U.S. Naval Aircraft and Weapon Developments

By Dr. Floyd D. Kennedy Jr.


Many readers may have been surprised when newspapers reported last November that Navy P-3C Orions were flying surveillance missions over Zaire out of Entebbe, Uganda, searching for starving refugees-a role far removed from their original mission of antisubmarine warfare, but indicative of naval forces' adaptation to the new global security environment. Sensors and data links being added to P-3Cs as part of the Anti-surface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP) provided the electro-optic imaging and near real- time connectivity of surveillance data to national decision makers that made the P-3C an ideal asset for the situation in Zaire. Those same capabilities have proved useful in Bosnia as well, and no doubt will see service again. Additional AIP upgrades include incorporation of the Maverick missile, survivability enhancements, an advanced imaging radar, and improved command-and-control capabilities. Fleet introduction of the full system will begin in the second quarter of fiscal year 1998. Other upgrades to both the P-3C and the S-3B Viking are described in Tables 1 and 2.

For surveillance of hostile targets, the Navy and Marine Corps have started exploiting capabilities provided by a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being developed by the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO), as well as their own Pioneer UAVs. The most dramatic recent events were the demonstration of the Medium Altitude Endurance Predator UAV (Tier 2 within DARO's Project 527-see Table I) in support of Carrier Group One's Composite Training unit Exercise 96-lA (28 November through 10 December 1995), and later under the control of a submerged submarine. During the exercise, two Predators flew 83 hours from a shore base in support of the Carl Vinson (CVN-70) battle group, providing real-time operations and intelligence support to strike, combat search and rescue, visit-board-search-and-seizure, non-combatant evacuation, mobile missile targeting, and war-at-sea operations. In the latter example, from 30 May to 6 June 1996, a Predator UAV passed imagery to the USS Chicago (SSN-721) while the submarine's crew controlled it in flight and received images on equipment specially installed for the test. The data were used to support an embarked SEAL team.

These events were conducted under a 30-month Predator Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration. The Predator completed its demonstration on 30 June 1996, and on 26 July DARO awarded General Atomics a $23 million contract for another five air vehicles and ancillary systems; on 2 September, the Air Force assumed operational control of Predator assets. Predator continues real-world operations in Bosnia. A study of "marinizing" Predator was completed at the end of last year, but its results had not been released as this issue closed for press.

Both Navy and Marine Pioneer UAVs also have been active in Bosnia. During fiscal year 1996, one Marine unit deployed to Tuzla, Bosnia, to support peacekeeping operations ashore, while two Navy units successively deployed to the Adriatic on board the USS Shreveport (LPD-12) and the USS Austin (LPD-4) to support fleet operations and contingency operations ashore. Each Pioneer system comprises five air vehicles, one ground control station, one portable control station, four remote receiving stations, and a truck-mounted launcher for systems ashore. The Navy operates five systems, the Marines three, and one is assigned to the Joint UAV Training Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

Pioneers are scheduled to be replaced by the Outrider Tactical UAV, now undergoing its own technology demonstration. Performance requirements include a 200-kilometer range, three- to four-hour endurance on-station, launch and recovery from unprepared surfaces and large deck amphibious ships, an electro-optic/infrared payload with optional synthetic aperture radar, plus an air vehicle cost of $350,000 for the 33rd production example and $300,000 for the 100th. Outriders should replace all Pioneers in the inventory by 2003.

Battlespace Dominance

Several key systems that will contribute to dominating the battlespace are under development. The three highest visibility programs are the F/A-18E/F, the Joint Strike Fighter, and the Navy and Marine Theater Ballistic Missile Defense systems. Also critical to the future of carrier aviation and the maintenance of battlespace dominance for the near- to midterm are upgrades to the F-14 Tomcat. Finally, the Navy and Marine Corps have begun assuming responsibility for all airborne electronic countermeasures; EA-6Bs are replacing the Air Force's EF-11 lAs as those aircraft are phased out of service.

On 26 March 1997, based on a Defense Acquisition Board recommendation, Under Secretary of Defense Paul Kaminski approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for 12 F/A-18E/Fs (Lot 1), advanced procurement for Lot 2, and a total LRIP quantity of 62 aircraft over three lots. In addition, he delegated decision authority for Lot 2 (20 aircraft) and Lot 3 (30 aircraft) to the Navy Acquisition Executive, contingent on meeting the specified exit criteria. These decisions resulted from the exceptional performance of the seven FlA-18E/F flight test aircraft in the 17 months since the F/A-18E's first flight. In addition, the Center for Naval Analyses completed a congressionally mandated study that concluded the F/A18E can deliver almost twice the payload of the F/A-18C in a conventional air campaign; the advantage increases as range to the target increases. The study also found that the F/A-18E is more survivable, especially against sophisticated air defenses, provides greater bringback capability for unexpended ordnance, and has significantly greater growth potential for upgrades well into the next century. Also, rare in a modern aircraft development effort, the F/A-18E/F is on time, on budget, and 700 pounds under specified weight. It is on track to achieve initial operational capability by September 2000.

Given rumors that one of the big three tactical fighter programs-the F/A-18E/F, the Air Force's F-22, or the Joint Strike Fighter-will have to be canceled or procured in reduced numbers because of budget constraints, the performance to date of the F/A-18EIF should make it the least likely candidate. Unfortunately, it will be entering production with a concomitant surge in budget allocations for the earliest, highest priced units just when budgeteers will be looking for the largest immediate cost savings, not the most cost-efficient savings over the long term. The future of Navy carrier aviation rides with the F/A-18E/F, and it appears that only Clinton administration budget cutters could interfere with its success. The Marine Corps has decided not to participate in the F/A- 18E/F program, planning instead to replace all its fixed-wing tactical fighters with a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter.

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program objective is to deliver an affordable, highly common family of next-generation, multi-role strike fighter aircraft for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and allies. The Navy has stated a need for a first day of the war, survivable strike fighter to complement the F/A-18E/F. The Air Force wants a multi-role (principally air-to-ground) replacement for the F-16 and A-10 as a complement to the F-22. The Marines, as noted earlier, want a STOVL replacement for the AV-8B and the F/A-18A/CID, and the Royal Navy wants a STOVL aircraft to replace the Sea Harriers it operates from Invincible-class carriers.

The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office initiated a multi-year, $2.2 billion JSF Concept Demonstration effort in November 1996, with contract awards to Boeing and Lockheed Martin; the McDonnell Douglas design did not survive the competition. The two remaining contractors will build and fly concept demonstrator aircraft, conduct concept-unique ground demonstrations, and continue refining the weapon system concepts on which their contract awards were based. Specifically, both contractors will demonstrate commonality and modularity, STOVL hover and transition, and low speed handling qualities of their respective designs. Pratt and Whitney will provide propulsion hardware and engineering support for both Boeing's and Lockheed Martin's efforts. General Electric will continue its effort to develop an alternate engine as a hedge against failure of the Pratt and Whitney design and as a competitive incentive. In addition to the demonstrations, the main deliverable under the two concept demonstration contracts is a comprehensive Weapon System Development Plan that covers all aspects for maturing each contractor's concept into engineering and manufacturing development and then production.

Milestone II for start of the JSF engineering and manufacturing development phase is scheduled for fiscal year 2001. First development flight-test aircraft is to fly in 2004, with engineering development continuing to 2008. Advance procurement for low-rate initial production theoretically will begin in 2004, and for full-rate production in 2007. Naturally, the farther in the future the dates, the more tenuous they are; in any case, it's an ambitious schedule.

The Navy continues to upgrade F-14 Tomcats pending delivery of the F/A-18E/Fs and JSFs that will replace them in the next century. The first Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting InfraRed for Night (LANTIRN) pod-equipped F-14 squadron, VF-103, deployed last summer to the Mediterranean and Middle East for Operations Decisive Endeavor and Southern Watch; availability of the LANTIRN system was 98%. Three F-14 squadrons have the LANTIRN pods, and by the end of this fiscal year, all carrier battle groups will have F-14s so equipped. A total of 80 F-14As, 67 F-14Bs, and 50 F-14Ds will be LANTIRN-configured.

The F-14B Upgrade, which includes incorporation of LANTIRN, is scheduled to achieve initial operational capability with the deployment of VF-102 in October. The upgrade program also includes new digital architecture and enhanced computers to allow integration of advanced weapons and systems on all 67 F-14Bs. The first F-14s equipped with the Global Positioning System will deploy with VF-31 in June 1998. Finally, the Digital Flight Control System, proved to eliminate the F-14's potentially catastrophic spin tendencies, will be retrofitted to F-14As starting in June 1998 and to F-14Bs and F-14Ds starting in 1999.

Since the Secretary of Defense announced in August 1995 that the airborne jammer mission would be consolidated in a single platform, the EA-6B, the Navy has reestablished four squadrons of four aircraft each: VAQ-134 in September 1995, deploying in May 1996; VAQ-133 in April 1996, deploying in January 1997; VAQ-137 in October 1996, and VAQ-142 in April 1997. One additional squadron, VAQ-128, is scheduled for reestablishment this coming October. Demonstrating the newly joint nature of the EA-6B's mission, 13 Air Force pilots and electronic countermeasures officers have gone, or are going, through training on the EA-6B at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington. In June 1996, the first all-Air Force EA-6B crew carrier-qualified on the USS Constellation (CV-64). In January 1997, the first Air Force EA-6B officers deployed to Iwakuni, Japan, with VAQ-133.

The Navy is upgrading the EA-6B airframe with Block 89A modifications, including new center wing sections for those aircraft that need them. In addition, a major weapon system upgrade was funded last year to integrate into the EA-6B system the ICAP (improved capabilities) III ALQ-99 tactical jamming system, the USQ-113 communications jammer, and additional data links including JTIDS (Link 16). The Navy expects that these improvements will keep the venerable EA-6B an effective platform until 2015. Critics charge that the airframe simply won't last that long. No formal replacement program is yet underway, but McDonnell Douglas has offered a very attractive command-and-control warfare variant of the F/A-18F

All the services have air- and missile defense requirements, and all are buying systems to fulfill them. That makes the Theater Air and Missile Defense Program one of the most joint of all joint activities-and one that absolutely, positively, must be integrated. The Secretary of Defense late last year established a new Joint Theater Air and Missile Defense Office (JTAMDO) with the active support of the naval service. It will focus on planning, coordination, and oversight of joint integrated operational requirements and architectures for future systems. In addition, as joint force integrator, Commander in Chief U.S. Atlantic Command, established his Theater Missile Defense (TMD) Initiative last summer, one aspect of which (Project Coherent Defense) has the specific intent of integrating existing missile-defense forces in support of the Joint Force Commander.

Theater missile defense includes active and passive defense, attacks against hostile ballistic and cruise missiles, and the command, control, communications, and intelligence (C4I) infrastructure to integrate them. Cruise-missile threats differ from manned-aircraft threats principally in detect ability issues, not in means of targeting or attack, so the integration of both air and missile active defenses makes sense.

On 3 December 1996, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, Paul Kaminski, directed that Navy theater-wide (also referred to as "upper tier") ballistic missile defense be included in the theater missile defense core program, thereby ensuring its funding along a brisk timeline to an initial operational capability in fiscal year 2004. On 22 February 1997, he approved Navy area (also "lower tier") ballistic missile defense entry into engineering and manufacturing development. At the same time, he approved a low rate initial production quantity of 185 SM-2 Block IVA missiles to be ordered when specific engineering development exit criteria were met. These actions should enable the Navy to deploy two User Operational Evaluation Systems (UOES) of the Navy real theater missile defense capability (essentially operational prototypes) in fiscal year 1999.

The key to Navy theater missile defense efforts is the cooperative engagement capability (CEC) that had its genesis in a program begun in 1975 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is a real-time, sensor-to-shooter, weapons-control network that permits fire-control solutions by any station in the network, whether or not that particular platform holds the target on its sensors. In fact, it appears to every platform in the system that every sensor in the net actually belongs to him. The advantages of such a network are overwhelming for detection, tracking, and engagement. Congress last year recognized these advantages by increasing the program's already substantial funding so that it might be applied to other service's sensors through a Joint Composite Tracking Network, which will be based on cooperative engagement.

In 1996, the concept figured prominently in an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), dubbed "Mountain Top." On 20 and 21 January, the USS Lake Erie (CG-70) launched four SM-2 missiles against four low-altitude cruise-missile targets well beyond the ship's radar horizon-and got them all. The Aegis cruiser's SM-2s were tracked and their targets illuminated by a radar situated atop a mountain on the island of Kauai at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, with the raw sensor data provided directly to the ship's Aegis combat system using the cooperative engagement concept. Following completion of the demonstration, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force units joined the Lake Erie at the range, and two more CEC-equipped cruisers, the Anzio (CG-68) and the Cape St. George (CG-71), and the CEC-equipped U.S. Customs Service P-3 airborne early warning aircraft arrived to take part in a two week, joint air-defense exercise testing cooperative engagement in a challenging, real-world environment. A Marine Corps Hawk battery used CEC-cueing of its fire control illuminators to fire four missiles. An Army Patriot battery performed simulated engagements using cooperative engagement data that was converted into a Link 16 format.

Cooperative engagement achieved initial operational capability in September 1996 following additional missile-firing tests. Full-rate production of the system's common equipment set will commence in 1998, and the system is scheduled to become operational on the E-2C in 2000. Initial installations will focus on key self-defense and area defense ships. When a Joint Composite Tracking Network based on cooperative engagement comes on-line early in the next century, Army Patriot and, potentially, Theater High Altitude Air Defense, Marine Hawk, Air Force AWACS, Navy E-2C, and Aegis all will be linked in real time to address all theater air and missile defense threats.

Today, the United States has only two systems able to engage incoming ballistic missiles. Only one of those systems is self-contained with its own detection, tracking, and engagement capability. No, it's not the Army's Patriot. It is the Marine Corps' Hawk. The Marine Corps and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization funded modifications to the Marines' AN/TPS-59 long-range, three-dimensional surveillance radar and the Hawk weapon system to allow detection, tracking, and engagement of short-range ballistic missiles. Patriot cannot detect; it relies on external cueing. Technical development testing of the modified radar concluded in April 1996. In August, the requisite improvements to Hawk missile lethality necessary to kill incoming ballistic missiles were tested along with the improved radar performance of the TPS-59 and improved communications at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. After the seven live-fire tests at White Sands, the radar and communications elements of the system entered formal operational test and evaluation. All testing was successful, and, as of the end of 1996, all Marine Hawk batteries had been upgraded. Four Hawk batteries are in the active Marine Corps, five are in the Marine Corps reserve.

Amphibious Operations

Key to exploiting the naval service's domination of the sea-air-land interface that constitutes the littoral areas of the globe is the Marine Corps' concept of ship-to-objective maneuver. No longer will there be the sequential steps of maneuver ashore and then maneuver to the objective. Staging at the shoreline is time consuming and presents an inviting target to the enemy. Ship-to-objective maneuver as part of the overall concept of operational maneuver from the sea uses ships' maneuvers to begin a smooth flow of power from over the horizon directly to the objective.

In order to execute this concept, the Department of the Navy is making a major investment in the means of projecting ground combat power ashore. Aside from the obvious investment in amphibious ships, which are becoming a larger percentage of the total number of ships in the Navy as that total continues to shrink, two of the naval service's largest procurements are for the expressed purpose of transporting Marines ashore quickly and from over the horizon: the MV-22 Osprey and the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV). (See "AAAV," p. 96, this issue) Other upcoming procurements to support amphibious warfare include both Navy and Marine Corps mine countermeasures systems, a new, lightweight 155-mm howitzer (see Tables 1 and 2), and a variety of sea-based systems designed to provide fire support ashore.

A low-rate initial production (LRIP) order for the MV-22 Osprey was executed in the spring of 1996. Four aircraft were ordered, and an additional five aircraft will be ordered this fiscal year. Developmental aircraft have completed more than 1,160 flight hours and more than 1,000 flights. According to the program office, the "MV-22 is 450 pounds under its projected design weight, has lower projected drag, higher projected reliability and maintainability, and meets or exceeds all of the Joint Requirements Oversight Committee-approved Key Performance Parameters for both the Marine Corps MV-22 and U.S. Special Operations Command/USAF CV-22." BellBoeing's design-to-cost goal was $29.4 million flyaway cost in fiscal year 1994 dollars, and the average unit recurring cost continues to decrease toward that goal. Aircraft deliveries will begin in fiscal year 1999, and the Milestone III decision for full-scale production is scheduled for the first quarter of fiscal year 2001. The Marines are to receive 425 MV-22s, the Navy 50 HV-22 combat search-and-rescue variants, and the Air Force Special Operations community 48 CV-22s. In fiscal year 1997 legislation, Congress made clear to the administration its intent to ramp up V-22 production to a cost-efficient 36 units per year by fiscal year 2000 "at the latest." If that should happen, the Milestone III decision will have to be advanced from its fiscal year 2001 target, but it would not be the first time Congress enforced its will in regard to the V-22 program.

With the withdrawal from service (once again) of the Navy's last battleships, the Marine Corps was left with little to call upon in the way of naval surface fire support. The naval service's new emphasis on littoral warfare has made this deficiency even more glaring. As the Navy casts about for new and innovative ways to provide direct support for ground forces, it has considered a variety of guns, missiles and rockets to complement carrier-based air power. This diversity of potential systems led the Department of the Navy to reclassify its Gun Weapon System Technology RDT&E line item in the budget (see Table 1) to Land Attack Technology.

The Surface Warfare Division of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations reorganized completely last year, and, in the process, created a new Land Attack Warfare Branch, which is responsible for establishing operational requirements for land-attack weapons and sensors-and, significantly, for the ships that will carry them. The Land Attack Warfare Branch and the Theater Air Warfare Branch, whose missile-defense programs were discussed earlier, will work together closely to develop the battle management command, control, and communications that will integrate operations afloat and ashore.

The systems in development under the Land Attack Technology line item include an extended-range guided munition (ERGM) for the Mk 45 5-inch/54 caliber gun that equips all Ticonderoga (CG-47)class guided-missile cruisers and Spruance (DD-963), Kidd (DDG-993), and Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class destroyers, as well as Tarawa (LHA-1)-class amphibious assault ships. The new munition's range will be 63 nautical miles. The Mk 45 gun modified to fire it and the round itself are scheduled for delivery in fiscal year 2000 for installation on DDG-81, third ship of the Arleigh Burke Flight IIA.

For the Arsenal Ship, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren is developing a vertical gun/advanced ship weapon that will fit the Mk 41 vertical launch system footprint. It will have a 155-mm projectile atop a propellant canister filled with "co-layered disk" propellant that gives the projectiles a range of from 50 to 270 nautical miles and exceptional accuracy.

A third effort under land attack technology is the fielding of a land-attack ballistic missile system, with two leading candidates to fill the requirement: a navalized variant of the Army's Advanced Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) Block 1A ballistic missile, and an adaptation of the Navy's SM-2 Block 3 missile to the land attack role. ATACMS Block 1 was successfully test fired from an Army launcher on board an amphibious ship in 1995. Last year, the Navy awarded Standard Missile Company a contract to conduct a series of nine test flights starting in June of this year to evaluate SM-2 Block 3 as a land attack weapon and as a low-altitude, sea-skimming target and theater ballistic missile target. Waiting in the wings as a cruise missile alternative to ATACMS and SM2 is the Sea Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM), a surface-launched variant of the SLAM missile, which was successfully tested in April 1996.

Miscellaneous Milestones

Grumman A-6Es came home from their last deployments-VA-196 on board the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in the Pacific and VA-75 on board the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in the Atlantic. The Navy formally retired the warhorse on Friday, 28 February 1997, in parallel ceremonies at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, and Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia.

On 20 February 1997, Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical delivered the first prototype Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It has a 14,000-mile range and an operating altitude of 65,000 feet; its designation within the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) Project 527 is Tier 2 Plus. The Tier 3 Minus low-observable UAV, Lockheed Martin/Boeing's Dark Star, first flew in March 1996. The first prototype crashed on its second flight the following month, probably because of software problems. A second prototype is scheduled for delivery this spring.

On 17 June 1996, the Air Force as lead agent selected Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas to compete in the 24month program definition and risk reduction phase of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) Program. At the end of that phase, a single contractor will be selected to begin 32 months of engineering and manufacturing development followed by, if approved, production of more than 2,400 missiles for the Air Force and an unspecified number for the Navy. The principal Navy platform for the missile will be the F/A-18E/F, though the P-3 and S-3 also are under consideration.

Last summer, Naval Air Systems Command began a feasibility study on a manned carrier-based aircraft to perform the roles now undertaken by the S-3B, ES-3A, E-2C, and C-2. Phase I, which determined future mission requirements, was completed in February 1997. Phase II, the technical and economic feasibility assessment, began in January and is scheduled for completion in November.

The Large, Land-Based Aircraft (LLBA) Study has been renamed MultiMission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) Study. The study contract is expected to be awarded in December.


Those first to arrive on the scene of an evolving crisis have a number of responsibilities: deter escalation of the crisis; contain the offensive moves of an aggressor; blunt any further offensive moves and, if possible, roll them back; achieve dominance of the battlespace to permit integrated offensive action and to protect both allied and incoming joint and coalition forces; and launch an integrated counteroffensive in concert with follow on and allied forces. All of these responsibilities are executed in tandem with other services. They are best executed as an integrated, combined arms whole. The initiatives discussed earlier and listed in Tables 1 and 2 indicate that Department of the Navy's research and procurement are focused on making that happen.



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