Global Hawk contract awarded for Japan | Belgium seeks legal advice before considering Rafale offer | Job losses at BAE amid unsure Typhoon schedules
- Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $26 million Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) contract to develop a high-powered laser source. The US Air Force contract is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s podded electric laser concept for fifth- and sixth-generation fighter jets, the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD). The award follows a $39 million order to Northrop Grumman last summer to develop SHiELD’s laser beam control under the SHiELD Turret Research in Aero-Effects (STRAFE) program. The USAF is expected to award another contract for the Laser Pod Research and Development, which will develop the pod, thermal management system, battery and cooling system.
Middle East & Africa
- A Cambodian-listed vessel seized by Egyptian customs officials in August after a tip off by US authorities, saw the discovery of a cache of more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades hidden under bins of iron ore. Now, after months of investigation, a UN report has found that the seized weapons were in fact destined for Egypt itself, masked by a complex arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars worth of North Korean rockets for the country’s military while also taking pains to keep the transaction hidden. An Egyptian statement said that Cairo “will continue to abide by all Security Council resolutions and will always be in conformity with these resolutions as they restrain military purchases from North Korea.” However, US officials said the revelation would not have come to light if US intelligence had not spotted the suspicious vessel and reported it to Egyptian authorities, adding that the episode was one of a series of clandestine deals that led the Trump administration to freeze or delay nearly $300 million in military aid to Egypt over the summer. The incident highlights that despite sanctions, Pyongyang is still finding buyers for its wares, with several African nations circumventing sanctions and embargoes to purchase North Korean defense equipment and training.
- A French gambit to sell a Rafale fighter jet package to Belgium that went outside the official procurement program may not succeed, if comments from Belgium’s defense minister are to be believed. Speaking in parliament, Defence Minister Steven Vandeput told lawmakers that Paris had not responded correctly to a request for proposals (RfP) covering the replacement of its Lockheed Martin F-16 fleet, adding that the two bids officially received were from the UK and USA, respectively offering the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35. However, Brussel’s has sought legal advice on the French position—34 warplanes plus a close relationship outside the parameters of the initial tender—and will be presented to the government by the end of October to inform a final decision on whether or not to rule out the Rafale.
- Russia’s United Engine Corporation has announced that it is currently testing a new NK-32 02 series engine for the modernized Tu-160M2 strategic bomber. The firm added that the number of parts and components of the NK-32 engine (series 02) were upgraded to make it more fuel efficient, giving the bomber an increased endurance and the ability operate within a ranger range. Moscow currently has 50 of the modernized planes on order, with plans for the first batch of six engines to be ready for the first quarter of 2018.
- BAE Systems is expected to announce this week, redundancies that are likely to result in the loss of over 1,000 jobs. The cuts are believed to take place primarily at the firm’s Warton plant in Preston, England, but “trimming” could also take place at other locations as well. While sources said that Brexit—the UK’s exit from the European Union—was “not a factor” in BAE’s decision, the cuts are being largely attributed to the continued slowdown in production of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft, with ongoing uncertainty about the timing of a potentially large order from Saudi Arabia. Last month, BAE announced that Qatar made its first major defense deal with the UK, ordering 24 Typhoon aircraft in a sale that was hailed by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon as “an important moment in our defence relationship and the basis for even closer defence co-operation between our two countries.”
- Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $130 million USAF contract to support Japan’s Global Hawk program. The order calls for the sourcing of long lead material to initiate the program for three RQ-4 Global Hawk block 30 (I) UAVs, in addition to two ground control elements, enhanced integrated sensor suite, spares, and a site survey. Work will be performed in San Diego, California, and is expected to be complete by July 27, 2018. In November 2015, Japan was cleared by the US State Department for the $1.2 billion sale of Global Hawk aircraft. Between May and October this year, the USAF had five RQ-4 Global Hawks stationed at Yokota Air Base in Japan to provide a base from which the platform can be reliably operated during the summer. Tensions in the region have been high amid North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear testing, which has seen test rockets fly over Japanese airspace.
- South Korean media has reported that Seoul has now gathered all the necessary technology required to construct a graphite bomb and is free to constuct them at any time. Also known as a “blackout bomb”, the non-lethal weapon is used to disable electrical power systems by spreading chemically treated carbon graphite filaments over electric facilities to short-circuit and disrupt the power grid. Development has been led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) as a key part of South Korea’s pre-emptive strike program called Kill Chain, and would be utilised by paralysing North Korea’s power systems in case of war. Graphite bombs were first used by the US against Iraq in the 1990–1991 Gulf War and again by NATO against Serbia in 1999.
- Last Saturday, political and military officials from both Afghanistan and the US welcomed the arrival of new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan. Their arrival was hailed as a “historic day” by attending Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and will now be used to radically transform the young Afghan air force after Washington ran into difficulties obtaining spare and replacement parts for the over-worked Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters that currently form the backbone of the AAF. US plans for Kabul’s air force modernization includes having at least 159 Black Hawks, including 58 fitted with extra rocket pods and machine guns to provide close air support, a fleet that will dwarf the fewer than 40 Mi-17s currently operational. Retraining the Afghan pilots to operate the Black Hawk is expected to take between five and six months.
- Serbians react to graphite bomb, 1999:
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