Showing posts with label Northrup Grumman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northrup Grumman. Show all posts

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program halted.

The losers (Lockheed Martin and Boeing) filed a protest of the contract award to Northrup Grumman.  GAO ordered a stop work for 100 days while they sort thru the paperwork.  Take a 3 month schedule hit right there.  GAO might, after the 100 day hangup, approve the contract award or order the contract rebid, which will take a year. 
   The losers objections are unclear, and mostly unpublished.  What has come out is the Air Force looked at the bidder's re recurring engineering bids and using a lot of bad past experience doubled  all the bids.  Not a bad idea,  contractors typically bid low to get a foot in the door, thinking that they will be able to get their profit margins back up when the Government orders changes, which it always does.  But, what ought to happen when the contractor's underbid, is the government holds them to the original contract.  Fifty years ago, Lockheed under bid on the C-5 job.  USAF made them eat the difference between what Lockheed spent and what Lockheed bid. 
   Fifty years later, USAF lacks that kind of stones.  And, the last big program USAF put out for bid, the KC-46 tanker job, was a disaster.  Boeing protested the award to Airbus, got the contract rebid, and walked away with it.  And Boeing is doing cost overruns and schedule slippages right now. 
   It's hard to tell from where I live want the real story is.  Could be, GAO is allowing a frivolous protest to slow the program down.  Could be USAF did another KC-46 style bungle.  Could be Pentagon procurement regulations are so screwed up that nothing works.  Any way, the program is delayed by the bureaucrats, and delays always raise the cost to the taxpayer. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

U2 vs Global Hawk. U2 is winning the funding

The U2 recon manned recon aircraft has been flying for a long time.  It became famous in the the 1950's when Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Sverdlovsk, Russia, flying a secret photo recon mission, violating Russian airspace big time.  U2 is still flying.  It's main claim to fame is fantastic altitude capability, 70,000 feet or better.  Few fighters can reach that high.
   A new fangled competitor is a drone, Northrup Grumman's Global Hawk, a big drone with a bulbous nose.  For a while the high tech drone looked to replace the vintage U2 for photo recon.  But this fiscal year the Pentagon changed it's mind, it wants to dump Global Hawk and keep flying the U2.
   One argument is Global Hawk now has a lower cost per flying hour. Used to be, both U2 and Global Hawk cost about $33,000 per hour to fly.  Last year, Global Hawk claimed to have reduced its cost per flyng hour to $25,000.  This is attributed to an INCREASE in Global Hawk flying hours.
   This makes me think the computation of cost per flying hour is too crude to be much use.  It doesn't get cheaper when you fly more.  What's gotta be happening is they divided FIXED costs by flying hours.  In this case, yeah cost per flying hour goes down.  They largest fixed cost is the money spent to buy the drone in the first place.  They probably  just assume a 20 year service life, and tack on a fixed cost per year of 5% of the acquisition cost (depreciation) .  That's crude.
   The drones have a fatigue life, the number of flying hours before stress and vibration cause dangerous cracking of the structure.  The proper  depreciation should be the acquisition cost pro rated by the percent of airframe hours used up.  Fly more and your depreciation goes up.   
   One thing about Global Hawk, it ain't all that reliable.  Last year 55% of Global Hawk missions were canceled.  Whereas only 4% of U2 missions were scrubbed.

Friday, May 31, 2013

What the Air Force dumps, the Navy buys.

Global Hawk.  A humungous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)  with a take off weight of 16 tons.  That's DC3 kind of weight.   Will stay up all day (24 hours) and  carries nothing but surveillance equipment.  Exact nature is classified, but cameras, radars, IR, snooping receivers.  The Air Force paid  $222 million apiece for 43 of 'em.  That money will buy a brand new 787 jetliner, which seems kinda pricey.   At this point the Air Force wants to mothball its entire fleet of 'em.  Probably cause the intel they gather doesn't help the Air Force mission much.  They bought the things to help out the Army in Afghanistan.  Now that Afghanistan is winding down, and budget cuts are looming, so they want to mothball the pricey beasties.  The program has friends in Congress who are trying to keep it alive.
   Now, the Navy wants in.  They claim a world wide sea surveillance mission and they want to buy 70 of 'em.  The Navy gets a slightly better price than USAF did, $189 million apiece.  Of course the Navy couldn't re use the retiring Air Force birds, the Navy wants to buy new.  Northrup Grumman loves that.  Total program cost, $13 billion.