F-35 Program Potentially Facing Further Delays | Kuwait Eurofighter Deal on Hold | UK MoD to Spend $1.58B on New Mil Training Fleet
- A recent report from the Pentagon’s top weapons tester has raised serious questions over the F-35 program’s “unrealistic test schedule”. Michael Gilmore’s annual F-35 report released on Monday follows a recently leaked memo from December 2015 that highlighted issues over the jet’s software development. The report flags these testing issues as potentially delaying the operational evaluation by up to a year, with flight testing not likely to be completed until at least January 2018. It had been initially hoped that testing would be completed by August 2017, after program re-baselining in 2012. As a result of these delays, Gilmore also warned against current block buying of the fighter with 250 planned to be locked-in before the (Initial Operational Test and Evaluation) IOT&E. At present, 150 fully operational jets have been delivered by Lockheed and will all require extensive modification to the Block 3F standard once development concludes.
- Ahead of the Pentagon’s February 9 official budget release, Defense Secretary Ash Carter mapped out his spending priorities on Tuesday. Among the plans include a $13 billion plan in funding for a new submarine to carry nuclear ballistic missiles over the next five years. This would be broken down into $4 billion towards research and development of new submarines, with $9 billion spent on procurement funding. The Navy may also see twelve more Super Hornet’s procured to make up for shortages caused by delays to Lockheed’s F-35 program, and longer-than-expected repair times for current Boeing F/A-18 jets. The budget also outlines a total 322 F-35s across its A, B and C models but following the recommendations in Michael Gilmore’s most recent report, this could be more wishful thinking than the eventual reality.
Middle East North Africa
- Last weekend’s expected signing of a deal for Kuwait to purchase twenty-eight Eurofighter jets has been put off. Italian Ministry of Defense officials cited “procedural” delays on Kuwait’s behalf, and that no clear date had been set. It had been expected that the deal would close quickly after some initial delays over pilot training had pushed an agreement into 2016. News of the deal came as Kuwait’s initial plan to purchase F-18 Super Hornets from Boeing was scrapped after their frustration over congressional delays in gaining approval for the sale. The loss of the sale to the Eurofighter has put into question the security of some jobs at Boeing’s St. Louis plant. The plant specializes in the manufacture of the Super Hornet, and were set to start production of the $3 billion deal before the change.
- The UAE is to acquire more of the Finnish Patria AMVs 8×8 armored wheeled vehicles. With a first batch ordered by the Emirates in 2008, Patria will provide forty more of the AMVs in a contract worth $41 million with options to purchase a further fifty. Construction of the hulls has been outsourced to Polish partner Rosomak SA, and they will be fitted with additional armor and mine protection, along with remote weapon stations armed with 12.7 mm machine guns or 40 mm automatic grenade launchers. The Patria AMV has been used in Afghanistan, Chad and is also participating in ongoing Saudi-led operations in Yemen. UAE involvement in the country has included daily air strikes along with a ground presence that has included claims of having hired Colombian mercenaries to fight there.
- The UK Ministry of Defence has signed contracts in the amount of $1.58 billion for a new military training fleet. Under the UK Military Flight Training System (UKMFS), approximately half the sum will go to Affinity Flying Services who will provide the aircraft that will be used at different stages of the training. Affinity, which is a joint venture between Kellogg Brown and Root Ltd and Elbit Systems UK, will provide three aircraft types as well as their maintenance and support. The remaining funds have been awarded to Lockheed Martin and Babcock, who have been selected to deliver all of the ground based training equipment and infrastructure to support the delivery of the fixed wing training capability. When fully operation in 2019, student pilots will learn initially on the Grob 120TP “Prefect” before going on to take part in either Multi-Engine Pilot Training on the Embraer “Phenom” 100 or Basic Flying Training on the Beechcraft “Texan” T-6C.
- French procurement agency DGA announced the finalizing of an order with Lockheed Martin for four C-130 aircraft. The models to be delivered are two standard C-130J transports, and two KC-130Js equipped for in-flight refueling of helicopters. While the exact figure of the deal is unknown, the core value of the deal is around $355 million, slightly more than the $340 million set aside in the revised multiyear defense budget for acquiring four C-130s. The orders will plug a growing capability gap in the French military caused by the Airbus A400M program. Development of the multi-purpose A400M has seen delays in delivery as Airbus looks to fix technical problems over inflight helicopter refueling capabilities, and for paratroopers to be able to jump from the side door.
- Equatorial Guinea will receive two C295 transport aircraft after officials visited Airbus’ plant in Seville last week. The planes will add to the central African nations rather modest fleet of mostly Russian made transport and fighter aircraft. The first, due in September of this year, will be used primarily for personnel transportation, medical assistance and evacuations. The second will be configured to operate on surveillance missions over the country’s territory and coastal waters. The C295 is becoming a popular selection for many militaries in Africa, with Ghana, Algeria and Egypt just a few who operate or have ordered the plane. Airbus sees sales of at least fifty C295s going to the continent over the next decade.
- The Malaysian Army’s purchase of six MD 530G Scout Attack Helicopters will include a custom weapons package including a complete missions management system not found on previous models. This will include a stores management system and helmet mounted cuing system for integrated target identification and tracking, and allows laser-guided rocket and Hellfire capability. With increased range over other models, the helicopters will be stationed with the Eastern Sabah Security Command. In 2013, a three week insurgency and standoff erupted in Sabah after Fillipino militants landed in the area making territorial claims as the Sultanate of Sulu.
- Following the recent sale to Malaysia, a look at MD Helicopters latest MD530G Scout Attack Helicopter:
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