Monday, 23 August 2010

F-18 Family

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The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and has begun operating the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. Many of these buys have been managed out of common multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts, which aim to reduce overall costs by offering longer-term production commitments, which allow contractors to negotiate better deals with their suppliers.

The MYP-II contract ran from 2005-2009, and was not renewed because the Pentagon intended to focus on the F-35 fighter program. When it became clear that the F-35 program was going to be late, and had serious program and budgetary issues, pressure built to abandon year-by-year contracting, and negotiate another multi-year deal for the current Super Hornet family. That deal is now in the works. We will be using this entry to cover the Super Hornet MYP-III program’s budgets, and this article has been updated to include all announced contracts and events likely to be connected with MYP-III, including engines. It will remain free-to-view, until the MYP contract is finalized.

Super Hornets are flown by the US Navy, replacing the service’s retired F-14 Tomcat fighters. The US Marines fly smaller, earlier-generation F/A-18 C/D Hornets that are no longer in production, and will replace them with F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) Lightning IIs when the time comes. While both types of aircraft are referred to as Hornets, the Super Hornets have less than 40% commonality with previous F/A-18A-D versions. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets have been enlarged in all dimensions and fitted with 2 extra weapons pylons. The new design created pylon vibration problems early on, which explains the “dogtooth” design on the wings’ leading edge. Super Hornets also have more powerful GE F414 engines, instead of the F404s that equipped the Hornets. The air intakes have been modified to accommodate the new engine’s demands and lower the plane’s radar signature, and other “signature shaping” measures have been employed around the plane.

The F/A-18E is a single-seat Super Hornet. The 2-seat F/A-18F sacrifices some range, carrying only 13,350 pounds of fuel – 900 fewer pounds than the F/A-18E. In exchange for this reduced range, it adds a 2nd crewman with an advanced attack station cockpit to assist in strike roles.

The F/A-18F Block II adds a number of enhancements, but all are electronic rather than aerodynamic. The most significant improvement is its AN/APG-79 AESA radar that enables simultaneous air and surface scans and is likely to offer improved reconnaissance, jamming, and even communications capabilities. Plus other capabilities the government may wish to add.

In addition to its strike role, both versions of the Super Hornet are also taking over the tactical refueling role from the retired S-3 Viking sea control aircraft.

The EA-18G Growler is based on the F/A-18F. It removes the 20mm cannon in the nose, adds new electronics, and mounts special electronic warfare pods on the aircraft’s underwing and wingtip pylons. Typically, the EA-18G retains 2 fuselage slots and 2 underwing slots for weapons carriage, though the wing pylons can also be used to hold extra fuel. Typical weapon loads will include anti-radar missiles like the AGM-88 HARM/AARGM family on the 2 free underwing pylons, plus 2 AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles on the fuselage slots for aerial self-defense.

The EA-18G Growler will replace the old EA-6B Prowler aircraft, whose airframes date from the Vietnam era. With the retirement of the USAF’s EF-111 Ravens, the Prowlers are now the only dedicated jamming aircraft in America’s inventory that can accompany tactical strike missions. They are also called upon for a wide variety of other missions, including missions over Iraq to cover convoys and jam remotely-triggered IED land-mines.

FY 2009 was the final procurement year for the 2nd Super Hornet multi-year contract. Initially, the plan was to replace MYP-II with single year procurements in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Congress was less certain. Concerns about the F-35 program’s timing, and the Navy’s fighter gap as older aircraft retire, led to pressure for another multi-year contract.

Unlike countries like France, the USA sets its defense budget on a year-by-year basis. Multi-year contracts are not a new concept in American defense procurement, however, and they are often used to save money. Contractors get the predictability of production and deliveries over 4-5 years, which allows them to negotiate with their sub-contractors for quantity discounts, make longer term investments, and pass some of the savings along. The down-side from the government’s point of view is that if requirements change, or circumstances intervene, these contracts are much more expensive to cancel or restructure.

In order to qualify for a multi-year deal, however, any proposed buy must first meet several legislative criteria. In My 2010, the Pentagon certified that a Super Hornet family MYP-III would meet those criteria, paving the way for an eventual contract.

At present, no MYP-III contract has been signed. Doing so requires congressional approval, followed by a negotiated contract.

Once a contract is signed, however, it’s important to understand how fighters are bought, in order to avoid being misled by MYP contract figures. The $8.56 billion MYP-II contract covered only the airframes, which are used by the Super Hornet and Growler programs alike. Engines, radars, jamming devices, and other equipment will be installed under the contract, but they are often specified, designed, and paid for under separate contracts, as “government furnished equipment.” This drives the final cost of fielding operational fighters much higher than any initial MYP contract would suggest.

The EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft has a history and role that extend beyond this MYP contract. It is covered separately in its own FOCUS article.

Unless otherwise specified, The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD, USA manages these contracts, and Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO is the contractor. Northrop Grumman is the original creator of the YF-17 that spawned the F/A-18 series, and remains an important subcontractor. All work performed in “El Segundo, CA,” for instance, is almost certainly NGC’s work.

Aug 19/10: GE Aviation in Lynn, MA receives a $6.3 million order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-09-G-0009) to work on the F414 Component Improvement Program. Work will be performed in Lynn, MA, and is expected to be complete in June 2011.

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July 28/10: General Electric Aircraft Engines Business Group in Lynn, MA receives a $28.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the procurement of 6 F414-GE-400 engines; 4 F414-GE-400 engine fan modules; 14 F414-GE-400 engine high pressure combustion modules; and 5 F414-GE-400 combuster modules, for installation in F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (49%); Madisonville, KY (21%); Hooksett, NH (12%); Albuquerque, NM (7%); Rutland, VT (5%); Dayton, OH (2%); Wilmington, NC (2%); Evendale, OH (1%); and Bromont, Canada (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-06-C-0088)

July 20/10: Boeing’s VP and General Manager of Global Strike Systems, Shelley Lavender, announces a “Super Hornet International Road Map” at Farnborough 2010. Technology modifications would include internal IRST to detect infrared emissions from enemy aircraft (instead of the US Navy’s current retrofit approach using a modified centerline fuel tank), an enclosed weapon pod to lower radar signature, full spherical laser and missile warning systems, a new cockpit based on large touch-screen technology, improved F414 engines (EDE/EPE), and conformal fuel tanks mounted up top to boost range.

These enhancements are described as an “international road map,” reflecting ongoing competitions in Brazil, Denmark, India, and elsewhere. These same modifications also have the potential to become part of a US Navy multi-year buy agreement with Boeing, if the Navy is willing.

June 17/10: Boeing announces that 26-year veteran Kory Mathews will serve as program vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs within Boeing’s Global Strike Systems division. The VP is responsible for customer satisfaction and the quality, cost, and schedule performance of every facet of the F/A-18A-F and the EA-18G family, and leads all activities associated with program development, production, and support.

Mathews moves from his role as VP and Chief Engineer for Boeing Military Aircraft. He succeeds Bob Gower, who has been named to the new position of VP Boeing Military Aircraft (BMA) India.

May 19/10: As part of its revisions to the FY 2011 defense budget, the House Armed Services Committee’s summary is vocal and insistent about their request for another multi-year buy program:

...the Committee is extremely concerned by the Navy and Marine Corps managing and accepting an unprecedented level of operational risk within their tactical air force structure while waiting for the completion of the F-35B and F-35C. The Committee estimates that by FY 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps inventory could be at least 250 aircraft short of requirements – the equivalent of five carrier air wings. This is an unacceptable outcome, and the Committee will not support future budget requests that fail to address the factual realities of a naval strike fighter shortfall. Barring a complete reversal of the development and performance failures in the Joint Strike Fighter program, the Committee expects future budget submissions to continue the production of F-18s to prevent our naval airpower from losing significance in our nation’s arsenal. Because of the Navy’s inability to meet required reporting dates, the bill makes technical corrections to the multi-year authority provided in the FY10 NDAA and requires the Secretary of the Navy to use the savings garnered from the multi-year procurement contract for 124 aircraft, over the previously planned annual procurement contracts, to procure additional F/A-18E or F/A-18F aircraft up to the quantity that the savings would enable.

May 14/10: The Pentagon takes a big step closer to a multi-year contract for Super Hornet family fighters:

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”[Ashton Carer] certified to Congress that the proposed F/A-18 multiyear procurement met statutory requirements, including substantial savings, for 124 F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. The proposed agreement will run for four years, from fiscal 2010 through 2013…. the Department of the Navy will continue to work with Congress to gain necessary legislative authorities required before the Navy may enter into a multiyear contract…. [to] acquire the remaining program of record for the 515 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 114 EA-18G Growlers.

The Navy’s fiscal 2011 budget request, sent to Congress Feb. 1, includes $1.9 billion to buy 22 Super Hornets and $1.1 billion for 12 Growlers. In fiscal 2012, the Navy plans to buy 24 more Growlers and one Super Hornet, with 25 more Super Hornets in fiscal 2013.”

May 1/10: Two months after its 1st request, the Pentagon asks for a second extension of 5 months, in order to negotiate a 3rd multi-year procurement deal for Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet family fighters. Tough sledding, or just bureaucrats stalling? The Hill.

“The Naval Air Systems Command intends to issue a cost plus fixed fee order under existing basic ordering agreement N00019-05-G-0026 with The Boeing Company in St. Louis, Mo for the procurement of over and above support during the Phase 4 mod line on a sole source basis. Boeing will be installing multiple engineering change proposal kits into F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft during the phase 4 mod line. The Boeing Company is the sole designer, developer, manufacturer ad integrator of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft and is the only source with the knowledge, expertise and on-site personnel base necessary to accomplish this effort.”

April 1/10: The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program cost changes up to December 2009. All Super Hornet family aircraft are included, because the Pentagon plans to buy more of them:

“EA-18G – Program costs increased $2,901.0 million (+33.5%) from $8,649.1 million to $11,550.1 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 29 aircraft from 85 to 114 aircraft (+$2,342.5 million) and associated schedule and estimating allocations* (+$7.8 million), and an increase in support costs for 26 expeditionary aircraft associated with the quantity increase (+$547.6 million).

F/A-18 E/F – Program costs increased $1,746.6 million (+3.8%) from $46,344.8 million to $48,091.4 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 22 aircraft from 493 to 515 aircraft (+$1,872.9 million), and increases in other support costs and initial spares associated with the quantity increase (+$427.9 million). These increases were partially offset by a reduction in the estimate for foreign military sales (-$198.3 million) and the estimate for actual contract costs and efficiencies (-$208.6 million), and the application of revised escalation indices (-$131.9 million).”

March 1/10: Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn asks for an extension on the deadline to notify Congress of a new multiyear Super Hornet family deal. Lynn reportedly told the congressional defense committees that the Pentagon had recently received “a viable offer” from Boeing for 124 of the fighters, but would need more time to evaluate the contract offer.

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July 30/09: The US House of Representatives passes its defense budget (H.R. 3326) by a crushing 400-30 vote. The FY 2010 Super hornet buy had been cut to 9 fighters in the Pentagon request, in order to fund the F-35 program. Both the House and the Senate promptly added $560 million and 9 more Super Hornets to their bills, bringing the FY 2010 total to 40 planes: 18 Super Hornets and 22 EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft.

This is in line with past years, and avoids a production line slowdown at Boeing. It also addresses expressed concerns about a naval fighter numbers gap created by the retirement of older fighters, and the uncertainty of the F-35C’s on-time arrival. The House also appears to be gearing up for another 5-year procurement contract for 150 more Super Hornet family planes, instead of reverting to year-by-year buys.

Reconciliation eventually took place with the Senate’s counterpart S. 1390 bill, and the final total of 40 Super Hornet family planes remained.

June 23/09: Government Executive magazine reports that Boeing has submitted an unsolicited offer to the US Navy for an MYP-III program that would build 149 Super Hornet family aircraft over the next 5 years for $50 million each base cost, instead of the planned Navy buys of 89 aircraft over the next 3 years. As always, key government-furnished equipment like engines, radars, the EA-18G’s electronic warfare equipment, etc. would fall under their own separate contracts, so actual cost per operational plane will be higher.

Present studies indicate that age and retirement, coupled with the F-35C program’s long lead time, will leave the Navy below its planned number of operational carrier-based fighters, rising to a maximum of 69 planes in 2017.

Feb 3/10: Ranking House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee Rep. Todd Akin [R-MO] publicly supports building more Super Hornet family aircraft, and advocates a multi-year buy approach for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G, similar to the 2005-2009 contract. In Rep. Arkin’s release, he says that:

I remain concerned that the Department of Defense is not taking the Navy’s strike fighter shortfall seriously…. The Super Hornet is an active production line, and is dramatically cheaper than the JSF, which may not deliver anywhere close to on time…. In this case, a multi-year procurement could save hundreds of millions of dollars, but the DoD seems to have their head in the sand. Secretary Gates mentioned that he thinks we need to have a 10% savings before we use a multi-year agreement. However, the Congress already gave DoD the authority to use a multiyear in this situation, even if the savings is less than 10%.... A multiyear procurement could save nearly half a billion dollars over the next few years. To not pursue that savings is just irresponsible.

June 2/09: US Navy CNO Adm. Roughead defends the FY 2010 budget decision to request only 9 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets instead of 18 ($1.19 billion, incl. $127.7 million RDT&E), alongside the planned 22 EA-18G Growlers ($1.69 billion, incl. 55.4 million RDT&E). The decision was made in order to speed up F-35 fielding and procurement, though the F-35C carrier model isn’t scheduled for fielding until 2015. The US Marines’ F-35B STOVL variant still hopes to begin fielding in 2012. Current FY 2010 plans call for 30 F-35s: 10 USAF F-35As, 16 USMC F-35Bs, and 4 USN F-35C test aircraft.

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Ganett’s Navy Times quotes Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway re: Future plans:

The initial vertical flight has slid right six or seven months… going to happen this fall…. But the most recent information we have out of Fort Worth is that the engine is developing even more power than we thought it might for vertical lift, so we’re encouraged…. We reach initial operating capability in 2012…. We are the first of the services…. We’re anxious to put it aboard ship and see how it performs there. Then we will make a joint Navy-Marine Corps decision in terms of what the resulting numbers of our buy needs to look like. But we’re fairly encouraged by what we see.”

They weren’t successful. Both the House and Senate defense bills went on to add $560 million for 9 more F/A-18 E/F aircraft, raising the FY 2010 buy to 18. There is also talk of a follow-on MYP-III contract.

As noted above, multi-year procurement buys don’t extend to all Super Hornet and Growler components, many of which are provided as “Government Furnished Equipment.” Nor do they cover many fixes and changes to the aircrafts’ design.

July 8/10: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $43.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to integrate IFF Mode 5 capability into the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G’s AN/APX-111 combined interrogator transponder (CIT), including upgrades to 3 Mode 5 CITs, buying 14 Mode CITs for test, and implementation of Mode 5 into automated test equipment.

Identification friend or foe (IFF) systems aren’t foolproof, but they can reduce friendly fire dangers. IFF Mode 3/A is also required for flight in many regions of civilian airspace. BAE’s AN/APX-118 CITs provide both IFF coded query and IFF coded response. The new Mode 5 is a NATO IFF standard. Compared to NATO’s Mode 4, it adds better encryption, spread spectrum modulation, time of day authentication, and a unique aircraft identifier. IFF Mode 5 level 2 adds aircraft GPS position information and other attributes, which can help IFF systems when aircraft are grouped closely together. In this respect, Mode 5 shares some characteristics with the new civilian IFF Mode-S.

Work will be performed in Greenlawn, NY (75%), and St. Louis, MO (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-10-C-0078).

June 17/10: Boeing announces a $25 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0014) to incorporate engineering change proposal 6213R2SOW, “trailing edge flap honeycomb redesign” into the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. The “honeycomb” is the flap’s internal structure. Hints of why that might be underway can be found in the April 27/10 entry.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in October 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (N00019-04-C-0014).

May 27/10: Boeing in St. Louis, MO received a $6.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for 144 kits in support of F/A-18E/F engineering change proposal #6282, “Fatigue Test Article 50/Fatigue Test Article 77 Post-Cost Reduction Initiative Inner Wing Retrofit Out of Warranty Kits.”

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in January 2015. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract.

May 21/10: General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Burlington, VT receives a $9.8 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for 30 M61A2 20mm lightweight gatling gun systems for the F/A-18E/F.

Work will be performed in Burlington, VT (50%), and Saco, Maine (50%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year, and this contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-10-C-0024).

May 5/10: GE describes 3 of the programs underway to improve its F414 engine, which powers all Super Hornet family fighters.

The US Navy wants the F414 EDE (Enhanced Durability Engine), which uses an advanced high pressure turbine and 6-stage high pressure compressor (HPC) that offers a 2-3x hot-section durability gain, and reduced fuel consumption.

The F414 EPE (Enhanced Performance Engine) is based on the EDE, but it has a new fan to increase airflow, and aims to increase thrust by 20%. It is explicitly “targeted for potential international customers,” but may also have applications in future Super Hornets. F414 EPE longevity and fuel gains will not be the same as the EDE on which it’s based, owing to its design differences.

The 3rd program is a retrofittable F414 noise reduction kit project, with serrated nozzle edges where each “lobe” penetrates into or out of the primary airflow and generates a secondary flow, reducing jet noise by 2-3-decibels. The USN has identified funding for a program to further test and mature the technology to prepare it for incorporation in the USN F414 engine fleet, with work scheduled to continue through 2011. GE Aviation.

April 27/10: FedBizOpps solicitation #20058-10:

The Naval Air Systems Command intends to place a Firm Fixed Price order under an existing Basic Ordering Agreement, N00019-05-G-0026 with The Boeing Company of St. Louis, Missouri 63166, for the procurement of 4 sets of Production Tooling and 4 sets of Retrofit Tooling associated with Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) 6213R2C1, “Trailing Edge Flap (TEF) Redesign” for the F/A-18 E/F and E/A-18G aircraft. ECP 6213R2 shall correct the deficienices found during testing and teardown analysis: Cocure rib 1 shear clip failure, cracks in the inboard hinge area, cracks in the front spar, cracks in the splice rib, numerous fastener failures, cocure skin stability and rib pull off, micro cracking in the cocure rabbet. This ECP should result in an increase of the Safety Flight Hours on the TEF. This synopsis/solication is for the Non-recurring portion only. A new pre-award synopsis/solicitation shall be done for the recurring portion of this effort at a later date. Boeing is the sole designer, developer, manufacturer and integrator of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18 G aircraft in its various configurations and is the only source with the knowledge, expertise and on-site personnel base necessary to accomplish this effort.

March 11/10: General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA received a $326.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0088), exercising a US Navy option for 80 F414-GE-400 engines and modules, 2 spare engines, 1 engine fan module; 8 engine high pressure turbine modules; 33 combuster modules; and 80 engine device kits. The contract also includes advance procurement funding to buy long-lead material for future F414-GE-400 engines.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (49%); Madisonville, KY (21%); Hooksett, NH (12%); Albuquerque, NM (7%); Rutland, VT (5%); Dayton, OH (2%); Wilmington, NC (2%); Evendale, OH (1%); and Bromont, Quebec, Canada (1%), and is expected to be completed in May 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract.

March 30/10: Boeing Co. in St. Louis, MO received a $6.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) under Engineering Change Proposal 6240R1, “FT 50 18K Main Landing Gear Sidebrace Fitting Failure – Revision for Retrofit”, covering 144 kits for the F/A-18E/F aircraft.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete in October 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

March 26/10: Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $5.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-priced contract (N00019-09-C-0069), exercising an option for 124 ARC-210 RT-1824C /ARC radio receiver transmitters for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

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Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, IA, and is expected to be complete in December 2010. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

Feb 16/10: General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA received a $7.3 million modification to a previously issued order under a basic ordering agreement. This money funds the demonstration of new technologies, with the goal of reducing the specific fuel consumption of the F414-GE-400 engine by 3%. This effort is in support of the “Near Term Energy Efficiency Technology Demonstration and Research Project,” under the USA’s 2009 economic stimulus funding.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (89%), and Evendale, OH (11%), and is expected to be completed in December 2010. $7.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-G-0009).

The Wideband Global SATCOM Program

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The WGS program is actually a set of 13-kilowatt spacecraft based upon Boeing’s model 702 commercial satellite. These satellites will support the USA’s warfighting bandwidth requirements, supporting tactical C4ISR (command, control, communications, and computers; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance); battle management; and combat support needs. The program name has been changed for some reason from “Wideband Gapfiller Satellite” to “Wideband Global SATCOM,” presumably to avoid the (correct) suggestion that it fills an emerging gap. Readers should be aware that references to either title in documents, archives, or the media denote the same program.

Upon its first launch into geosynchronous orbit, WGS Flight 1 became the U.S. Department of Defense’s highest capacity communication satellite.

Stealth Paint from North korea

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Reports out of South Korea say the communist North has developed a special stealth paint to camouflage its warships, tanks and fighter planes.

The development is detailed in a confidential field manual smuggled out of North Korea by a Christian group.

South Korean media is reporting that Pyongyang has developed a stealth paint which absorbs radar waves.

The camouflage can also reportedly hide tanks and war planes from reconnaissance satellites.

A South Korean intelligence expert has been quoted as saying the North's military has done much more research on stealth tactics than previously thought.

The handbook also reveals that Pyongyang has built a complex network of foxholes and caves.

Iran to start Mass production of Assault boats

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Iran's military has opened production lines for two new types of assault boats. The announcement came a day after Iran said it had developed an unmanned bomber aircraft that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the "ambassador of death" to Iran's enemies.

Both announcements drew a U.S. warning that Iran's weapons advancements were being met by increased military cooperation between Washington and its Arab allies in the region.

One of the vessels unveiled Monday, known as the Zolfaghar, is armed with missiles, state TV reported. The second is called the Seraj, or Light, and is a high-speed patrol boat with a fiberglass body.

Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said the new vessels "will add remarkable powers to Iran's navy."

Iran frequently announces advances in military technology, boasting of self-sufficiency in the face of international sanctions and efforts by the U.S. and other nations to isolate the country over its nuclear program.

U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley warned the new weapons could reduce Iran's security as Washington partners with allies in the region to counter a potential Iranian threat.

"This is one of the reasons why we believe that if Iran continues on the path that it's on, that it actually might find itself less secure," he told reporters in Washington.

Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo and now produces its own tanks, armored personnel carries, missiles and even a fighter plane.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad inaugurated the country's first domestically built unmanned bomber aircraft.

The 13-foot-long (4-meter-long) drone can carry up to four missiles and has a range of 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) — not far enough to reach archenemy Israel.

Last week, Tehran test-fired a new liquid fuel surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam-1, with advanced guidance systems.

MI-35 Joins Afghan Air Force

From Weapons and technology

The Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopter is the Afghan Air Force’s main gunship with Afghan aircrews trained by NATO forces from various countries including Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The adage: crawl, walk, run often describes military training and the Afghan Mi-35 crews are in the walking phase, building confidence to take control of the skies. U.S. Army Apache helicopter personnel from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) assist combat operations with Afghan aircrews ast they develop Mi-35 capabilities.

“The reason we are working together is to combine the capabilities of the Mi-35 with the capabilities of the Apache. We have trained together in the past, and it was time to start operating together,” said Maj. Caleb Nimmo, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Combined Air Power Transition Force, with the U.S. Air Force.

Nimmo is the only American pilot trained to fly the Mi-35 and advises the Afghan Air Force.

On Aug. 18, 2010, the Afghan Mi-35 aircrews put their training to use during what would have been an armed patrol in the region of Ghazni, where 3rd CAB engaged the enemy multiple times in the last month. The area is considered a hotbed for IED emplacements. The plan was to deny the region as a safe-haven for insurgents in the south.

En route to Ghazni, Apaches from 3rd CAB received an urgent call reporting a convoy attack along their designated route. The combined patrol air unit re-directed to engage the enemy. The Apaches from 3rd CAB took the lead as the pre-mission brief directed, and the Afghan Mi-35’s helped add to the overwhelming and intimidating airpower. The insurgents ceased attack and withdrew from the area.

“We did not shoot any ordnance. There were too many civilians nearby and the collateral damage would have been too great,” said Nimmo.

This was the first operational mission between the two squadrons. Learning points will be added to the standard operating procedures. Both sides recognized that they worked well together and actually complement each other on their respective aircraft's capabilities and individual pilot's skills.

“They [3rd CAB] understand the importance of working with the Afghans to gain the support of the relevant Afghan population to counter the insurgency in Afghanistan. Hopefully other agencies in the International Security Assistance Force will proactively begin to include Afghans in their operations, so we can ultimately turn the country back over to the Afghan government,” said Nimmo.

Veritcal Take off UAV`s for Indian Navy

From Weapons and technology

The Navy is looking to buy a new type of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that operates and functions like a chopper. It can be operated from ship decks for real time surveillance and intelligence gathering at sea to spot militants, pirates and enemies, besides aiding in rescue operations and scanning oil rigs.

So far the armed forces have the conventional UAVs that take-off like small planes and hover over specified targets to gather information. Most of these are acquired from friendly foreign countries, while the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have also developed some of these.

However, the Navy cannot put them to much use as an open space is needed to enable a landing when a UAV returns back to base. This will not be possible at high seas, where decks are constrained for space.

The Ministry of Defence has sent out a request for information to global players asking what kind of single engine or twin engine UAV’s can be supplied. The main requirement will be for vertical take off and landing facility. It will be fitted with scanners, high-resolution cameras and infrared imagers. Besides, it will have the capability to operate all weather conditions. Most such UAV’s will be operated off naval ship decks that have helicopter landing facility.

The UAVs will be used for surveillance, targeting and intelligence gathering, using a combination infrared optical sensor and lasers. The Navy can also use this for search and rescue operations. Another use will be to carry a common data link and serve as a radio and data relay platform between ships at sea and ground stations.