propulsion versus liquid fuel…. the upgraded 5ME derivative and the envisioned next-generation Ariane 6. Divergent views on technicalities are expected to make discussions difficult…. The wake-up call is salutary, but devastating.”

They probably underestimated the threat because they focused on the American competitor most like themselves, believing that there wasn’t really any other way to perform this role. There’s a lesson for the whole industry there. Sources: Aviation Week, “Opinion: Arianespace Facing Shake-Up To Compete With SpaceX”.

July 4/14: ULA. ULA is the top aerospace company in Denver, so the locals are understandably concerned about the firm’s viability in light of competition from SpaceX, and a potential squeeze from Russian rocket engines. So, how is ULA reacting? By focusing on their reliability record, and ability at the top-end geosynchronous delivery missions:

“Michael Gass, CEO of ULA [says]…. ULA’s best strategy to keep winning business is to remain the most advanced and reliable rocket-launch company in the world…. “If a new entrant only wants to do a few of the missions and only has capability to cherry-pick a few, that’s not fair and level competition,” Gass said.”

USAF Space Command head Gen. William Shelton has his own take:

“Generally, the person you want to do business with you don’t sue…. Show me an interplanetary mission from NASA that’s contracted with SpaceX – that’s not what they’ve contracted,” he said. “Basically they’ve contracted commercial resupply with SpaceX. It is not putting my most precious assets on top of that rocket and launching it.”

Valid points. The downside of this approach for ULA is that a disruptive innovator who eventually hits a similar effectiveness level will destroy a “business as usual” incumbent. If Falcon Heavy succeeds, ULA will have a serious problem. Sources: Upstart Business Journal (Denver), “Rocket war involving SpaceX upends the space-launch business”.

June 3-5/14: New engine? Aviation Week quotes Gencorp President & CEO Scott Seymour, who says that their Aerojet Rocketdyne subsidiary has spent roughly $300 million working on technologies that will feed into a new AR-1 liquid oxygen/ kerosene booster engine with 500,000+ pounds of thrust, to replace Russia’s RD-180. Hoped-for costs would be about $25 million per pair. He also estimated that finishing development would take about 4 years and cost $800 million – $1 billion.

Gencorp hopes to recoup their investment by getting government funding for the remaining development work, and by fostering AR-1 use on multiple platforms. Their targets include the ULA’s Atlas V, Orbital’s Antares, “and, possibly, Space Exploration Technology’s Falcon 9 v1.1.” SpaceX uses a vertical integration philosophy, so they’d be a very tough sell. On the other hand, the Merlin engines used by SpaceX aren’t seen as an ideal solution for boosts to geosynchronous transfer orbit, and they don’t provide a high-energy upper stage. SpaceX has managed GTO launches, and they will need to prove the doubters wrong re: capacity at higher orbits with the forthcoming Falcon Heavy, which requires 27 of their Merlin 1D engines.

Meanwhile, if the government wants a new engine, why not compete the development phase? Sources: Aviation Week, “Aerojet Rocketdyne Targets $25 Million Per Pair For AR-1 Engines” | Lexington Institute, “Aerojet Rocketdyne Lays Down Challenge To Russian Rocket Engine Monopoly”.

June 2/14: ULA’s argument. The Lexington Institute, which counts Boeing and Lockheed Martin as funders, makes the case for the ULA block buy. Loren Thompson elides the issue of the latest block-buy agreement removing announced competition, which is a huge hole in his argument, but it isn’t one he can address without inside information. Beyond that, he does make some valid points:

“The Air Force says it has dedicated $60 million and 100 personnel to getting all the steps accomplished expeditiously…. [EELV hasn’t] had an unsuccessful mission in 70 attempts, whereas SpaceX has seen several failures in less than a dozen launches. During the Obama Administration, the launch alliance has met its schedule objectives for when launches occur 87% of the time, while the corresponding figure for SpaceX is 29%…. the Falcon 9 rockets that SpaceX currently uses as its main launch vehicle are severely limited in terms of what kinds of payloads they can loft into which orbits….[and are] also hobbled by the lack of a high-energy upper stage…. According to [HASC Chair Mike] Rogers, various SpaceX missions have delivered a satellite into a suboptimal orbit, experienced multiple spacecraft thruster failures, or failed to successfully achieve a planned second-stage relight…. SpaceX has sought to correct all of the glitches it encountered….. [but] when a company keeps altering the configuration of its launch vehicles… it becomes unclear as to precisely what is being certified.”

Sources: Forbes Magazine, “SpaceX Versus The Air Force: The Other Side Of The Story”.

May 23/14: New engine? The Senate Armed Services Committee inserts an initial $100 million in funding into the FY 2015 defense bill, in order to begin developing an American rocket engine that can replace the oxygen-rich, staged combustion performance of the Russian RD-180. Sources: Gizmodo, “A Senate Panel Just Set Aside $100 Million To Build a Putin-Free Rocket” | Phys Org, “US Senate panel budgets $100 mn for non-Russian rocket”.

May 22/14: Twitter Accusation. Elon Musk’s Twitter account fires a shot at former USAF PEO Space launch Scott Correll, who negotiated ULA’s block contract and is now at Aerojet-Rocketdyne as VP Government Acquisition and Policy:

“Air Force official awards $10B+ contract uncompeted & then takes lucrative job w funds recipient [DID: link]”

“V likely AF official Correll was told by ULA/Rocketdyne that a rich VP job was his if he gave them a sole source contract”

“Reason I believe this is likely is that Correll first tried to work at SpaceX, but we turned him down. Our competitor, it seems, did not.”

“Either way, this case certainly deserves close examination by the DoD Inspector General per @SenJohnMcCain’s request [DID: link]”

SpaceX had made the point in a less directly accusatory way as item 106 in its original legal brief, but retreated even further to an arm’s length statement in their amended legal filing of May 19th (q.v. May 19/14), citing the same National Legal and Policy Center NGO article noted in Musk’s Tweet. Musk’s Twitter volley more then negates any defensive legal benefits of that soft-pedaling. It’s an extremely serious accusation – people have gone to jail for this, which is why Correll’s hiring about a year after the contract’s signing was cleared through the USAF General Counsel.

It’s also logically obvious that trying to work at SpaceX after awarding the block-buy would destroy the idea that the ULA contract was a quid pro quo. Legally, SpaceX had better have some proof that Correll solicited a job with them before he left the USAF, or there’s probably a defamation suit in Musk’s future. One wonders if triggering a defamation suit is the point here, given the additional opportunities it would give SpaceX for legal discovery procedures. Sources: elonmusk@Twitter, Tweet 1 | Tweet 2 | Tweet 3 | Tweet 4 || | Business Insider, “SpaceX’s Dispute With The Air Force Just Got Even Uglier” and “Elon Musk Isn’t Backing Off Some Of His Most Serious Accusations Against The Air Force” | Spaceflight Insider, “Elon Musk suggests former USAF officer got Aerojet Rocketdyne position for sole source contract with ULA.”

May 21/14: Mitchell Report. SpaceNews obtains a summary of the Aerospace Corp. report authored by USAF Maj. Gen. Mitch Mitchell (ret.), and describes scenarios ranging from 9 missions/ 2 years avg. delay/ $2.5 billion cost to 31 missions/ 3.5 years avg./ $5 billion:

“…a bleak outlook for the American launch landscape without the RD-180 engine…. losing the RD-180… would delay as many as 31 missions, costing the United States as much as $5 billion…. The report says 38 Atlas 5 missions are on the manifest, but United Launch Alliance and RD-Amross have only 16 RD-180 engines on hand. That number is expected to shrink to 15 on May 22 with the launch of a National Reconnaissance mission.”

Sources: Space News, “Losing Access to RD-180 Engine Would Prove Costly, Pentagon Panel Warns”.

May 19/14: SpaceX suit. SpaceX amends its original suit in Federal District Court. The overall suit sets out their core rationale. SpaceX claims that the USAF changed the rules for eligibility mid-stride, bent its own rules to remove planned competitive launches, locked in a contract with secret terms that further restrict competition, and will cost the USA more than $6 billion over just 3 years. Read “Sued from Orbit: SpaceX and the EELV Contract” for full coverage.

May 13/14: Russian block? Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin unleases his Twitter diplomatic notes of Doom (SM) once more:

“Russia is ready to continue deliveries of RD-180 engines to the US only under the guarantee that they won’t be used in the interests of the Pentagon.”

That choice of words rules out fears that Russia would stop delivering US astronauts to the International Space Station, but a subsequent tweet says that will also end after the agreement expires in 2020. A release from ULA says this is all SpaceX’s fault, adding that a 2-year inventory of RD-180 engines (see also May 21/14 entry) should help cushion the blow:

“United Launch Alliance (ULA) and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions…. We are hopeful that our two nations will engage in productive conversations over the coming months that will resolve the matter quickly…. [but we] have always prepared contingency plans in the event of a supply disruption…. We also maintain a two-year inventory of engines to enable a smooth transition to our other rocket, Delta, which has all U.S.-produced rocket engines.”

Sources: Twitter @DRogozin, re: RD-180s and re: ISS | ULA, “ULA Statement Regarding Reports of Russian Engine Restrictions” | Washington Post, “Feud between SpaceX and ULA over space contract grows more intense”.

April 25-29/14: SpaceX sues. SpaceX files a formal legal challenge to the USAF’s long-term, sole-source, 36-core EELV contract with ULA (q.v. Dec 16/13). Their release says that EELV is 58.4% above initially estimated costs on each launch, and estimate cost savings of 75% from each SpaceX launch. More to the point, however, they allege that the block-buy deal, which has not been made public, contained clauses that negated the government’s promise of open competition before 2018.

The SpaceX releases also cite The Atlas V’s Russian RD-180 engine, produced by state-owned NPO Energomash, which is overseen by Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in charge of defense industry Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin is best known to the world as the guy who mocks other world leaders on Twitter when they criticize his government, and he had personal sanctions placed on him by the US government in March 2014. Read “Sued from Orbit: SpaceX and the EELV Contract” for full coverage.

SpaceX sues for competition

April 25/14: Politics. Concurrent with the lawsuit filed by SpaceX, Sen. McCain [R-AZ] is taking actions of his own:

“The first letter is to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James requesting additional information about her recent testimony regarding the EELV program before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 10, 2014, and conveying concern about the apparently incomplete and incorrect nature [DID: emphasis ours] of some of that testimony. The second letter is to the Department of Defense Inspector General Jon T. Rymer requesting that his office investigate recent developments regarding the EELV program.”

Sources: Sen. McCain’s office, “Senator Mccain Seeks Information On Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (Eelv) Program”.

April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. The EELV is mentioned, due to significant cost changes:

“Program costs decreased $3,062.7 million (-4.3%) from $70,685.1 million to $67,622.4 million, due primarily to savings realized in the negotiation and award of the new 2013-2017 Phase 1 contract (-$3,770.7 million), revised cost assumptions based on the negotiated contract (-$1,511.5 million), and net decreases from a change in launch vehicle configuration requirements (-$411.3 million). These decreases were partially offset by a quantity increase of 11 launch services from 151 to 162 (+$2,505.0 million).

With that said, it’s worth asking just how much can be saved by opening the process fully to competition (q.v. March 5/14). SpaceX hasn’t been formally certified yet, and it will be interesting to see what changes once that happens.

Cost Reduction

March 12/14: GAO Report. GAO releases GAO-14-382T, “Acquisition Management Continues to Improve but Challenges Persist for Current and Future Programs.” Regarding EELV:

“In December 2013, DOD signed a contract modification with ULA to purchase 35 launch vehicle booster cores over a 5-year period, 2013- 2017, and the associated capability to launch them. According to the Air Force, this contracting strategy saved $4.4 billion over the predicted program cost in the fiscal year 2012 budget [DID: but see March 5/14 entry].

….DOD expects to issue a draft request for proposal for the first of the competitive missions, where the method for evaluating and comparing proposals will be explained, in the spring of 2014…. The planned competition for launch services may have helped DOD negotiate the lower prices it achieved in its December 2013 contract modification, and DOD could see further savings if a robust domestic launch market materializes. DOD noted in its 2014 President’s Budget submission for EELV that after the current contract with ULA has ended, it plans to have a full and open competition for national security space launches. Cost savings on launches, as long as they do not come with a reduction in mission successes, would greatly benefit DOD, and allow the department to put funding previously needed for launches into programs in the development phases to ensure they are adequately resourced.”

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. In the EELV’s detailed budget briefings, which are split between ELC launch capability and ELV launch vehicles, the USAF has this to say about ongoing competition:

“The number of competitive launch opportunities from FY15-17 changed from 14 to 7 due to launch manifest changes. If competition is not viable at the time of need, missions will be awarded to the incumbent. The Air Force plans to compete all launch service procurements beginning in FY18, if there is more than one certified provider.”

EELV Hearings

March 5/14: Politics. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is one of several individuals giving testimony to the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Defense Subcommittee. It’s a wide-ranging hearing, covering the realities of planning and running national security launches, the ELS infrastructure contract’s rationale as national security emergency launch insurance, the prospect of creating segmented monopolies, etc. Musk’s basic message is that once competition is possible, every launch should be competed on a firm fixed-price basis, and ULA’s $1 billion per year subsidy should be removed. His firm isn’t certified for national security launches yet, but he hopes that a very involved and intrusive process involving over 300 government officials will be done by year-end. Key excerpts:

“I commend the United Launch Alliance (ULA) on its launch successes to date. However, year after year, ULA has increased its prices…. In FY13 the Air Force paid on average in excess of $380 million for each national security launch, while subsidizing ULA’s fixed costs to the tune of more than $1 billion per year…. By contrast, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 price for an EELV mission is well under $100M… and SpaceX seeks no subsidies…. had SpaceX been awarded the missions ULA received under its recent non-competed 36 core block buy, we would have saved the taxpayer $11.6 billion…. now we have serious concerns that it may not be the case that 5 missions [planned outside the block buy] will be openly competed [in FY15]…. To be clear, every mission capable of being launched by qualified new entrants should be competed this year and every year moving forward…. Consistent with federal procurement regulations and DOD acquisition directives, when a competitive environment exists, the Government should utilize firm, fixed-price, FAR Part 12 contracts that properly incent contractors to deliver on-time and on-budget. That also means eliminating $1 billion subsidies to the incumbent, as those subsidies create an extremely unequal playing field.”

Air Force data that wasn’t public until the GAO’s report yesterday (q.v. March 4/14) show $2.247 billion in FY13 funding for 11 launches from all EELV customers, which works out to $204 million per launch. The comparison may not be exact – either way, ULA’s problem is that they’re unlikely to be able to compete with SpaceX on a level playing field, now that SpaceX has refined rockets whose significantly lower costs are a product of hardware research & design. The GAO has explained (q.v. March 4/14) why pure fixed-price competition is best for SpaceX, but the implications go farther. ULA’s problem isn’t just competitive, it’s existential. Firm-fixed price competition for every launch, under a structure that eliminated byzantine cost-reporting systems, could turn ULA into a sharply-downsized bit player very quickly.

To survive, ULA has 3 options: (1) Hope that lobbying funds can deliver them contracts by skewing competitive structures, and limiting competition, regardless of costs to the government, even as military budgets shrink; (2) Deliver new designs with different cost points, soon, thanks to major, fast-moving and wide-ranging internal design efforts that are already underway; (3) Hope that future accidents force SpaceX into a lesser launch status, and force Falcon redesigns with higher costs. Just to make things really interesting, and highlight the need for #2, Musk’s testimony makes a pointed reference to the Atlas V’s Russian engine. If supplies depend on President Putin’s permission, the Atlas V cannot possibly be described as providing “assured access to space.”

Competition options
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March 4/14: GAO Report. The GAO releases GAO-14-377R, “The Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Competitive Procurement”. The period from 2002 – 2013 has seen a total of $18.974 billion spent on 55 military and government launches, and the GAO places the total for EELV-type space launches to 2030 at an astonishing $70 billion. They also look at potential competition structures, which is a critical question. There are outside indications that the federal government could save up to half of its costs, as well as risks that the wrong acquisition policy could entrench existing or new monopolies. What’s the right thing to do? The GAO’s competition structure chart is reproduced here.

The GAO also covers significant changes in the EELV contract structure. Projected escalations in EELV costs were so high that they forced a new acquisition strategy in 2011, and the Pentagon & NRO’s homework included both intrusive and detailed pricing data for ULA rocket components, and scrutiny of the government’s own launch processes. A June 2013 contract for 35 cores was finalized in December 2013, leveraging insights gained to improve government bargaining, combining the 2 previous launch & infrastructure contracts into 1 framework (but 2 budget lines), and creating a touted $4.4 billion in relative savings, according to the USAF. Even so, nailing down exact costs per launch remains tricky, because about 75% of cost-reimbursement items still aren’t broken out per launch. Other key excerpts:

“…DOD officials say the administrative burden of renegotiating every year will be substantially lessened due to the new contract’s simplified structure…. ULA periodically sells launch services to customers outside of the EELV program, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and to commercial customers. Because DOD pays for ULA’s fixed costs, DOD receives compensation… on a per-launch basis for launches ULA sells to non-DOD customers. Prior to the December 2013 contract modification, compensation amounts were loosely based on an average of 30 days of launch pad use… DOD was reimbursed through price reductions on ULA invoices submitted to DOD at the end of the fiscal year. Under the new contract, compensation is based on some actual costs, including factory support and direct labor hours, and is approximately three times the dollar amount per-launch of reimbursements under previous contracts.”

As for the new competition regime, which is expected to start in FY15, it’s worth noting that some of the questions involve the byzantine reporting systems demanded by cost-reimbursement approaches. ULA had to install them, raising their costs and lowering corporate flexibility. SpaceX hasn’t, and a firm-fixed price per launch cost wouldn’t force them to. The US government may move to systems that would force such systems on SpaceX, despite firm-fixed costs half as much as ULA’s. Cost alone won’t be the decider, either:

“DOD officials told us they intend to use a best value approach in evaluating proposals from all competitors… may also consider mission risk, taking past performance into account, and satellite vehicle integration risks…. DOD is currently developing its methodology for comparing launch proposals, including establishing how proposals are to be structured, and what the specific evaluation criteria will be…. “

Jan 6/14: SpaceX. SpaceX launches the THAICOM 6 satellite from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40. It’s a successful launch that reaches a targeted 295 x 90,000 km geosynchronous transfer orbit at 22.5 degrees inclination.

More to the point, it’s the 3rd of 3 required certification flights for EELV qualification. Looks like there’s going to be a new competitor in town. Until then, the company says that “SpaceX has nearly 50 launches on manifest, of which over 60% are for commercial customers.” In case anyone was still wondering, ULA and Airbus Defence & Space have a serious competitor on their hands. Sources: SpaceX, “SpaceX Successfully Launches Thaicom 6 Satellite To Geostationary Transfer Orbit”.

Dec 16/13: FY14 Production. United Launch Services LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $530.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, which finalizes the multi-year FY 2014 – 2017 contract, and sets the FY 2014 buy (q.v. June 16/13, Oct 18/13: TL $2.558 billion). Which may explain why $679 million in FY 2014 funds can be committed immediately.

Recall that the FY 2014 budget (q.v. April 10/13) begins a split between EELV Launch Capability (ELC) and Launch Services (ELS). This is the ELC award. ULA will produce the following configurations: Air Force Atlas V 501, Air Force Atlas V 511, Air Force Delta IV 4,2, Air Force Delta IV 5,4, and a National Reconnaissance Organization Delta IV Heavy. Orders for FY 2015 – 2017 will have to be exercised separately.

Work will be performed at Centennial, CO; Vandenberg AFB, CA; and Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL, and is expected to be complete by Q2 2018. The USAF’s Launch Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8811-13-C-0003, PZ0001).

ULA Rockets bought, Block buy finalized

Dec 3/13: SpaceX. SpaceX successfully launches a civil SES satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. SES-8 is the Falcon 9’s 1st GTO launch, the 1st commercial flight from Cape Canaveral in over 4 years… and the 2nd of 3 certification flights needed to certify the Falcon 9 to fly EELV national security missions. Sources: SpaceX, “SpaceX Successfully Completes First Mission to Geostationary Transfer Orbit”.

SpaceX SES-8 to GTO

Oct 18/13: FY 2014 ELC. United Launch Services LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $939.1 million sole-source contract modification covering FY 2014 support work, including integration of the space vehicle with the launch vehicle mission assurance, program management, systems engineering, launch site and range operations, and maintaining the launch infrastructure. The contract’s structure is cost-plus-incentive-fee, with cost-plus-fixed-fee and firm-fixed-price contract line items.

$294.3 million is committed immediately. Recall that the FY 2014 budget (q.v. April 10/13) begins a split between EELV Launch Capability (ELC) and Launch Services (ELS).

Work will be performed at Littleton, CO, Vandenberg AFB, CA, and Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL and will run until fiscal year end on Sept 30/14. The USAF Launch Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8811-13-C-0003, PO 0002).

FY 2014 ULA base (ELC) award

FY 2013

Major program changes: Multi-year block buy is a huge windfall to ULA, but opens 28% of EELV to competitors; SpaceX begins Falcon 9 certification process. Falcon Heavy
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June 26/13: United Launch Services LLC in Littleton, CO receives a maximum $1.088 billion sole-source letter contract for “production services in support of” 7 launch rockets: AF Atlas V 401; AF Atlas V 501; AF Delta IV 4,2; AF Delta IV 5,4; NRO Atlas 401; NRO Atlas 541; and a NRO Delta IV 5,2. $525 million in FY13 funds is committed immediately.

A quick primer on reading these configurations is in order. “AF” is the US Air Force, while “NRO” is the USA’s National Reconnaissance Office. The numbers after the rocket type represent its payload cover (fairing) diameter, and the number of boosters attached to the core rocket. In the Atlas models, 501 means a 5m fairing, 0 boosters, and everything ends with a 1. If we strapped on 4 boosters, it would become an Atlas V 541. For Boeing’s Delta rockets, the attributes are broken out more clearly: (4,2) means a 4m fairing and 2 boosters. When we use a 5m fairing instead, it becomes a Delta IV 5,2.

Work will be performed at Centennial, CO, and is expected to be complete by 2015. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Systems Directorate at Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8811-13-C-0003).

ULA Rockets bought

June 11/13: SpaceX. The USAF’s Space and Missile Systems Center signs a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with SpaceX, to begin certifying Falcon 9 v1.1 for National Security Space (NSS) missions according to the New Entrant Certification Guide (NECG).

The NECG process will monitor at least 3 certification flights, after looking at the Falcon 9 v1.1’s flight history, vehicle design, reliability, process maturity, safety systems, manufacturing and operations, systems engineering, risk management and launch facilities. The CRADA will be in effect until all certification activities are complete, and the USAF has made a decision. USAF SMC.

May 24/13: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/12 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF] describes and costs out the major shifts underway (vid. April 10/13):

“Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) – Program costs increased $35,717.0 million (+102.1%) from $34,968.1 million to $70,685.1 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 60 launch services from 91 to 151 launch services (+$16,040.5 million) resulting from an extension of the launch manifest from FY 2018 to FY 2028 and the program life extension from FY 2020 to FY 2030 that was directed in Space Command’s Strategic Master Plan (+$20,987.5 million). These increases incorporate cost saving methodologies implemented in the revised contracting strategy, to include incentivizing the contractor, enabling the government to implement cost cutting initiatives during technical evaluations and contract negotiations, improving insight into the contractors’ costs, and enforcing better cost management. These increases were partially offset by cost savings realized in the FY 2014 President’s Budget Future Years Defense Program due to a revised acquisition strategy and other initiatives (-$1,671.6 million).”

SAR – big program changes

April 10/13: FY14 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.

This budget describes major changes in the EELV program, whose components have been moving into place for a couple of years now. These changes include the use of the Open Launch Framework to compete almost 30% of planned launched through FY 2017, as described above. In addition, beginning with the FY 2015 budget submission, EELV Launch Services (ELS) and EELV Launch Capability (ELC) support will become separate budget lines.

Major shifts for EELV

Dec 5/12: SpaceX. SpaceX announces that USAF Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded them 2 “EELV-class” missions. DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) is slated for launch by a Falcon 9 in late 2014, while STP-2 (Space Test Program 2) would be launched aboard a Falcon Heavy in mid-2015. The Falcon Heavy launch is significant, as the rocket hasn’t flown yet, but SpaceX also says that “the awards mark the first EELV-class missions awarded to the company to date.”

Both missions fall under Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3), and aren’t directly part of EELV. OSP-3 is its own contract for small and medium-class military payloads. Orbital Science’s Minotaur rockets had been the staples for those missions, but they’re going to have more competition now. OSP-3 is also partly designed to provide new entrants an opportunity to demonstrate their vehicle capabilities, as part of the path to EELV certification. These 2 SpaceX missions are expected to launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. Sources: SpaceX, “SpaceX Awarded Two EELV-Class Missions From The United States Air Force” | Aerospace Blog, “SpaceX Bests Orbital Sciences In First OSP-3 Duels”.

FY 2012

Certification framework opens EELV to competition; Launch contracts; Boeing sues for pre-ULA costs; NASA’s CCiCap a boost to ULA and competitors. Dream Chaser & Atlas V
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Sept 28/12: FY 2013. United Launch Services in Littleton, CO receives a $1.168 billion cost plus incentive fee and cost plus fixed fee contract for 4 Delta IV and Atlas V launches.

Work will be performed in Littleton, CO, and the contract will run through FY 2013 to Sept 30/13. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8811-13-C-0001).

Aug 3/12: NASA CCiCap. NASA issues about $1 billion in contracts under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program. These “space taxis” will rely on heavy-lift rockets to make it into space, and 2 of the 3 winning entries have picked Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V, which was the subject of a ULA-NASA agreement in July 2011. That’s good news for the Atlas industrial base, and for the Pentagon. Seven firms entered, and the 3 winners are:

Boeing in Houston, TX – $460 million for their CST-1000 capsule, which will launch using Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V.

Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville, CO – $212.5 million for their Dream Chaser space plane, an evolution of a NASA’s former HL-20 test vehicle that’s boosted into orbit on an Atlas V.

SpaceX in Hawthorne, CA – $440 million for a manned version of the Dragon capsule that recently docked at the International Space Station. They will continue to use their own Falcon 9 booster. Read “NASA’s CCiCap: Can Space Taxis Help the Pentagon?” for full coverage.


July 26/12: GAO report & EELV plans. The US GAO releases “Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: DOD Is Addressing Knowledge Gaps in Its New Acquisition Strategy.” The Pentagon plans to spend about $19 billion on launch services from FY 2013-2017, and $35 billion through 2030.

The question is how that will be divided up, and the Pentagon hasn’t made a decision about the length or amount of any block buy. They’re trying to get a very clear picture of EELV costs, down to the sub-component level, and won’t decide until they have that. Meanwhile, they plan a FY 2013 EELV bridge buy. The ULA will present its certified block buy pricing proposal later this summer, with price proposals for its Atlas V and Delta IV booster cores to cover different launch quantities across several contract lengths. The Defense Contract Audit Agency will be involved in reviewing contractor and subcontractor proposals and cost or pricing data.

The idea of joint NASA/Pentagon EELV buys is out the window, as DOD and NASA plan to continue to acquire launch vehicles on separate contracts. The GAO thinks the US government isn’t getting as much benefit or leverage as it could, and launch technology R&D is also a concern. Existing R&D programs are receiving minimal funding. Less than $8 million of the roughly $1.7 billion in the FY 2013 EELV budget is R&D, for instance, with no R&D funding budgeted after 2014. This naturally leads to the question of other launch providers, who are working with NASA already and developing new technologies. This excerpt makes it seem like an afterthought, rather than an avidly pursued solution, but time will tell:

“Another assessment that will take place prior to EELV contract award is an evaluation of the potential production capability and technology development status of a new launch provider, and potential competitor of ULA. DOD has authorized an assessment of a launch vehicle provider who may in the future be certified by the Air Force to compete with ULA for EELV-class missions. The assessment is being conducted by retired Air Force personnel with launch expertise. The results of this assessment are expected to be finalized by the end of the fiscal year.”

July 20/12: Atlas V & NASA. The United Launch Alliance has completed a review of its Atlas V rocket to assess its suitability for NASA human spaceflight, under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). NASA provided technical consultation during the ULA’s System Requirements/Design (SRR/ SDR) reviews. This is a follow-on to the July 2011 co-operation agreement between ULA and NASA.

Atlas V was picked because it had already launched numerous satellites and robotic missions into space for NASA, including the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and the Juno probe to Jupiter. That gives it a strong baseline that it doesn’t need to test, but human spaceflight is a step beyond that. ULA has partnered to launch Boeing’s CST-100 capsule, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spaceplane, and Blue Origin’s Space Vehicle on missions to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. NASA | ULA.

July 20/12: We Sue. Boeing is suing the USAF for $385 million, to recover “legitimate, allowable costs of the Delta IV program that Boeing incurred prior to the creation of ULA in 2006.” Boeing and the ULA filed the joint complaint on June 14/12 “to preserve their rights to recover these costs,” since ULA is the legal “successor-in-interest” to the relevant contracts and agreements.

This isn’t a surprise to the USAF. Boeing reportedly made the recovery of those costs a condition of accepting the EELV restructuring and joining ULA, back in 2006. Reuters.

May 14/12: United Launch Services, LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $398 million firm-fixed-price contract for an Atlas V EELV launch carrying the narrowband MUOS-4 communications satellite, and a Delta IV EELV launch carrying a GPS satellite.

Work will be performed in Decatur, AL, and the contract runs until Nov 30/14. The USAF’s SMC/LRK in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8811-11-C-0001 PO 0018).

March 26/12: The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics redesignates the EELV Program as an Acquisition Category ID (ACAT ID) Major Defense Acquisition Program, and removes it from the “sustainment phase” designation. Source: USN budget documents.

Program shift

Jan 10/12: Launches. United Launch Services, LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $1.516 billion firm-fixed-price contract for Atlas V EELV launch services in support of Defense Meteorological Satellites Program satellite DMSP-19, the narrowband UHF Mobile User Objective System satellite MUOS-3, and 3 National Reconnaissance Office missions. It also buys Delta IV EELV launch services in support of Air Force Space Command-4, 2 GPS satellites, and the DMSP-20 weather satellite.

Work will be performed in Decatur, AL, and the contract runs until June 30/14. The USAF’s SMC/LRK in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8811-11-C-001 PO 0012).

December 2011: Industrial. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics USD (AT&L), Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy office, completes a study of the liquid rocket engine industrial base. It’s part of their efforts to estimate independent cost estimates for 2 EELV engines.

The bad news is that the Space Shuttle had been stabilizing this industrial base, and now it’s gone. Unless military missions get an alternative launch vehicle, these engines are necessary for national security – but all of the liquid rocket engines currently supporting these requirements are associated with EELV. The report provides evidence of instability in the supplier base, and adds that the current lack of design opportunities make it difficult for industry to sustain a skilled workforce for future liquid rocket engine development programs.

The study is used to highlight the need for an EELV block buy, in order to provide certainty for these companies. It could also highlight the need for private alternatives, in order to remove dependence. US GAO.

Nov 28/11: Launch. United Launch Services, LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $150 million unfinalized firm-fixed-price contract, for launch services in support of Wideband Global Satcom satellite F5. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8811-11-C-0001).

Oct 14/11: Competition – and Politics. NASA, the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the US Air Force announce an agreement this week to establish clear criteria for “certification of commercial providers of launch vehicles used for national security space and civil space missions.” In English: the market for national security launches just opened up beyond EELV, which will have to compete in some segments.

For high-value “Class A, failure is not an option” long-lived national security satellites, whose addition has a high marginal value to the existing constellation, EELV’s “Category 3″ low risk certified rockets will remain the only option. There are no A1 or A2 launches, barring a huge national emergency and Presidential orders. At the other extreme, “Class D” payloads could fly on anything, even “Category 1″ launch vehicles classified as high risk or unproven (to keep symmetry, shouldn’t that have been the Cat 3?). This will help NASA most, but each category now has a specific number of successful launches needed for eligibility, as well as a known set of technical, safety and test data needed to verify that record.

The new framework’s flexibility means that every successful launch by non-EELV platforms brings it closer to a new category, which will grant access to a forecastable set of new opportunities. The big and obvious potential winner here in SpaceX (vid. May 23/11), whose Falcon 9 is poised to compete in the EELV’s segments. Orbital’s Minotaur family may also benefit.

In response, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are seeking to close the opened door by pushing a multi-year deal to buy 40 ULA rockets and launches from FY 2013 – 2017 inclusive. This would make it much more difficult for other private firms to secure orders, regardless of the certification framework. The stakes are high. Some estimates see the deal as being worth more than $12 billion, and the ULA’s 2016 budget could grow to around $2.0-2.2 billion, from its current 2011 figure of $1.2 billion. ULA claims that their deal would still leave 20% of the US government launch market up for grabs. SpaceX doubts those projections, and says that it could deliver saving far above the ULA’s advertised 15% – possibly up to $1 billion per year. In response, Congress has asked the GAO to report on this issue. NASA | USAF | Aviation Week | TMC’s Satellite Spotlight | Space News | The Space Review | Washington Post.


FY 2011

Launch contracts; Atlas V for manned spaceflight?; EELV R&D plan to improve engine and replace obsolete parts; Contract type shifting; Hearings showcase SpaceX’s cost advantage over NASA. Lynx XR-5K18 nozzle test
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July 28/11: ULA R&D. United Launch Services in Littleton, CO receives a $34.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to complete the development of the RL10C-1 engine. The RL-10 is the EELV’s upper stage rocket engine, made by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The RL10A-4-2 powers the Atlas V’s upper stage, and the RL10B-2 powers the Delta IV’s upper stage.

The USAF’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Launch and Range Systems Directorate in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8811-11-C-0001).

July 18/11: Atlas V & NASA. The ULA and NASA sign an unfunded Space Act Agreement that will begin certifying the Atlas V for manned spaceflight. Success could make NASA a larger customer, which would make the Pentagon happy too.

NASA gave ULA some minor contracts in 2010, designed to help them develop monitoring systems for the rocket that could feed information to astronauts. Under this next step, ULA will provide Atlas V data to NASA, which is already a customer for Atlas V launches. In turn, NASA will share its human spaceflight experience with ULA, and tell them what it wants in terms of crew transportation system capabilities, and draft certification requirements for the accompanying booster. ULA will provide NASA feedback about those requirements, including providing input on the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of NASA’s proposed certification approach. Eventually, they’ll agree on a certification path, and work toward checking off those requirements. NASA.

June 2011: R&D plan. The EELV program provides a sustainment plan to Congress, identifying required technology and investments to maintain the program’s current capability. From a GAO report:

“The investments identified in the plan include $80 million for the RL10C engine conversion activities, $500 million in non-recurring costs over 5 years to develop a new or evolved upper stage engine, and $100 million each year to sustain and replace avionics, ordnance, ground command, control, and communications, and launch infrastructure. The plan states that due to the limited demand for some types of materials and components for propulsion, avionics, and ordnance systems, which can include complex materials, electronics, and computers, special emphasis must be placed on designing and qualifying new designs to mitigate obsolescence issues. Many of the parts across the systems either have designs that have become obsolete or are no longer produced.”

R&D plan

June 30/11: ULA FY12. United Launch Services in Littleton, CO receives a $1.13 billion cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to cover EELV launch capability, engineering support, program management, launch and range site activities, mission integration, and mission specific design and qualification from July 1/11 through Sept 30/12, the end of the 2012 fiscal year.

This is a change from previous contracts, which were cost-plus award fee- frameworks. The contract includes a mission performance incentive plan, and the change in contract type is intended to encourage the ULA to deliver mission success at a lower cost.

Work will be performed at Littleton, CO, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. $300.4 million has been committed, which includes $187,500 that will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. The SMC/LRK at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8811-11-C-0002).

Contract type shifting

May 23/11: Private competition. Congressional hearings shine a light on an emerging EELV competitor, from the American private sector. Aviation Week says that “SpaceX Might Be Able To Teach NASA A Lesson, after it spends under $400 million to do what experts estimate would have taken NASA around $4 billion. A May 4/11 update from SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk lays out their competitive position:

“I recognize that our prices shatter the historical cost models of government-led developments, but these prices are not arbitrary, premised on capturing a dominant share of the market, or “teaser” rates meant to lure in an eager market only to be increased later. These prices are based on known costs and a demonstrated track record… The price of a standard flight on a Falcon 9 rocket is $54 million… The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in today’s dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station. If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference…

“The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million… The Falcon 9 launch vehicle was developed from a blank sheet to first launch in four and half years for just over $300 million. The Falcon 9 is an EELV class vehicle that generates roughly one million pounds of thrust (four times the maximum thrust of a Boeing 747) and carries more payload to orbit than a Delta IV Medium… The Dragon spacecraft was developed from a blank sheet to the first demonstration flight in just over four years for about $300 million… The Falcon 9/Dragon system, with the addition of a launch escape system, seats and upgraded life support, can carry seven astronauts to orbit, more than double the capacity of the Russian Soyuz, but at less than a third of the price per seat. SpaceX has been profitable every year since 2007, despite dramatic employee growth and major infrastructure and operations investments. We have over 40 flights on manifest representing over $3 billion in revenues.”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Heavy, aims to challenge EELV heavy lift platforms, offering higher payloads and lower costs.

May 6/11: Launches. United Launch Services, LLC in Littleton, CO receives a not-to-exceed $575 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide EELV launch services in support of the following missions: Mobile User Objective Services 2; Wideband Global Satellite Communications 6; and National Reconnaissance Office Launch 65. At this point, $245.25 million has been committed.

Work will be performed in Littleton, CO. The contract is managed by the Space and Missile Systems Center/Launch and Range Systems Directorate, at Los Angeles AFB, CA (FA8811-11-C-0001).

March 31/11: Extension. ULA in Littleton, CO receives a $293 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, to extend the EELV contract by 3 months. Work will be performed at Littleton, CO. The USAF’s Space & Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8816-06-C-0002, P00275).

March 17/11: R&D. ULA and XCOR Aerospace announce successful hot-fire demonstrations of a lighter-weight, lower-cost vacuum nozzle design for liquid-fueled rocket-engines. They used aluminum alloys and innovative manufacturing techniques to create a cheaper nozzle that’s hundreds of pounds lighter, and tested it on a modified Lynx XR-5K18 LOx/Kerosene engine. The nozzle was developed under a 2010 joint risk-reduction program, and aims to create lower cost space launches for ULA, and ULA has now launched a follow-on program with XCOR to develop a liquid oxygen (LOX)/LH2 engine in the 25,000 – 30,000 pound thrust class.

The companies structured their LOX/LH2 engine development program with multiple “go / no-go” decision points and performance milestones, while leaning on XCOR’s small-company environment to achieve fast turnaround and performance. ULA | XCOR.

March 11/11: NROL-37. A Delta IV rocket lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex-37 launch pad at 6:38 p.m. EST, with a National Reconnaissance Office NROL-27 national defense satellite. This is the 4th NRO satellite launch by United Launch Alliance in 6 months: NROL-41 aboard an Atlas V from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) on Sept 20/10; NROL-32 aboard a Delta IV from Cape Canaveral on Nov 21/10 (see entry); and an NROL-49 aboard a Delta IV from VAFB on Jan 20/11. United Launch Alliance release.

Feb 11/11: Budget spikes. WSJ reports that the Obama administration is increasing by 25% the budget projection for the Delta IV and Atlas V heavy lift rockets, reaching $1.8 billion for FY 2012. Over 5 years, that budget line would climb to a total of about $10 billion, a roughly 50% jump from earlier projections.

Dec 20/10: A $101 million contract modification to provide launch services for the NROL-36 mission. At this time, all funds have been committed by the SMC/LRK in El Segundo, CA (FA8816-06-C-0004; P00019).

Dec 2/10: R&D. United Launch Services in Littleton, CO receives a $21.2 million contract modification, adding the “fleet standardization program core effort” to the EELV launch capability contract. At this time, $1.3 million has been committed by the SMC/LRK in El Segundo, CA (FA8816-06-C-0002; P00219).

Dec 1/10: ULA 4th Anniversary. The ULA celebrates its 4th anniversary, which includes 45 launches in its 48 months of operation. 2020 saw the launch of 4 Atlas-V, 1 Delta-II and 3 Delta-IV rockets.


Nov 21/10: NRO satellite. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex-37 launch pad at 5:58 p.m. EST, with a National Reconnaissance Office satellite, which is reported to be the largest spy satellite ever launched. This was the 4th Delta IV launch and the 351st launch overall in the Delta program history. United Launch Alliance release

FY 2010

Extensions, launches, R&D. Atlas V w. AEHF-1
(click to view full)

Sept 24/10: Extension. United Launch Service in Centennial, CO receives a contract modification for up to $461.6 million, exercising an option to extend the EELV contract by 6 months. At this time, $58.5 million has been committed by the SMC LRSW/PK in El Segundo, CA (FA8816-06-C-0002; PO0237).

June 2/10: United Launch Services, LLC in Centennial, CO received a $90.2 million contract which will “provide launch services for a medium-plus lift launch vehicle,” on the National Reconnaissance Office’s Launch 38 mission. Other documents establish that the rocket will be an Atlas V. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the LRSW/PK in El Segundo, CA (FA8816-06-C-0004). See also FedBizOpps solicitation.

March 4/10: GOES launch. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket lifted off from its Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex-37 launch pad at 6:57 p.m. EST, with the 3rd and final GOES weather satellite in the GOES-N series on board. Following a nominal 4 hour, 21-minute flight, the Delta IV successfully deployed the GOES-P spacecraft. GOES-P was scheduled to be placed in its final orbit on March 13 and renamed GOES-15. The multi-mission GOES series of satellites provides NOAA and NASA with data to support weather, solar and space operations, and enables future science improvements in weather prediction and remote sensing. The next-generation GOES satellite program, called GOES-R, is expected to launch its 1st satellite in 2015. United Launch Alliance release | NASA release

Feb 10/10: R&D. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a United Technologies company, announces that it completed the initial step in certifying the RS-68A rocket engine by hot-fire testing the 1st certification engine. The RS-68A is an upgrade of the RS-68, a liquid-hydrogen/ liquid-oxygen booster engine for the Delta IV family of launch vehicles. Each RS-68A engine will provide 702,000 pounds of thrust, or 39,000 more pounds of thrust than the RS-68 engine.

During the hot-fire test at John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the 1st RS-68A certification engine burned for 190 seconds, with operating time split between 102% and 55% power levels. The company will hot-fire test the 1st RS-68A certification engine a minimum of 12 times through February and follow that with a similar series of hot-fire tests on its 2nd certification engine in March and April. Engine design certification review and acceptance of flight readiness are currently planned for July 2010.

Oct 2/09: United Launch Services, a Littleton, CO-based subsidiary of United Launch Alliance, received a $927.7 million contract to provide the FY 2010 EELV launch capability effort for the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Launch and Range Systems Material Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, in El Segundo, CA, manages these contracts (FA8816-06-C-0001, FA8816-06-C-0002, P00149).

FY 2008 – 2009

Program formally extended to 2030; WGS-2 launch scrubbed; Contracts. Delta IV w. WGS-3
(click to view full)

March 17/09: Leak. WGS-2’s launch is scrubbed, when an anomalous leak rate was detected in the Centaur upper stage oxidizer valve. A follow-on review of the time needed to inspect the Atlas V rocket, fix the identified problem and prepare for a rescheduled attempt revealed it could not take place prior to the Delta II launch date on March 24/09, so the schedule will be moved back beyond that. That date was later set for March 31st, but the satellite ended up launching on April 3/09.

Nov 4/08: Lockheed Martin Space Systems received a maximum $27.5 million contract modification, to provide launch services and hardware coverage for the AFSPC-2 mission and to protect the current launch schedule under the Evolved Expendable Launch Capabilities (ELC) contract. This contract modification covers the Atlas V geo-synchronous orbit and the ELC portions of the AFSPC-2 mission. The contract has a required minimum lead time of 24 months to build and deliver a launch vehicle. Delay of this action will adversely impact the launch manifest for a critical national security AFSPC mission and the contractor’s ability to meet its lead time requirements. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Launch and Range Systems Material Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, in El Segundo, CA, manages this contract (FA8816-06-C-0002, Modification P00121).

Oct 17/09: Industrial. Lockheed Martin Space Systems received $19.9 million contract modification to perform supply chain management and technological improvement task to minimize the risk of launch failure by establishing subcontracts with common suppliers and addressing new capabilities to support the upcoming government EELV launches. These projects include lithium ion battery development for flight safety and development of a replacement resin for solid rocket boosters. Any delay in these projects will have detrimental effects to mission capability and schedule. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Launch and Range Systems Material Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, in El Segundo, CA, manages this contract (FA8816-06-C-0002, P00095).

Sept 18/09: R&D. Lockheed Martin Space Systems received a not to exceed $30.7 million contract modification to provide a program for the development and implementation of a Global Position System metric tracking to include a detailed program acquisition/execution plan and Integration Master Schedule supporting a September 2011 initial operational capacity (Atlas configurations) and 2012 (Delta configuration) availability. Identified milestones will be evaluated at the time the individual statements of work are resubmitted. This is an initial study that will lay the foundation for the actual development of the launch requirements. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Launch and Range Systems Material Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, in El Segundo, CA, manages this contract (FA8816-06-C-0002, P00097).

Aug 8/08: Extension. On Feb 12/08, Boeing’s not-to-exceed amount to support the USA’s Delta IV rocket program was raised to $582.3 million, as its contract was extended. The goal was and is to “maintain critical engineering and integration skills and the infrastructure necessary to support the Delta IV Program and our nation’s space assets.” The Delta-IV Heavy rocket, developed under the EELV program, made its first flight on Dec 21/04.

Now the USAF is modifying that cost-plus award fee contract, adding up to $516.1 million to extend the contract to Sept 30/09 (end of FY 2009) and raising the contract’s maximum value to $1.656 billion. In addition, the contract has a $557.1 million option; if exercised, it would extend the contract through FY 2010.

The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Launch and Range Systems Material Wing (LR) at Los Angeles Air Force Base, in El Segundo, CA, manages this contract (FA8816-06-C-0001, P00024).

June 27/08: Extension. The USAF is modifying a cost plus award fee contract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of Littleton, CO for $1.384 billion. The Evolved Expendable Launch Capability (ELC) contract is being modified to cover a number of things. Part of the modification involves continued support for the last 2 months of FY 2008, which are August and September. This procurement will also extend the contract’s period of performance through FY 2009, and incorporate a one year priced option for FY 2010.

Lockheed Martin will provide standard and mission unique integration and development, systems engineering, program management, transportation, and launch and range operations for Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg Air Force Base, as required to launch American space assets. At this time $144.7 million has been obligated. The Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Launch and Range Systems Material Wing in El Segundo, CA manages this contract (FA8816-06-C-0002, P00076).

March 31/08: MUOS-1. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of Littleton, CO receives a modified firm fixed price contract for $124.1 million to purchase EELV launch services and Atlas medium-plus rocket (Atlas 5510) to launch the Mobile Users Objective System (MUOS)-1 Satellite. At this time all funds have been committed (FA8816-06-C-0004, Modification Number P00002).

See also Lockheed Martin’s March 27/08 release “Lockheed Martin Team Achieves Major Milestone On U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System.” With all options exercised, the contract for up to 5 MUOS satellites delivering 3G voice/data transmission has a total potential value of $3.26 billion. The first MUOS satellite along with the associated ground system are scheduled for on-orbit hand over to the US Navy in 2010.

Feb 12/08: Extension. Boeing Launch Services of Huntington Beach, CA received a contract modification that changes the scope of contract #FA8816-06-C-0001/P00011 by adding an additional 4 months to the time period, and $288 million to the not-to-exceed (NTE) amount. This change brings the NTE amount to $582.3 million, and is considered “necessary to maintain uninterrupted support of the Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Capability contract.” At this time, $216 of the additional $288 million has been committed by SMC/LRK at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA (FA8816-06-C-0001, P00017).

Feb 12/08: Extension. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Littleton, CO received a contract modification that changes the scope of contract #FA8816-06-C-0002 by adding an additional 4 months to the time period and $210.4 million to the not-to-exceed (NTE) amount. This change brings the NTE amount to $459.3 million, and is considered “necessary to maintain uninterrupted support of the Atlas-V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Capability contract.” At this time, $157.8 million of the additional $210.4 million has been committed by SMC/LRK at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA (FA8816-06-C-0002, P00075).

Jan 23/08: Boeing Co. of Huntington Beach, CA received a contract for $505.3 million. This contract covers launch services using Delta IV heavy and medium launch vehicles under the EELV program; the rockets will launch the US National Reconnaissance Office’s missions #27, 32, and 49. At this time $252.7 million has already been obligated by the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles CA (FA8811-08-C-0005).

Oct 31/07: The AFSPC’s Routine Spacelift Enabling Concept Document formally extends the EELV Program an additional 10 years, from 2020 through 2030. Source: USN budget documents.


FY 2006 – 2007

Contracts; 1st ULA Atlas V rocket launch. Atlas V
Orbital Express Launch
(click to view full)

March 15/07: Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne in West Palm Beach, FL received a $10 million undefinitized firm-fixed-price contract against the McDonnell Douglas Corporation’s other transaction agreement, for the RL-10 assured access to space projects. “At this time, a total of $896.7 million has been obligated.” Solicitations began November 2006, negotiations were complete March 2007, and work will be complete December 2007. The Headquarters Launch and Range Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA issued the contract (F04701-98-9-0005-0080).

In English: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas and subcontractor Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne will increase the producibility and reliability of the RL-10 upper stage engine, thus enhancing mission assurance for the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets on the EELV Program. As PW Rocketdyne notes, the RL10B-2 powers the upper stage of Boeing’s Delta IV, and the RL10A-4-2 powers the upper stage of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V.

March 8/07: United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches First USAF Atlas V. This was their 9th successful Atlas V launch and 1st ULA Atlas launch, as well as the 1st EELV Atlas launch for the US Air Force. The mission used the new ESPA (EELV Secondary Payload Adapter) which is designed to integrate multiple smaller satellites; the 6 satellites on this mission (DARPA’s Orbital Express x2, MidSTAR-1-1, STPSat-1, Cibola Flight Experience, and FalconSAT-3) were delivered into two distinctly different orbits.

EELV launches Atlas V

Feb 28/07: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Littleton, CO receives a $108 million firm-fixed-price contract to launch the first AEHF military communications satellite using an Atlas V Launch Vehicle under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. At this time, total funds have been obligated and work will be complete February 2009. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA issued the contract (FA8816-06-C0004).

Jan 10/07: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Huntington Beach, CA receives a $20 million firm fixed price contract modification is for pre/post mission engineering and critical components under the Assured Access to Space program. McDonnell Douglas will perform supply chain management and technological improvement tasks to minimize the risk of launch failure for the Delta IV Rocket on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program (EELV) under the Launch and Range System Wing.

At this time, total funds have been obligated. Work will be complete December 2007. The Headquarters Launch and Range Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA (F04701-98-9-0005-0079).

Nov 17/06: Boeing Co. of Huntington Beach, CA, receives a $674.1 million cost-plus-award fee contract for Delta IV Launch Capability for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rocket program. This effort includes a number of components: launch and Range Operations for Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.; Mission Integration; Mission Unique Development and Integration; System Engineering and program management; subcontractor support; factory support engineering; and special studies. Solicitations began April 2005, negotiations were complete June 2006, and work will be complete September 2007. At this time, $405.2 million have been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA issued the contract (FA8816-06-C-0001).

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The Italian Air Force has unveiled a new indigenous trainer: the T-344 V.E.S.P.A.

The Aviationist Blog - Wed, 13/05/2015 - 17:01
The Italian Air Force is developing a new indigenous jet trainer.

The Italian Air Force has identified the new trainer that will replace the SF-260EA in the role of initial flight screener of its student pilots.

The mock-up of the new indigenous project, dubbed T-344 V.E.S.P.A. (Very Efficient Smart Power Aircraft) was unveiled during a press open day organised at Cameri airbase as a side event of the EURAC (European Air Chiefs’ Conference) on May 7.

The T-344 is based on the Caproni C-22J, a light jet-powered aircraft developed in the 1980s: it features a side-by-side digital cockpit, two 170-kg thrust engines, retractable tricycle undercarriage, maximum speed of Mach 0.48 and service ceiling of 25,000 feet.

The cockpit is not pressurized, meaning that the pilots will have to use the flight helmet and oxygen mask.

The V.E.S.P.A. is being developed through Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Wing based at Praitca di Mare) by the ItAF itself, that will assign production to an aerospace company at a later stage.

With the new jet trainer the Italian Air Force will complete the renewal of its fleet of trainers that in the future will be based on three flight lines: T-344, T-345 (ItAF designation for the M-345 HET) and T-346 (already in service at 61° Stormo multinational training hub).

Interestingly, other innovative projects were showcased at Cameri.

Among them, the AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar, the new CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) helicopter that the ItAF will use for Special Forces support, Personnel Recovery in hostile environments, MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) and SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions; the Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J Praetorian, a gunship version of the successful C-27J Spartan equipped with pallettized machine guns, targeting sensors and C3I-ISR (Command, control, communications and intelligence – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems; the AgustaWestland AW-149, that could find its way to the ItAF SAR fleet in the future; and the P.1HH HammerHead UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), that the ItAF has already procured (three UAS systems, consisting of six aircraft and three ground stations and complete with ISR configuration, that will be delivered early next year).

Even a scale model of the MALE 2020 medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV project developed by Italy, France and Germany.

Among the future project, even some very known ones, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, the T-346A (carrying dummy IRIS-T missiles), the mock-up of the M-345/T-345 in the Frecce Tricolori color scheme, and the HH-139 SAR helicopter.

Also one the two F-35s assembled in Italy and destined to the Aeronautica Militare could be seen at Cameri, along with the two types the Joint Strike Fighter is going to replace in the ItAF, the Tornado and the AMX, as shown by the much interesting image below:

Image above: Italian Air Force

All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Iolanda Frisina during the press day at Cameri airbase unless otherwise stated.

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Jorge Domecq discusses defence cooperation in Finland

EDA News - Wed, 13/05/2015 - 15:09

EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq travelled to Finland on 8 May for discussions with the Finnish Minister of Defence, Carl Haglund on the preparation of the European Council in June 2015 and Finland’s participation in EDA projects. 

”Finland is actively involved in many of the Agency’s initiatives such as our commercial satellite communication joint procurement scheme, helicopter exercise programme, cyber defence and measures for the European defence industry including support to small and medium sized enterprises. Finland furthermore leads the Agency’s work on maritime capabilities in the Arctic as well as the maritime surveillance project which is ready to be used by Member States. With its long experience in regional multilateral cooperation, we have a lot to learn from Finland in areas such as security of supply”, stressed Jorge Domecq during his visit in Finland. 

During his visit in Finland, Jorge Domecq also spoke at a seminar on European defence organised by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and the Ministry of Defence of Finland. He furthermore held meetings with the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, as well as the Permanent Secretary Arto Räty and other high-level officials at the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s office. 

It is part of a series of visits by Mr. Domecq to all EDA Member States following his appointment as EDA Chief Executive and ahead of the Ministerial Steering Board on 18 May 2015. So far, Mr. Domecq visited Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus and Luxembourg. Upcoming confirmed visits are Sweden and Italy. 


More information

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Let’s celebrate Top Gun Day with this cool video: F-14 versus Everything

The Aviationist Blog - Wed, 13/05/2015 - 12:51
May 13th is Top Gun Day.

This video proves that the F-14 Tomcat was much more than a  capable fleet defender.

Clips taken from the Tomcat HUD and TCS, show that the F-14 could win against some of the best and most agile fighters ever built, such as the F-16, the MiG-21, the MiG-29, the F/A-18, the Mirage 2000, the F-15 and the MiG-23 during DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) and/or real dogfight sessions.

Although we don’t know the Rules of Engagement (ROE) of the mock aerial combat in the footage, this video shows that, despite its size, the Tomcat was an amazingly agile and nasty dogfighter.


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"Medical Operations Support by private industry is an excellent concept"

DefenceIQ - Wed, 13/05/2015 - 06:00
Medical support operations have traditionally focused on trauma and emergency response and while these issues remain steadfast, the scope of operations is broadening at an alarming pace. Due to the complexity and unfamiliarity of recent operations, such as the Ebola case in West Africa,
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Naval Combat Systems: Market Report 2015

DefenceIQ - Wed, 13/05/2015 - 06:00
Naval Combat Systems include Weapon, Sensor, Communications and EW Systems and can constitute well over 50% by value of the cost of warships and submarines. The Market for Naval Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and Naval Air Surveillance and Tracking Radars, for example,  is  f
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