India has received the final batch of three Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters from Russia, bringing the total to 151. The models are the most technically advanced of Rostec Corporation's Mi-8/17 type including a KNEI-8 avionics suite. The new suite replaces the previously used multiple systems indicators with four large multi-functional that are easy to read and reduce the intensity of pilot’s workload. The completion of the sale comes as both India and Russia continue negotiations for forty-eight more of the helicopters, which are to be used in a variety of operations such as in deserts and mountains, matching the wide variety of environments found in India.
Eurofighter Typhoon: 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. More »
Rapid Fire | Friday, February 5, 2016, 00:20 UTC ()
The USAF is considering defensive lasers for future fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, along with future bombers from 2021. A Request For Information (RFI) notice posted by the US Air Force Research Laboratory is looking for market information for a podded laser weapon system that can destroy missiles directed at stealth fighters and bombers. The search for an advanced laser, referred to as the Self-protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program would be significantly more powerful than current-generation self-protection capabilities and potentially burn or otherwise disable infrared and radar-guided missiles at high speeds.
The Pentagon is to invest in the development of Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles which will be capable of hitting moving vessels. $2 billion has been requested for the purchase of 4,000 Tomahawk missiles with manufacturer Raytheon. Raytheon has invested in a multi-modal seeker that would allow the missiles to hit moving targets so that missiles may be adapted from land missiles into anti-ship missiles. A further $2.9 billion will also be made available for the purchase of 650 SM-6 interceptors as well, to advance them to become anti-ship missiles for the first time. This will allow the SM-6 to operate in an offensive capability instead of operating solely as an anti-ballistic weapon.
USAF orders of the F-35A jet will drop from forty-eight to forty-three in Fiscal Year 2017. However, the budget will include increased money to purchase ten additional F-35C models for the Navy and three F-35B models for the Marines over what had been planned. It’s unclear whether the total number of total aircraft to be procured under the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program will decrease overall. The move has not been too surprising as analysts and government officials have hinted that changes to JSF procurement could change. The cutting of the F-35As in 2017 is expected to free up millions in savings over the next several years.
Middle East North Africa
Turkey may look to purchase four more airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft as part of an add-on option to an existing $1.6 billion order. With the original order placed in 2003, the last of four of the aircraft was delivered last December, after initial delivery was planned for 2008. Amid rising security issues along Turkey’s borders, after the eruption of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, and increased tensions with country’s like Russia, it is likely that more of the spy planes may be bought to help with reconnaissance and battle management operations. If the procurement is to go ahead, the planes would be bought under Ankara’s next 10-year procurement plan currently being drafted.
The UK plans to buy two unmanned solar-powered aircraft, known as Zephyrs, which are capable of carrying small payloads that might consist of reconnaissance cameras or communications equipment. The Zephyrs hold the absolute endurance record for un-refuelled aeroplanes staying up for 336 hours, 22 minutes and eight seconds. Developed in the UK by QinetiQ, the technology has been recently bought and marketed by Airbus with the MoD’s vote of confidence expected to lead to an increase in sales. High altitude, solar powered planes have often been used for civilian purposes by companies like Google and Facebook to deliver broadband to locations that lack fixed-line connections.
Former Communist-era jets and helicopters used by the Albanian Air Force are to go under the hammer later this month. The Chinese and Soviet Union built aircraft include 10 Mig-19s, six Mig-21s, six Yak-18s and four Mi-4 helicopters. They will be auctioned off in the capital Tiriana with the total value estimated at $483,000. Albania’s defense ministry has said that they only have historic value, and are for civilian purposes with expressed interest coming from museums and private collectors in Europe and the US. After seeing pictures showing the state of some of them, one would hope no one has ambitions to put them to military use as Albania says goodbye to relics of its past.
Finland’s former prime minister has given his backing to the Saab Gripen as the jet of choice to replace the Finnish Air Force’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fleet. Matti Vanhanen stated his support for the Swedish aircraft in a book published this week mentioning the deepening defense cooperation between the two countries. While the government has yet to state any preference between the Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, Vanhanen acts as a close advisor to current Prime Minister Juha Sipila. With a final decision not to be chosen until the 2020s, the Gripen looks to be gaining the early lead in a procurement that could range between $5-11 billion. While both Sweden and Finland are non-aligned nations, increased cooperation between them, Baltic, and other Nordic states are bringing them into closer cooperation with NATO.
Chief of US Naval Operations, John Richardson, has said talks with India over development of New Delhi’s next aircraft carrier are progressing well. US assistance will mostly come in the form of providing new electromagnetic launch technology that will enable the navy to fly heavier planes from a carrier, and is set to become the biggest military collaboration between the two countries. The vessel, to be India’s third, will be their biggest one yet, and the third to be inducted into the Indian Navy. It will join the Russian made INS Vikramaditya and the indigenously produced INS Vikrant, which will enter service between 2018-2019 and will patrol the waters in the Indian Ocean. Increased naval activity from China in the region has worried both countries, and India has been bulking up their fleet with a dozen new submarines, six of them nuclear-powered and has more than 40 warships which are under construction.
| The UAE is to acquire more of the Finnish Patria AMVs 8x8 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.
| 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.
| Initial plans to have the US Navy's latest unmanned jet weaponized seems less likely, as plans seem to have shifted towards a tanker role. The long deferred Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program was recently provided enthusiastically with $350 million by Congress. However, this was given on the understanding that the jet would be developed for full integration into carrier air wing operations – including strike operations – and possess the range, payload, and survivability attributes as necessary to complement such integration. No mention had been made about the need for unmanned aerial tanking capability. Instead the jet could be developed under the little known Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) aimed at producing an unmanned carrier-based aerial tanker, able to refuel other planes low on gas without risking a pilot. Strike capabilities would feature in a future variant of the aircraft.
| The US Navy has placed an order with Boeing for twenty P-8A Poseidon aircraft in a contract worth $2.5 billion. Sixteen will replace the P-3C Orion used by the Navy for long-range, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare as well for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Four will be sold to Australia under the US Foreign Military Sales program. Included in the contract, Boeing will also be tasked with providing obsolescence monitoring, change assessment, and integrated baseline and program management reviews. More »
| The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted a successful non-intercept flight test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). A long-range ground-based interceptor was launched to evaluate the performance of alternate divert thrusters for the system’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. A USAF C-17 aircraft was used to to fire a a target representing an intermediate-range ballistic missile over a broad area of ocean near Hawaii. The missile was then detected, tracked and given a fire control solution to engage the target from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The test of the missile has involved cooperation from several parties alongside the MDA including the USAF 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, and the US Northern Command. More »