Defense Market Intelligence Notes

North America
Northrop Grumman plans to build a second Tern ship-based vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft under a $17.8 million contract extension from Darpa. Tern is a Predator-class, medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft designed to operate from the flight decks of smaller warships. The design is a tail-sitting flying wing with coaxial proprotors for vertical flight and forward thrust. Northrop was awarded the contract for Phase 3 of the Tern contract, to build and fly the demonstration system, in December. The contract modification to build a second prototype takes the total value, including previous phases, to $150 million.

Raytheon says it has developed a formidable weapon for countering UAV swarms, based around a high-power magnetron that can emit enough microwave energy in one pulse to clear an area in the sky the size of a football field. The ground-based, high-power microwave (HPM) unit uses the same technology found in the Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) cruise missile Boeing built for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The CHAMP was used to knock out banks of computers in October 2012 at the Utah Test and Training Range.

The secretive military office overseeing development of the Northrop Grumman B-21 strategic bomber expects to beat the government’s own independent unit-cost estimate of $564 million per aircraft. Randall Walden, director and program executive officer of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, seems confident that Northrop’s low bid, combined with on-time program execution through the development and production phases, can produce the desired fleet of 100 long-range stealth bombers at a lower cost than has been publicly disclosed.

Lockheed Martin aims to deliver the latest version of the F-35’s critical logistics system to the Air Force by the end of November. The new target leaves little room for error before the end-of-year deadline for the service to declare the fighter operational. The F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) is the single biggest obstacle to the Air Force achieving on-time initial operational capability. Lockheed has been forced to postpone delivering the latest version of ALIS, 2.0.2, due to challenges with integrating the Pratt &Whitney F135 engines.

The head of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) has renewed his commitment to fielding an AC-130 “mini-arsenal plane” equipped with a high-energy laser by the turn of the decade. AFSOC is seeking seed funding in the fiscal 2018 defense budget to support flying-prototype activities. Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold says one of his organization’s 12 AC-130W gunships at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, has been designated as the first host aircraft. He added there are ready crews and funded flight hours available for industry partners to leverage.

The Team Spartan joint venture, which proposes the Italian-built Leonardo-Finmeccanica C-27J Spartan to replace Canada’s outdated Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and de Havilland DHC-5 Buffalo search-and-rescue fleets, has selected Comox, British Columbia, as its aircrew and maintenance training hub. The C-27J is competing against the Airbus C-295W and Embraer KC-390A for the $3.1 billion fixed-wing search-and-rescue program, which will replace six Buffalo and 12 Hercules aircraft. If chosen, Team Spartan will install a three-story, 72,000-sq.-ft. training facility in Comox, complete with a full-size C-27J maintenance training platform, as well as flight and sensor simulators for aircrew training. Source selection is expected in the fall.

The lead aircraft of an Army program to upgrade Beechcraft King Air 350ER-based MC-12Ws to the multimission Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (Emarss) airborne reconnaissance standard has flown for the first time. L-3 Mission Integration of Greenville, Texas, announced the inaugural-flight milestone of its Emarss initial-variant modification prototype June 22. The company said another seven full-variant modification examples will follow. Dubbed Emarss-M1, the aircraft has passed its preliminary airworthiness evaluation, and will enter operational testing.

Textron Systems hopes to complete end-to-end testing of its Fury small precision-guided munition against a moving target by late summer or early fall. Textron is looking to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for widespread integration of the miniature weapon with remotely piloted and light-attack aircraft. The company had hoped to finish the test in late April at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, but says there was “enough uncertainty” to warrant further development and a postponement of the flight.

Europe
Airbus Defense and Space has conducted wind-tunnel testing on an extended-refueling hose that the company hopes can solve the A400M’s helicopter refueling woes. The company has considered the effects of a 50% extension of the current refueling hose, from 80 ft. to 120 ft., in wind tunnels at the French ONERA aerospace research institute in recent months. The tests follow a phase of advanced simulation and computer modeling, and showed that a 120 ft. hose could be stable. But a key challenge will be fitting and winding the hose into the existing Cobham-built, wing-mounted, hose drogue pods.

Leonardo-Finmeccanica plans to begin marketing a new, light-attack version of its M346 jet trainer at the July 11–17 Farnborough International Airshow. New light-attack capabilities could be available for the market in two years, company officials say. The company plans to display one of the aircraft, carrying underwing weaponry, at the show.

Airbus Defense and Space and Avio Aero are working on an interim fix to an engine gearbox problem that has held up deliveries of the A400M Atlas airlifter. Italy-based Avio ground tested an interim fix for the input-pinon plug, a component within the power gearbox module of the Europrop International TP400 turboprop. Following the inflight shutdown of an engine on a Royal Air Force aircraft in January, a series of inspections was carried out on gearboxes fitted to aircraft both in service and on the production line. The inspections found that components fitted to clockwise-turning engines had suffered cracks. The interim fix developed by Avio is being subjected to 330 hr. of ground-rig testing, and Airbus will begin 50 hr. of flight testing on its A400M testbed, MSN6, shortly.

The Norwegian Defense Ministry is proposing to hike its spending over the next four years, in order to invest in new systems and capabilities. The proposed increase, announced June 17, would see the defense budget increase by 7.2 billion krone ($853 million) by 2020, from 49.1 billion krone this year. The increase would allow the ministry to undertake its long-term defense plan, which includes the introduction of a new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the Lockheed P-3 Orion; new submarines; and longer-ranged, ground-based air defenses. The increase would begin in 2017.

The first of 29 Airbus H135 twin-engine light helicopters for the U.K. Military Flight Training System (MFTS) is to make its first flight by the end of July. Production of nine aircraft currently on the line at Airbus Helicopters’ facility in Donauworth, Germany, actually began before Airbus was awarded the £500 million ($646 million) contract May 16 by the Ascent consortium.

Airbus Defense and Space is pushing ahead with the development of an automated refueling system to reduce the workload of boom operators on its A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport. The system uses video data to monitor the position of the receiver aircraft. It then automatically flies the boom into a position where the boom operator can then extend the telescopic probe into the refueling receptacle of the receiving aircraft.

The British government needs to be “relatively bold” in order to attract investment from business and to stabilize the uncertainty caused by the country’s decision to leave the EU, according to U.K. aerospace and defense trade organization ADS. The government has a “menu” of options it could use in the short term to coax out and trigger investments that people “might be holding off of,” says Paul Everitt, CEO of ADS. “It is a time for the government to be relatively bold, to ensure that key sectors know there is stability,” he says.

Russia
The Russian Armed Forces will receive the first brigade of the new Buk-M3 medium-range surface-to-air missile system this year, says Yan Novikov, CEO of Almaz-Antey, the system’s manufacturer. The company successfully conducted test firings of production missiles in June at the Kapustin Yar test range in southern Russia. The trials involved the radar station and launcher that fired the missile against the ballistic target. The trials pave the way for the start of Buk-M3 deliveries to the Russian military that were expected to take place in 2015.

Middle East
A day ahead of Lockheed Martin’s official June 22 rollout of the first Israeli F-35I Adir, the chief of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) revealed that he has recommended the Israeli the government buy 17 additional Joint Strike Fighters. If the government approves the acquisition, Lockheed Martin would be on tap to deliver 50 F-35Is to the IAF.

South Asia
India has eased limits on foreign direct investment in defense joint ventures, with the aim of enticing international defense contractors to manufacture equipment in the country. The Indian government on June 20 endorsed foreign companies owning as much as 100% equity in the local defense segment, subject to approval from the government, in cases that help bring in “modern technology,” an official with the prime minister’s office says. The Indian Defence Ministry has prepared a list of desired technologies that will get preference for technology transfer, including nanotechnology, high-power lasers, stealth and precision-guided munitions.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKI has flown for the first time carrying the 2,500-kg (5,500-lb.) Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. The first flight will be followed by a series of test flights to complete the certification of the BrahMos missile on the Sukhoi-built fighter. The BrahMos missile is 8 meters (26 ft.) long and 0.7 meters (2.3 ft.) in diameter, and can fly at Mach 2.8. Su-30MKIs are being modified to carry three BrahMos missiles in the cavity between the aircraft’s engines.

Asia Pacific
Japan’s Defense Ministry is requesting information for its next fighter program. It is an early step toward an acquisition that will shape the country’s air force in the middle of the century, and perhaps result in a domestic development effort. The ministry is seeking information on three alternatives: creating a new fighter type; modifying an existing type; or importing a new one. The aim is to replace the Mitsubishi F-2.

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