Blackjack UAV Achieves IOC | Iraqi Gov Submits Request for $1.95B in FMS | France & Australia Considering Collaboration on NH90 Variant
- The USMC has declared that the RQ-21A Blackjack UAV has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) with deployment of the system to commence this summer. Formerly known as the Integrator, the Blackjack has been developed by Boeing as part of a low rate production of a small tactical unmanned air system (STUAS) for the US Navy, and uses the same same launcher and recovery system as the Scan Eagle system. One hundred systems of five vehicles each are planned for the USMC by 2017.
- US Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has dismissed ideas that production of F-22 Raptor would restart after a cap of 187 was made in 2011. Citing the spiraling costs of the development and length of time to produce the aircraft, factors which caused the program’s termination, James called a potential reboot “a non-starter”. The current fleet, which is currently seeing missions in Syria, will be joined by the F-35, and while very much a different beast, James stated they would compliment the Raptors in use.
- The Air Force Times has compiled a chart of the mission-capable rates of all the aircraft currently in service in the USAF with the C-21A coming out on top with the only 100% rate. Bottom of the pile was the B-1B bomber with a rate of 46.98%. Factors taken into account to calculate an aircraft’s score include the mission of the aircraft, its age, and the sophistication (or simplicity) of its design. While all these aircraft cater to a wide variety of mission types, with some relied upon more often than others, it’s interesting to see where each aircraft fares. No figure was given for the B-2 stealth bomber.
Middle East North Africa
- Armenia is to be supplied with refurbished Il-76 and Su-30SM aircraft alongside armored vehicles, artillery and missiles from Russia. The news follows this week’s Armenian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation which discussed further bilateral trade and military-technical cooperation. The series of meetings will also see Armenia develop engineering and development capabilities, allowing them to repair and supply spare parts for Russian made air defense systems and equipment. The Russian military has had bases in Armenia since 1995, and while controversial for some Armenians, their presence is regarded by authorities to be integral to the Caucasus nation’s security.
- The Iraqi government has issued a request for an extensive list of F-16 weapons, munitions, equipment, and logistics support from the US, amounting to $1.95 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on Wednesday of the potential sale which includes twenty Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS), twenty-four AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles, one hundred and fifty AGM-65D/G/H/K Maverick missiles, fourteen thousand one hundred and twenty 500-lb General Purpose (GP) bomb body/warheads for use either as unguided or guided bombs, two thousand four hundred 2,000-lb GP bomb body/warheads for use either as unguided or guided bombs, eight thousand Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) Paveway II tail kits, two hundred and fifty LGB Paveway II tail kits, and one hundred and fifty LGB Paveway III tail kits. The request follows one made earlier in the month by Baghdad for Hellfire missiles. To facilitate the sale, over four hundred US military and contractor personnel will remain in Iraq until 2020.
- France and Australia may look to collaborate on investing in a special forces variant of the NH90 attack helicopter. A common version and shared financial expenditure for the limited amounts of the helicopter required would help slash development costs for both countries. Both France and Australia have made substantial orders of the NH90 with seventy-four and forty-seven to be delivered respectively. A small portion of these orders will be developed to carry out special missions with requirements likely to encompass a central trapdoor for fast roping, a rear door gun, and changes to the communications suite.
- The successor to Russia’s primary interceptor, the MiG-31 will begin development in 2020. The MiG-41 will be based on its predecessor which is expected to be in service until 2030. The announcement was made by Duma Committee on Defense Alexander Tarnaev, as he spoke of the current modernization process of the MiG-31 fleet with the MiG-31BM. The latest incarnation’s avionics and weapons systems have increased the effectiveness of the MiG-31BM compared with the MiG-31 by 2.6 times, according to Tarnaev.
- Officials from Dassault are to fly to New Delhi to pitch a navalized version of the Rafale. With the sale of thirty-six of the fighters almost over the line, the French manufacturer looks to be capitalizing on the sale and arrangements to have parts of the aircraft produced in India. India is looking for potential suppliers for over fifty fighters for their second indigenous aircraft carrier vessel, the Vishal. Their first indigenous aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant is already under construction and will operate the MiG 29K, but no plans have been made to include it in the design for the Vishal. Sources said that India has written to four countries, including France, seeking proposals for the design of the aircraft carrier. Dassault’s visit will follow shortly after that of French President Francois Hollande’s visit this weekend.
- 419th Fighter Wing’s Maj. Jayson Rickard, talks about his transition from the F-16 to the F-35A:
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