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By John Fricker

By John Fricker
Australian Forces Extend New MRO, Technical Support Contracts 

In an extensive move toward expanding its long-term engineering operations, Canberra’s Defense Materiel Organization (DMO) awarded a contract on March 11 to Australian Aerospace and subcontractor Lockheed Martin to provide Through-Life Support (TLS) services for the Royal Australian Air Force’s 12 C-130J Hercules transports. DMO Aerospace Division Head, Air Vice-Marshal Colin Thorne, said that the $A292 million ($192.46 million) TLS contract “will provide innovative solutions to C-130J maintenance and reduce future costs of ownership.

Updated E-6Bs Enter U.S. Navy Service 

U.S. Naval Air Systems Command’s Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications program office (PMA-271) reported formal acceptance of the first upgraded Boeing E-6B Mercury from Rockwell Collins and L-3 Integrated Systems Group at the latter’s Waco, Texas, facility. Navy E-6B aircraft are used to conduct both the “Take Charge and Move Out” (TACAMO) and U.S. Strategic Command Airborne Command Post missions, providing reliable and survivable communications between the president, secretary of defense and U.S. strategic forces.

French Fighter Upgrades and Support 

The French Defense Procurement Agency (Délégation Générale pour l’Armement, or DGA) has confirmed initial deliveries of production Dassault Rafale F3s to the French air force (AdlA`) and navy (Aéronavale) from early 2009. Qualification of the full standard F3 multi-role version of Rafale combat aircraft was announced on July 1, 2008. Earlier Rafale F2s, operated by AdlA since June 2006 and Aéronavale since May 2008, also are being upgraded to similar standards.

British Upgrading Helicopter Fleets 

A ceremony at AgustaWestlands Yeovil facility in November marked U.K. MoD acceptance of the first two Apache AH Mk.1 attack helicopters, equipped with new sighting and targeting systems, following their Nov. 14 release to service. AgustaWestland received a £194 million ($271.6 million) contract in May 2005 to integrate and test new systems in Army Air Corps Apaches and retrofit all 67 aircraft. Deliveries began on schedule on Nov. 27 at Wattisham, the U.K. Apache’s main operating base, for program completion by late 2010.

Major Upgrades Extend Lockheed Martin P-3 Service Lives 

A U.S. Navy squadron in Brunswick, Maine, has taken redelivery of the first red-striped Lockheed Martin P-3C maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft following the rectification and repair of structural problems by the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE), at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Fla. The “red stripe” designation derives from a diagonal marking on the airworthiness bulletin that grounded 39 Navy P-3C aircraft in December 2007, because of structural fatigue concerns in the Zone 5 portion of the lower outer wing.

New Lives for F-5s from Northrop Grumman-Led Refurbishment 

In a rare case of the U.S. government repurchasing military equipment from previous customers, NAVAIR’s Support and Commercial Derivative Aircraft Support Office Adversary Team recently detailed a six-year program to buy and refurbish 44 retired Swiss Air Force (SAFAAC) Northrop F-5E Freedom Fighters. According to U.S. Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md., these will allow the Navy to fly in a dedicated adversary role until at least FY15. Each Swiss F-5E was airlifted from RUAG’s plant at Emmen, Switzerland, to St. Augustine, Fla., in a U.S.

DARA Keeps U.K. Military Aircraft Flying 

Britain's Defense Aviation Repair Agency (DARA) claims to be Europe's largest government-owned ``one-stop shop'' facility. It deals with not only maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and upgrades of U.K. Defense Ministry and other aircraft, systems and components, but also for engines and avionics. DARA is part of the MoD's Defense Logistics Organization (DLO). It operates from four main centers throughout the U.K., each dealing with different equipment areas.

Partnered Approach to C-130 Support 

New U.K. Defense Ministry (MoD) and industry proposals are aimed at providing 25-year technical support for the RAF's 25 new Lockheed Martin C-130J/J-30 C.Mk 4/5 and 30 remaining C-130K C.Mk 1/3 Hercules transport aircraft. The Hercules Integrated Project Team (IPT), based at RAF Wyton, is developing a partnered approach with an industry group, led by Marshall Aerospace, plus Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce. Known as Hercules Integrated Operational Support (HIOS), the project now awaits full MoD approval and planned July 2005 contract signature.

F-16s and Mirage 2000s Boost GAMCO Support 

With scheduled arrival this year of the first of 55 Lockheed Martin Block 6O F-16C and 25 F-16D multi-role fighters ordered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force, the Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Co. (GAMCO) is expanding its facilities for their technical support. The Abu Dhabi Air Wing (ADAW) of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence (AF&AD) has selected GAMCO for depot maintenance of the F-16s' GE F110-132 turbofans. Its advanced facilities also will be made available to other regional air forces.

Rebuilt H-1 Reaches 2,000 Flight Hours 

The long-term Bell Helicopter Textron H-1 rebuild upgrade program achieved a notable milestone in early May when the helicopter reached a 2,000 flight hour mark in the development schedule. H-1 upgrades flight-test directors were unsure if the milestone mark was reached on May 6 during AH-1Z rocket accuracy testing at the Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona or during UH-1Y external loads tests conducted at NAVAIR's Patuxent River, Md., facility on the same day.

U.S. 707s Gain Life Extensions from New Avionics 

Block I modification upgrades for the U.S. Navy's fleet of Boeing 707-320B/C-based E-6B Mercury TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) aircraft will be provided by Rockwell Collins under a $79 million contract awarded on March 31 by NAVAIR's E-6 Program Office (PMA-271). The E-6B is used as a nuclear submarine liaison and strategic airborne command post aircraft. Rockwell Collins is partnered with L-3 Communications, which has a $25 million share of the new E-6B contract.

BAE Systems Wins Lead Visegrad Contract 

Progress at last shows signs of being made for limited NATO upgrades of about 100 Mil Mi-24D/V ``Hind D/E'' attack helicopters operated by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Some degree of NATO system standardization was sought through a planned cooperative agreement between these four Central European Visegrad countries. In the absence of operational equipment requirements and funding level agreements, however, the Visegrad countries began pursuing individual Mi-24 and Mi-8/17 upgrade options.

Radar and Airframe Upgrades Boost U.S. EW Clout 

Boeing in St. Louis received a $61.8 million U.S. Navy contract in February for a second low-rate initial production (LRIP) run of the Raytheon APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and E/A-18G combat and electronic warfare aircraft. The AESA radar is part of the F/A-18E/F Block II upgrade, which includes integration of advanced mission computers, high-speed data network, cockpit controls and displays, environmental control system upgrade and forward fuselage affordability improvements.

More Upgrades for RAF Tornado, Harrier Fleets 

With a $2.15 billion mid-life upgrade program for 142 RAF Panavia Tornado GR.4/4Astrike/reconnaissance fighters completed on schedule in June 2003, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) authorized an additional Package 2 development program for enhanced weapon and sensor capabilities.

Big Bucks From Old Bangers 

In the U.K., widespread warbird MRO, restoration and technical support facilities are available from a growing number of specialist organizations. As the U.K. government's Imperial War Museum (IWM) airfield site, the historic ex-RAF airfield of Duxford, near Cambridge, houses several of these organizations, which often participate in weekend summer displays. They comprise the Aircraft Restoration Co. (ARCo), The Fighter Collection, Historic Aircraft Collection, Historic Flying, and the Old Flying Machine Co.

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