Off the Wire, 8/12Construction of US Navy's Next-Gen Carrier Underway
Source: Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman (Newport News, VA) has reached its first construction milestone in the life of the new-generation aircraft carrier, CVN 21. The company cut one of the first pieces of steel, a 15-ton plate for a side shell unit of CVN 78, the first ship of the CVN 21 program.
Design work on the CVN 21 is underway at Northrop Grumman's Newport News sector, with the full construction contract anticipated in 2007. Advance construction began in 2005 to allow shipbuilders to test the design-build strategy before overall construction begins in 2007. Each ship of the class is valued at approximately $8 billion.
Innovations for the CVN 21 program include an enhanced flight deck, capable of increased sortie rates; improved weapons movement; a redesigned island; a new nuclear power plant; reduced manning; and allowance for future technologies. These and many other evolutionary features are being developed to maximize efficiency and to reduce acquisition costs, manning, and weight while enhancing the ship's operational capabilities. Design and technology insertion costs are approximately $5.6 billion, spread over the class of ships.
For more on US Navy force levels, see US Navy Scrambles in Face of Deep Cuts.
First Korean SLAM-ER Rolled Out
The first Boeing (St. Louis, MO) Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) for the Republic of (South) Korea Air Force (ROKAF) rolled out recently during a ceremony at Boeing's Weapons Enterprise Capability Center in St. Charles, MO.
Korea is the SLAM-ER's first international customer. The ROKAF will use the SLAM-ER on its fleet of Boeing-built F-15K multirole fighters, which arrive in Korea this fall.
"It will greatly enhance the F-15K and further enable us in our efforts to deter war in the Korean Peninsula," said Col. Lee Yoon-sang, director of the ROKAF's Fighter Program Division, said at the ceremony. "SLAM-ER's ability to accurately strike targets on land and at sea will provide a tremendous advantage to ROKAF pilots."
For more on South Korea's F-15K program, see EW Suite Flies on New Korean F-15K.
USMC Hornets Getting LITENING AT Pods
Source: Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman (Rolling Meadows, IL) has been awarded a contract by the US Marine Corps (USMC) to begin outfitting the service's F/A-18 Hornet aircraft with LITENING AT pods and pylons. The LITENING AT is a self-contained, multisensor laser target-designating and navigation system, and the pods are equipped with a new datalink "plug-and-play" technology that enables them to accept a variety of datalinks without any modification to the pod or to the aircraft.
The $40-million contract calls for the delivery of 24 pods and associated mounting pylons and spares, beginning immediately and continuing through early 2006.
The LITENING AT pods being supplied to the Marine Corps will be "left handed," or designed to be installed on pylon station four, the same location that the current pods are installed on F/A-18C/Ds.
To date, a total of 360 LITENING AT pods have been ordered by US forces and foreign military services. LITENING AT and its predecessors, LITENING II and LITENING ER, are currently operational on AV-8Bs flown by the USMC and the Italian and Spanish navies, as well as on A-10s, B-52s, F-15Es and F-16s flown by active-duty and reserve components of the US Air Force. Together, all variants of the LITENING AT pod have amassed approximately 350,000 flight hours, with more than 125,000 of these hours posted in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The LITENING AT is a self-contained, multisensor laser target-designating and navigation system that enables aircrews to detect, acquire, track, and identify ground targets for delivery of both conventional and precision-guided weapons. LITENING AT features advanced image processing for target identification and coordinate generation, a 640x512-pixel forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor, charge-coupled-device television sensors, a laser spot tracker, an infrared laser marker, an infrared laser designator/rangefinder, and a datalink transmitter.
For more on Litening pods for Marine Hornets, see USMC Hornets Getting Their Own Litening.
UK's Nimrod MRA4 Completes Hot-Weather Trials
Source: BAE Systems
Within days of the first anniversary of its inaugural flight, the BAE Systems (Farnborough, Hampshire, UK) Nimrod MRA4 has successfully completed its first overseas deployment, a 10-day visit to the Mediterranean for a series of hot-weather trials, based at the Italian Air Force facility in Sigonella, Sicily. Despite punishing daytime temperatures reaching 40°C (104°F), the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Nimrod passed this latest series of development testing.
The deployment to Sicily was conducted by a joint BAE Systems/RAF crew.
Achievement of this significant milestone adds to a number of other recent successes, at a relatively early stage of Nimrod MRA4's flight-test schedule. Development aircraft PA01 and PA02 have now completed more than 100 flying hours between them, with the longest flight to date lasting four hours and 35 minutes. Initial stall trials have been completed successfully, and the aircraft has already flown at its service altitude of 35,000 ft. Three sorties have been flown by a Nimrod MRA4 on the same day for the first time, with one of them being the first to be captained by an RAF pilot.
The third and final Nimrod MRA4 development aircraft, PA03, will join the fleet shortly, following its first flight from Woodford airfield, near Manchester. An intensive flight-trials program, operating from BAE Systems' Warton and Woodford sites, is scheduled to involve all three aircraft through to 2007.
A comprehensive bid for the production of a 12-aircraft Nimrod MRA4 fleet was submitted to the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) last month, with a decision expected later this year. The bid includes conversion to a production standard of the three MRA4 development aircraft at the conclusion of their flight-trials work.
The UK MoD awarded BAE Systems a preliminary contract for the through-life support of the Nimrod MRA4 fleet in May. This has prepared the ground for a more detailed fleet-support proposal, currently being prepared by the joint BAE Systems/MoD team for submission in March 2007. As part of these activities, the MRA4 partnered support team will be working with the current Nimrod MR2 team to ensure that when the MRA4 goes into service at RAF Kinloss, Scotland, at the end of this decade, there will be a seamless transition of operations.
The Nimrod MRA4, which can give the UK 30 years of adaptable capability in maritime reconnaissance and attack (land) operations is 94% new build. Its integrated mission system enables the crew to gather, process, and display up to 20-times more technical and strategic data than its predecessor, the Nimrod MR2. The aircraft has an increased range (over the current Nimrod MR2) of 6,000 miles and is capable of 14 hours of loiter time without the need for refueling.
For more on the UK's Nimrod program, see New Recce Tech for UK's Nimrod R1.
Support Contract Awarded for RAF Sentry Fleet
Source: Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman (McLean, VA) has signed a contract to provide aircraft-maintenance and design-engineering support services to improve availability and reduce through-life ownership costs for the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) fleet of E-3D Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. Northrop Grumman was selected as the preferred bidder by the UK Ministry of Defense in July 2004.
The Sentry Whole Life Support Program contract is valued at approximately $1.2 billion over 20-plus years. The contract is a fixed-price contract for the first five years, and the remaining 15 years of the contract is target cost incentive fee. In addition, the contract is fully funded for the entire 20-year term.
Northrop Grumman's IT sector, the overall lead on the program, will support the maintenance schedule for AWACS aircraft, ensuring that only one aircraft, out of a fleet of seven, is in scheduled maintenance at any given time. The IT sector will also provide systems integration, program management, and the information-technology infrastructure. The contract also includes repairs of structural parts and inventory upkeep, support of design engineering, maintenance training, and conversion and management of technical publications in an electronic format.
Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector will have engineering-support responsibility and design authority for AWACS. The company's Electronic Systems sector will provide radar capabilities, while Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector will offer interactive, electronic technical-manual support.
The Sentry is the UK's principal early-warning and control aircraft, providing vital strategic support to the UK armed forces in operations around the world. The RAF operates seven of the Boeing 707-based aircraft at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, UK and the contract supports the aircraft through the out-of-service date, which will be in the mid-2020s.
Work on the program will be performed at RAF Waddington.
Northrop Grumman teammates include AAR Corp. (Wood Dale, IL), BAE Systems (Farnborough, Hampshire, UK), and FR Aviation (Christchurch, Dorset, UK).
For more on AWACS upgrades, see Upgrade of USAF AWACS Fleet Underway and French AWACS to Receive Upgraded Radar.