Budget Cuts Under Fire for Helo Crashes | Kuwait Tires of Waiting for F-18s; Moving to Eurofighter Typhoons | Polish Govt May Cancel Airbus Caracel Order
- Northrop Grumman and Raytheon look set to be awarded sole-source contracts by the USAF for further development of their competing active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars as part of the Northrop Grumman E-8C JSTARS recapitalization effort. Foreign proposals for the radar development were ruled out by the government, but they are accepting foreign airframes for the plane’s replacement. Once the program is completed, the radars will form the centerpiece of the E-8C’s replacement aircraft, which will be based on commercial business jets.
- Budget cuts made by Congress and the White House are being questioned as a reason for the growing increase in US military helicopter crashes. The year 2015 saw a threefold increase in helicopter deaths over 2014, with twelve crashes resulting in thirty fatalities of service personnel. Already in 2016, twelve were killed in an accident on January 16. Cuts to all the services have resulted in the number of flying hours and training missions reduced for non-deployed units resulting in less pilot proficiency. Former pilots have expressed concern over the rise pointing out that unlike cutting a weapon system, readiness doesn’t have specific members of Congress or lobbyists protecting it.
Middle East North Africa
- Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter have announced an interest from Bahrain in their products, after using the Bahrain International Airshow to compete for the kingdom’s business. Talks are currently ongoing to have upgrades carried out on their F-16 fleet to the newer V configuration with purchasing up to eighteen additional fresh F-16Vs. Bahrain is also beginning the process of “acquiring” AH-1Z helicopters from Bell to replace its older fleet of thirty AH-1 models. Talks for the helicopters are at an early stage, with it still remaining unclear how many would be purchased in the replacement procurement.
- After delays in gaining approval from the US to buy new F-18 Super Hornets, Kuwait instead looks set to sign contracts for twenty-eight Eurofighter Typhoon jets to replace their older F-18s. An official in the Italian Ministry of Defense said minister Roberta Pinotti would visit Kuwait on Sunday to sign papers finalizing the deal estimated to be worth $8.7 billion. Talks had been ongoing since November with issues over pilot training delaying the deal, but should be completed within eighteen months. The switch in allegiance will no doubt annoy manufacturer Boeing, and may see renewed frustrations over the lengthy congressional approval process for foreign military sales.
- Threats have been made by the Polish government to cancel its order of fifty Airbus H225M Caracels. Negotiations surrounding industrial offsets have caused deputy defense minister Bartosz Kownaki to give until February 10 for both parties to come to an agreement or risk cancelling the deal altogether. Since a change in government last October, the deal has been put under increased scrutiny by the Polish defence ministry over the lack of production that would take place in the country. Airbus has promised to create 1,200 jobs in Poland by setting up local design, production and maintenance facilities, but the problems over offsets remain. Restarting the tender would most likely see renewed offers from from PZL Mielec and PZL Swidnik, local subsidiaries of Sikorsky and AgustaWestland, but also a legal challenge from Airbus for damages.
- The Nigerian Air Force announced that they have successfully weaponized two unarmed Alpha Jets previously used for the training purposes. The jets are two of four bought from the US in 2015, adding to eight that were currently in service. After failing to find foreign assistance to help with the reconfiguration of the jets, the air force undertook the research and weaponization themselves with substantial savings. The jets will contribute to fighting in counter-insurgency operations in the country’s north east against Boko Haram militants.
- South Korea’s planned acquisition of German made Taurus missiles for their F-15K has run into problems, as the US has stalled in approving export licenses of a key GPS component needed. The GPS component is an integral part of the missile integration project for the jet’s trace and key-target hitting functions which can automatically detect, trace and hit targets and penetrate a concrete wall as thick as six meters. Plans had been made to have 170 of the air-to-surface cruise missile delivered by the first half of next year, but any decision on the matter won’t be made until August. As a result, the project has stalled in the middle of missile installation; frustrating plans to have the missile deployed on time.
- The Indian government has released a new policy paper outlining a revision to its current procurement structures. The Defence Procurement Policy 2016 (DPP-2016) aims to make the country’s defence industry more lucrative and reduce delays by eliminating repetitive procedures to the process. A new category that has been given the highest priority in how India gains its weapons has also been created named the Indigenous Design, Development and Manufacturing (IDDM). At present, the categories designated from highest to lowest priority are Make India, Buy and Make (India), Buy and Make Global, and Buy Global. However some commentators have said that the new category may confuse matters further as it seems to be a hybrid category of the Make and Buy categories, resulting in different interpretations of under which category a prototype will be developed.
- Following Kuwait’s switch in allegiance, The Eurofighter Typhoon Vs the F-18 :
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