JSOW is a LO weapon. It is also very small. It will be very hard to detect. Then it will be too late.
Even so, shooting down munitions isn't financially sustainable under the best of circumstances; really you want to kill the launching platforms.
Originally Posted by Gubler, A.
Wedgetail prepares for take-off
Gregor Ferguson From: The Australian October 23, 2010 12:00AM
THE RAAF will have to wait nearly 12 months before its six Boeing 737 Wedgetails' airborne early warning and control system are fully operational.
Despite impressing US and other observers during the multinational Exercise RIMPAC earlier this year in Hawaii, the Wedgetail's complex radar and communications system is taking longer to mature than everybody had hoped according to Defence's project manager Chris Deeble.
The air vice-marshal tells The Australian some obstinate technical issues with the mission, computer, electronic warfare, tactical data link and radar tracking software have not been fixed satisfactorily yet. The RAAF had hoped to reach the final acceptance milestone early next year, but Deeble estimates a six-month delay in software integration will push this out to the final quarter.
However, the hardware used in the Wedgetail's innovative phased array radar has proved itself and will undergo final acceptance early next year.
In 12 months, when the RAAF expects to declare the initial operational capability of the Wedgetail system, all the software will have been integrated and tested, Deeble believes.
The US government-funded Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston also has given the radar a clean bill of health. At the start of this year Defence was worried about the performance of the radar, the new-generation Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array sensor manufactured by Northrop Grumman. This was performing well on the whole, but was below specification in at least one important but classified area.
The Lincoln Laboratory's study has shown the radar's design and hardware are fundamentally sound, Deeble says. With no redesign work needed, the shortfalls can be delivered using improved software. Even better, software and improved algorithms rather than new hardware will be the key to performance improvements in the future.
This is true also of other troublesome elements of the system, notably the tactical data links and electronic warfare system, both of which are designed to be integrated with the Wedgetail's mission computer.
Imminent acceptance of the hardware (including the aircraft itself) signals the completion of the main phase of airborne flight testing, Deeble says. This means the outstanding software integration and testing work, which Boeing has carried out in Seattle along with the flight testing, will be completed at the new software support facility at the RAAF base at Williamtown, NSW.
The RAAF has three aircraft at Williamtown with a fourth due for delivery later this year. The Seattle-based fifth aircraft will be delivered early next year; the sixth will follow in mid-year, with the fleet expected to be declared operational in about November.
The exact timing of that milestone will be determined by the capacity of the aircrew training program, Deeble says. Wedgetail is all-new so the RAAF is having to create a cadre of trained crews from scratch. And many pilots and radar and electronic systems operators are undergoing periodic re-training as important systems such as the tactical data links and electronic warfare systems evolve and mature. This is putting short-term stress on the training system.
The training challenges, like the integration difficulties, stem from the higher levels of automation the RAAF needs. The Wedgetail is designed to operate with a mission crew of seven compared with 18 on the US Air Force's much bigger Boeing 707 AWACS aircraft. The US operators carry out specific tasks, many of them manually; Australian operators are multiskilled, sit at multi-purpose consoles and the Wedgetail mission computer automates and integrates most functions, including the electronic warfare and communications management. This has been a large part of the software integration challenge that is delaying final acceptance, Deeble says.
However, with the hardware completed, training in full swing and incremental software improvements emerging from Seattle and Williamtown, the RAAF is looking to the joint US-Australian exercise Talisman Sabre in August next year as a potential showcase of its new capability.
Vigilare up and running
Julian Kerr From: The Australian October 23, 2010 12:00AM
AFTER a series of delays, national surveillance and the air defence of Australia are being managed by the Royal Australian Air Force's much-anticipated Vigilare command and control system.
Without fanfare, the $275 million system -- arguably the best of its type anywhere -- became operational on September 2 and the legacy WARDEN system was decommissioned the same day, official sources say.
All surveillance and air battle space management over Australia is being carried out from the Northern Region Operations Centre at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.
The Eastern Region Operations Centre at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle, NSW, will join NROC when it is completed in in the middle of next year.
Vigilare is a key element in the Australian Defence Force's network-centric capability, receiving, processing and fusing a mass of information from Australian and coalition networks and systems. These include civil and military air traffic control radars, tactical data networks, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network, Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft and navy ships.
Vigilare is also capable of integrating developments in satellite and unmanned aerial vehicle imagery, electronic and signals intelligence, space-based infrared systems, together with a range of other voice and data intelligence inputs.
The system fuses this material to help compile the ADF's Recognised Air Picture across Australia's area of interest, which stretches from the mid-Indian Ocean to the western Pacific. Using an extensive area communications system, commanders can communicate through new and existing telecom infrastructure.
For the operators, Vigilare offers an adaptable system that can be tailored to meet operational requirements. Interceptors can be controlled without voice communications, the intercept vector being automatically fed into a fighter's system to generate steering cues in the head-up display.
In addition, Vigilare provides an interactive replay and simulation capability that enables real and fictional scenarios to be recorded and replayed multiple times, allowing users to interact with these replays to enhance both operator training and strategic planning.
Although prime contractor Boeing Defence Australia was named preferred tenderer for Project Air 5333 in 1998, the existing contract, which envisaged final delivery of the system in December 2007, was not agreed until 2004.
Commercial issues associated with project delays and costs were resolved by a deed of settlement, release and amendment that was signed by Boeing and the commonwealth in October 2008. All project milestones have been met on schedule.
Vigilare received conditional acceptance from the commonwealth on July 19, soon after passing its operational test with a pass rate of 99 per cent.
The same day it began playing a central role in Exercise Pitch Black, one of the RAAF's largest air defence exercises.
According to BDA Network and Space Systems vice-president and general manager Steve Parker, the fortnight-long operational test was a demanding precursor to Pitch Black for the system and its full complement of RAAF operators.
"They threw everything at us 24/7: Hornets, AP-3C Orions, Wedgetails, data from Royal Australian Navy frigates, plus all the other sensor and intelligence feeds that are taken into the system," Parker says.
"That 99 per cent pass rate is extraordinary for a complex system with such a large number of external interfaces."
A technical challenge was the integration into the system of the sophisticated Link 16 tactical data link, which allows military aircraft, ships and ground forces to exchange their tactical picture in near real-time.
"Ours is the most thorough and advanced implementation of Link 16 anywhere outside the US and, from what I've seen, perhaps even up there with them," Parker says. "Other systems might have Link 16 on one console; we've got it on them all."
Tim Malone, the Defence Materiel Organisation project director responsible for Vigilare's implementation, agrees. "In my opinion, this capability, especially the sophisticated Tactical Data Link implementation, is arguably world class," he says.
The capability has attracted international interest and BDA is confident of Vigilare's export potential, albeit only to countries approved by the US and Australian governments.
Vigilare made its international debut in February last year at the IDEX defence exhibition in the United Arab Emirates, where it is competing in a restricted tender to supply a replacement for that country's air defence ground environment.
Parker says Boeing is also talking to several other Middle East countries that are expected to issue requests for proposal or air battle management systems by early next year.
The ability to use Australia as an operational reference site is invaluable.
"Australia is known as a demanding and savvy customer [that] knows exactly what it wants and how it will use the system operationally," he says
'Bridging fighter' packs quite a punch
Gregor Ferguson From: The Australian October 23, 2010 12:00AM
WHEN the venerable F-111 retires from RAAF service on December 3, after nearly 40 years in harness, the RAAF will declare initial operational capability (IOC) for its replacement, Boeing's two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet.
There will be a seamless transition from one aircraft to the next, but the combat capability provided by the 24 new Super Hornets -- or "Rhinos" as their crews call them -- is a generation ahead of the older aircraft, according to Group Captain Steve "Zed" Roberton, who commands the RAAF's 82 Wing at Amberley.
He told reporters earlier this year the Rhino was a critical part of the RAAF's longer-term Air Combat Transition plan. It's not a permanent replacement for the F-111, but is designed to prepare the service for the challenges of operating the stealthy, fifth-generation F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. This will eventually be the RAAF's sole combat aircraft.
The F-35A should be operational in Australia around 2018, which is four years later than originally envisaged. To ensure the RAAF maintains air superiority within its region pending its arrival, the Super Hornet was ordered as a so-called "bridging fighter" at an estimated whole-of-life cost of about $6 billion. It was expected to serve from 2010 to 2020, but it's now expected to serve until 2023.
The Super Hornet already has a fifth-generation radar, Roberton pointed out -- Raytheon's newly introduced APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Antenna (AESA) sensor, which has exceeded the RAAF's expectations since the first aircraft arrived earlier this year. The Rhino also has a semi-stealthy airframe, the ability to fuse data from its battery of sensors and create a detailed tactical picture of what's going on around it and on the ground, and datalinks to share this and other data with friendly aircraft.
Despite lacking all-round stealth and the ability to carry weapons concealed inside the fuselage, it can perform all of the roles the F-35A is designed for so it will help the RAAF develop some of the necessary tactics and procedures in advance, Roberton says. The Super Hornet will also teach the RAAF how to deal with the low-observability stealth coatings applied to the outside of the aircraft to reduce its radar signature.
The problem here isn't just re-touching the paint, it's also about managing a secure maintenance hangar, so the stealth secrets don't leak out. This will be an even bigger challenge for the F-35A, as will protecting the secrets of its integrated avionics and electronic self-protection systems and creating a new technology culture among the engineers and ground crews.
The Super Hornet represents a fusion of F-111 and "classic" Hornet capabilities. It's a formidable fighter in its own right, but its radar and ATFLIR laser/infrared targeting system, along with the Paveway laser-guided bomb and JDAM GPS-guided munition, make it a devastatingly accurate strike aircraft as well. It can also launch Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the US Navy's JSOW stand-off missile.
Last month the RAAF's No 1 squadron conducted a three-week "bomb camp" at Woomera to prove the Super Hornet's strike capabilities. The squadron launched, dropped or fired examples of all of its primary weapons as an essential precursor to declaring IoC.
The RAAF has 11 Super Hornets at Amberley with three more due to arrive by December. The Rhino will go operational with a 14-strong fleet and the remaining 10 aircraft will arrive in 2011.
The first dozen aircraft are standard US Navy F-model Super Hornets; the second dozen have had wiring installed so they can be converted quickly into the EA-18G, or Growler, which carries a battery of powerful electronic warfare jammers to blind the radars of enemy aircraft and surface-air gun and missile batteries. They'll be delivered as Rhinos, but if Defence decides to exercise the Growler option it would take about two months work to convert them.
Even without the Growler option, the RAAF still will be exploring for the first time air combat's cyberspace dimensions.
Contenders jostle for position, hoping to grab a slice of the flight-training pie
Gregor Ferguson From: The Australian October 23, 2010 12:00AM
THE ADF seems to have levelled the playing field for companies competing to train its fighter, transport and helicopter pilots.
The contract BAE Systems Australia has held for more than 10 years to screen and provide basic training for prospective helicopter and fixed-wing pilots at Tamworth expires in December.
Defence sought tenders to carry out this function on an interim basis pending a complete overhaul of its flight-training system under Project Air 5428.
Earlier this year it made its choice but has not named the winning bidder, although influential journal Jane's Defence Weekly reported in August that it was an open secret that BAE Systems Australia was negotiating a six-year extension of its contract.
That said, progress seems slow.
"It is not appropriate for Defence to comment publicly until negotiations are completed," a Defence source said. "A decision on the (interim basic flying training) contract is expected by the end of March 2011."
This leaves a formidable field of contenders, including BAE Systems Australia, awaiting the tender for Air 5428, which most expect late next year.
The project's timeline is driven by the service life of the RAAF's PC-9 turboprop advanced trainers at RAAF bases Pearce in Western Australia and East Sale in Victoria.
This is due to retire in 2015-16, providing the ADF a chance to streamline its basic and advanced flying training into a single system with a much higher throughput.
Basic training will probably be carried out at East Sale and advanced training will continue at Pearce, with pilots following a single integrated syllabus.
Contenders for this project include Boeing Defence Australia, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Australia and Thales Australia, all of which have credentials honed on similar projects for overseas air forces.
According to Raytheon Australia's Michael Ward, it is the "system" that matters, not just the training aircraft.
That system includes instructors, flight simulators, computer-based instruction and basic and advanced training aircraft.
Raytheon has teamed with Hawker Beechcraft to offer the T-6C advanced trainer and has developed an upgraded CT-4F variant of the ever-green Airtrainer for basic training.
The other contenders and aircraft builders are staying silent but according to one industry source, the only basic trainer that complies with the RAAF's recently revised airworthiness directive is the Grob 120, which meets all crashworthiness requirements.
But for the interim training contract BAE Systems Australia offered a version of the proven CT-4B, which is also compliant.
And there is a genuine choice of advanced trainers: the Pilatus PC-21 and Aermacchi M-311 compete directly with the T-6C. Possible permutations are endless.
As to who will own the aircraft (the ADF or the contractor), Defence is leaving it to the bidders to decide what makes most business sense and offers the best value for money, but most observers believe the RAAF is better off owning the aircraft and letting the contractor operate and service it.
But this does not necessarily apply to the ADF's new helicopter training system, to be introduced under Project Air 9000 Phase 7.
The same field of bidders expects tenders for this contract early next year, after the RAN has selected the helicopter to replace its ageing Seahawks.
The new ADF helicopter training system will be at Nowra in NSW and army pilots will go there for helicopter conversion after completing their basic training on fixed-wing aircraft.
Navy pilots will complete advanced flying training at Pearce, on the same syllabus as future Joint Strike Fighter pilots, before transferring to Nowra.
This reflects the levels of experience navy helicopter pilots need to land and take-off from pitching frigate flight decks at night and in poor weather.
The navy wants the contractor to provide an aviation training vessel replicating the frigate flight deck to gently introduce pilots to the rigours of naval operations, but this may be too ambitious and expensive for the level of use it expects and the navy may need to use its own frigates and destroyers.
Again, the solution will be an integrated training system making maximum use of simulators and computer-based training, but the aircraft are important too.
The ADF wants twin-engined aircraft, preferably with wheeled landing gear, which can be flown with night-vision goggles.
This could easily be a lightly modified civil helicopter, so there could be a strong business case for having a contractor own and operate it on behalf of the ADF.
The three contenders are the new Bell 429, the proven Eurocopter EC135 and the Agusta Westland A109, the latter two being used by Germany and New Zealand, respectively, to train pilots for the NH90, which is in army service here as the MRH90 and is a possible Seahawk replacement.
Raytheon has teamed exclusively with Bell to offer the 429, but the other potential bidders are keeping their powder dry until tenders close.
There are no weak contenders for either project, but the difficulty for the Defence Materiel Organisation and the industry is that two separate but very large and complex tenders must be prepared and evaluated concurrently.
But the timeline for Air 5428 does not allow any delays and the helicopter training system must be in service between 2014 and 2016, so next year will be stressful for the industry and its customers.
Australian Super Hornet Trainers Delivered
(Source: US Naval Air Systems Command; issued November 15, 2010)
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. –-- Naval Aviation Training Systems program office (PMA-205) delivered two Super Hornet Integrated Visual Environment Maintenance Trainers (IVEMT) to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at Amberley Air Force Base, Ipswich, Australia in October.
The IVEMT is a 3-D visual trainer which allows military personnel to virtually navigate through multiple aircraft systems. It provides maintainers training on ground operation, maintenance, and testing. It also offers troubleshooting procedures for the F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft including avionics, environmental control, electrical, flight control, fuel, engines, landing gear, and hydraulic systems.
The IVEMT was designed exclusively for RAAF and is the first Super Hornet maintenance trainer to be delivered to a foreign military. The design is an upgraded version of the U.S. Navy’s Visual Environment Maintenance Trainer (VEMT).
“We are excited to provide our allies with advanced training capabilities which will enhance our joint mission execution,” said Capt. John Feeney, Naval Aviation Training Systems program manager.
The device, built by Boeing, St. Louis, Mo., and DiSTI, Orlando, Fla., includes cockpit and instructor operator stations, as well as student/aircraft interface trainer stations and a cockpit/trainer equipment station. The aircraft functionality is displayed through touch screen interactive panels.
“With the realistic look and feel of the aircraft, as well as state-of-the-art technology, the IVEMT capabilities allow for training of all RAAF FA-18E/F maintenance technician specialties,” said Peter Schroeder, PMA-205 Australia training systems team lead. Instructors can integrate various faults into the system for increased situational awareness training.
The IVEMT will support simulation training for Australian maintenance personnel in support of the 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets recently procured from the U.S. Navy. The aircraft will progressively arrive in Australia through 2011.
The IVEMTs will be ready for training late 2010.
Missiles join Aust's defence problem list
November 26, 2010 - 3:09PM
The government has added a project to buy long-range missiles to its list of problem defence acquisitions.
The project to acquire stand-off missiles for RAAF aircraft was launched in 2004 with the Lockheed Martin AGM-158A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) chosen in 2006.
It was scheduled to have entered service by December 2009.
"The project is running late and risks to capability remain," Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare said in a joint statement.
Mr Smith expressed his dissatisfaction in a speech to the defence senior leaders group on Friday.
"Government has not been kept properly and fully informed as to the progress with respect to this major project," he said.
"It is essential for government to be appropriately informed about the delivery of complex and important capabilities so that appropriate steps can be taken to manage issues that emerge in relation to cost, capability or schedule."
JASSM is a large but stealthy cruise missile, weighing almost a tonne and designed to hit targets at ranges of more than 200 nautical miles.
A series of failed tests in the US has caused significant delays in the missile's development. The US Navy withdrew from the program in favour of the SLAM-ER missile, based on the proven Harpoon missile.
he next major stage in this project is a live JASSM firing from an Australian F/A-18 in the US later this year or early 2011.
Defence has undertaken to provide a full report on the effectiveness of the test to help a decision about the fate of the project.
JASSM is the 18th project added to the projects of concern list since it was established in 2008. Projects are listed due to delay, cost blowouts or a risk that contracted capability won't be achieved.
Six projects have been removed from the list, five through remediation and one through cancellation.
Mr Smith said defence would now ensure JASSM received additional scrutiny and oversight by senior officers.
© 2010 AAP
Just a quick question with regards to the Rhinos. Will the 24 in service be for one squadron only, or will they make up two squadrons?
The 24 Super Hornets will mean at any one time 16-18 will be air worthy with the rest rotating through different levels of maintenance. Of these planes 12 will be on strength with No. 1 Squadron with fully operational aircrew for use in combat. Another 4-6 will be available for No. 6 Squadron for training of new aircraft. Another aircraft may be provided to ARDU for instrumentation and use as a trials aircraft.
Originally Posted by CaptainCleanoff
So only one operational squadron but a certain amount of support capability needed to make that squadron operational. 24 planes per operational squadron is the standard benchmark used by the airforce for combat types (transports and the like require less in training).