System upgrades and technology insertion projects are coming in to keep military systems on top

THE AVIATION & DEFENSE BLOG – I can’t remember when I’ve seen so many projects to upgrade US military systems in such a short time as I did in June. The Pentagon awarded at least 12 contracts – probably more – in June, showing how much the United States Department of Defense (DOD) relies on systems upgrades and technology insertion to keep the armed forces at the top.

Avionics computers and networks, cockpit displays, electro-optical sensors, smart munitions, missiles, submarine combat systems, software and digital signal processing are among the highlights of June upgrade projects worth more than $700 million.

The orders for upgrades and technology insertion started rolling in around early June when the US Air Force Lockheed Martin Corp. asked to upgrade the multifunction displays in C-5M Super Galaxy giant four-engine cargo planes in a $34.7 million order.

Next up was a $23.4 million order for Lockheed Martin to upgrade for technical additions and support for the AN/BVY-1 Integrated Submarine Imaging System (ISIS). This was followed by the announcement of an avionics upgrade on a Cessna Citation CJ2+ by Collins Aerospace.

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It was then announced that Intellisense Systems Inc. in Torrance, California, will provide replacement multifunction controls and displays for the United States Air Force’s C-5M cargo aircraft. Around mid-June, Lockheed Martin received a $33 million order from the United States military to refurbish the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) field artillery systems.

The upgrade projects to keep systems up and running head Start kept coming. The Navy has placed a $39.7 million order with Boeing Co. given for additional Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) for US and Australian F/A-18E/F and EA-18G attack aircraft.

The Navy also asked Boeing to refurbish 25 recertified Harpoon anti-ship missiles in a $16.9 million order, and then the Navy asked General Dynamics Corp. to maintain and upgrade the AN/BYG-1 submarine combat system in a $15.9 million order.

In the second half of June, Lockheed Martin received a $450 million contract from the Air Force for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), followed by a $22.1 million military order to Lockheed Martin to complete the Target Acquisition Designation. Sight/Pilot Night Vision Upgradeable Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system, also known as Arrowhead containing the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) kits and spare parts for Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

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At the end of the month, Raytheon Technologies Corp. a $29.4 million Navy contract for the upgrade of AGM-154C Block III Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) hard-target-penetrating and data-linked medium-precision guided smart munitions for the governments of Taiwan, Bahrain, and Canada.

The last I saw – and I certainly missed a few – was a $43.8 million Navy order to Boeing to supply processors for the Distributed Targeting Processor-Network (DTP-N) system on Super Hornet and Growler planes.

With one or two exceptions, these are not large orders; in fact, they are quite routine, except for the sheer volume of these contracts and orders for system upgrades and technology insertion.

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These transactions are a reminder that the Pentagon does not have unlimited access to money, and military leaders must do their best with the money they have to keep advanced weapons systems functioning and be able to do the best that American adversaries can fight.

Fortunately, in recent years, the military has become adept at making the most of commercially developed technologies, adapting them for aerospace and defense applications, and getting improved and replacement technologies into the field as quickly as possible.

Realistically, the best and only way for military leaders to keep a high-tech defense force in place where and when it’s needed is upgrades and technology infusion projects, not major new buyback programs.

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