Our Five Most Popular Feature Stories of 2016
(Source: compiled by Defense-Aerospace.com; posted Jan 11, 2017)

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US Navy Drops LCS Plans, Concept After Latest Failures

(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; published Sept 9, 2016)

PARIS --- After spending billions of dollars, the US Navy has finally abandoned the Littoral Combat Ship concept, saying it will turn the first four LCSs into training ships and that all future vessels will be equipped for a single combat mission.

Although deliberately worded to minimize its import, the US Navy statement below is a clear acknowledgement that the LCS concept has been an abysmal failure.

But, even as it looks to mitigate the disastrous effects of having ordered a dozen LCS at once, before checking whether they performed as claimed (they have not), the Navy makes no mention of having found the technical faults which have struck four LCS ships this year.

In the statement below, the Navy announces it is abandoning the LCS’ most prized objectives (interchangeable mission modules; innovative but complex crewing arrangements) which were supposed to turn inexpensive small ships with small crews into potent combatants in coastal regions.

Ironically, this is an admission that the Government Accountability Office was right in recommending, in its latest report on the LCS program issued in June, that “Congress should consider not funding any requested LCS in fiscal year 2017 and should consider requiring the Navy to revise its acquisition strategy for the frigate.”

In fact, the ships are very expensive ($562.8 million for each ship, according to the Congressional Research Service. This is about as much as a DDG 51 destroyer, whose last batch cost about $700m each), their small crews are unable to switch mission modules even when these are available, and their crewing arrangements have proved inoperative.

By turning the four Littoral Combat Ships it has commissioned to date into training ships, the Navy is also admitting they are operationally worthless.

So, the LCS concept is a total failure, and the billions of dollars spent so far have been wasted, despite each one having cost about half a billion dollars.

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Repair Costs Seen Exploding As Half A400M Engines Have Cracks
(Source: Andalucia Informacion; published May 23, 2016)
SEVILLE, Spain --- Airbus has confirmed the most negative scenario regarding faults in the reduction gear of the engine of the A400M military transport aircraft, as cracks have been found in all engines whose propellers rotate clockwise.

In extreme cases, these cracks in the engine’s Propeller Gear Box (PGB) could shed flakes of metal which then that pass into the oil cooling circuit. This is what happened earlier this year to a newly-delivered UK aircraft. (The PGB is made by the Italian company Avio, a subsidiary of US giant General Electric.)

That means that two of the four engines fitted to each of the 24 aircraft delivered to date – or a total 48 engines -- must now be repaired, a much bigger task than initially anticipated.

(An Airbus spokesman confirmed May 24 that “all right-hand rotating units are affected by the issue.” The European Airworthiness Directive issued because of this fault mandates “replacement if evidence of damage is found, or else return to service and continuing repetitive inspections,” the spokesman confirmed.

(In other words, as Airbus has delivered 24 aircraft to date, it must now repair their 48 right-hand rotating engines (two per aircraft) and well as modify and fit the 80 engines that power the 20 aircraft it has promised to deliver this year—Ed.)

"We are in daily conversations with our suppliers and customers to solve this problem in a standardized manner. We work with all our capabilities to meet the needs of our customers," said Airbus sources. Eight military customers have ordered 174 aircraft and, in addition to the 24 already delivered, this year Airbus expected to deliver 20 more, although so far only three have been received by customers. Spain should receive its first A400M this year, and that plane is a priority for Airbus, company sources say.

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Report of the CAG of India for the year ended March 2015 (excerpt)
(Source: compiled by Defense-Aerospace.com; issued July 26, 2016)
PARIS --- A little over a fortnight ago, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India published his annual report on the Indian armed forces. The naval section of this report covers the acquisition and financing of India’s Indigenous Aircraft Carrier and of its air wing, primarily composed of Russian-supplied MiG-29K naval fighters.

It makes particularly dismal reading, as the MiG-29K, its engine and some of its subsystems, including its fly-by-wire flight controls, underperformed across the board, and, in the CAG’s own words, “are riddled with problems.”

We have reproduced below, verbatim, the section of the report pertaining to the MiG-29K. A link to the entire report can be found at the foot of the page.

(iii) MiG-29K/KUB Aircraft

The MiG-29K, which is a carrier borne multi role aircraft and the mainstay of integral fleet air defence, is riddled with problems relating to airframe, RD MK-33 engine and fly-by-wire 4 system.

Aircraft were being technically accepted despite having discrepancies/anomalies. Serviceability of MiG-29K was low, ranging from 15.93 per cent to 37.63 per cent and that of MiG-29KUB ranging from 21.30 per cent to 47.14 per cent. The augmentation of infrastructure at Visakhapatnam is still at the Detailed Project Report stage even six years after approval (December 2009). The Full Mission Simulator was assessed to be unsuitable for Carrier Qualification (CQ) simulator training for pilots, as the visuals did not support the profile.

The service life of the aircraft is 6000 hours or 25 years (whichever is earlier) and with issues facing the MiG-29K/KUB, the operational life of the aircraft already delivered would be reduced. Further, the deliveries of the aircraft under the Option Clause scheduled between 2012 and 2016 are much ahead of the delivery schedule of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier in 2023, as projected by Cochin Shipyard Limited.

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US Fighter Prices Explode As Production End Nears
(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; published Nov 21, 2016)
PARIS --- Congressional notification of possible fighter sales announced by the DSCA on Nov 17 highlight a substantial and unexpected increase in the price of Boeing fighters approved for export, even as they reach the end of their production run.

These prices are also much higher than those of their foreign competitors, and are compounded by the fact that the US dollar’s exchange rate has surged against the currencies of the two buyer nations over the past two years, even as these proposed deals were being reviewed by various US government agencies.

According to the Nov. 17 Congressional notifications, the price of a new-build Boeing F-15QA fighter and its “associated weapons package” works out to $293 million per aircraft, while that of a new-build F-18E/F Super Hornet fighter offered to Kuwait is $252 million.

These prices are far higher than expected for combat aircraft which first entered service over 40 years ago and which, without new orders, will go out of production in a very short time.

By comparison, Qatar is paying $279 million for each of the 24 Dassault Rafale fighters it ordered from France in May 2015 for €6.3 billion (today worth $6.7 billion). The Rafale sale includes a very large weapons package, including 300 Mica and 160 Meteor air-to-air missiles, 140 Scalp cruise missiles, 60 Exocet anti-ship missiles and 300 AAA2M precision-guided munitions as well as training and support, which explain a large part of the price tag.

Egypt, which also ordered 24 Rafales in February 2015, paid substantially less than Qatar. Although its price was not publicly announced, leaks to French media peg it at 5.2 billion euros (today worth $5.53 billion). However, this price includes a Fremm-class frigate in addition to Mica and Scalp missiles and AASM precision-guided munitions.

After deducting the 600-million euro cost of the frigate, Egypt is paying 4.6 billion euros (today worth $4.9 billion) for its Rafale package, or about $203 million per aircraft, weapons, training and initial support included.

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Airbus Fires Top A400M Manager As Deliveries Continue to Lag
(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; published Feb 18, 2016)
PARIS --- The firing of the executive appointed by Airbus to fix the troubled A400M program after just 12 months in the job illustrates the program’s continuing production problems, which could lead the company to take new financial charges for 2015.

The firing of Ms. Pilar Albiac-Murillo, who was appointed on Jan. 29, 2015 and given “responsibility for all industrial-related activities [which are] being shifted to the Operations organisation,” was announced internally to Airbus managers but has not yet been made public, according to the Spanish daily El Confidencial, quoting trade union sources.

“We can’t comment,” an Airbus DS spokesperson said in a Feb 18 e-mail.

Leaking news of the firing this week ensures that the A400M program, and more broadly the situation at the Spain-based Military Aircraft division, will take center stage when Airbus Group announces its 2015 financial results on Feb. 24 in London.

Albiac’s dismissal is due to "problems in the ratio of on-time deliveries, and time and quality” problems in the A400M program which she was appointed to fix, according to El Confidencial, which says it has seen the internal e-mail.

No other management changes have been reported, and Fernando Alonso, who also was appointed Head of its Military Aircraft business unit and CEO of Airbus Spain in January 2015, remains in place. In fact, it was Alonso who, a few months ago, gave Albiac an ultimatum, El Confidencial reported quoting trade union sources: meet expectations or face the consequences.

Late deliveries continue

While Albiac was appointed to get deliveries back on schedule, her firing less than a year later may seem disproportionate, given that Airbus missed its 2015 delivery target by a small margin, and that flight operations were suspended for several months after an aircraft crashed May 9. It is possible that other factors also came into play, however.

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