UCLASS Converting to CBARS | DARPA Selects Aurora Flight Sciences for VTOL Phase 2 | Britain & France to Invest $2.8B in FCAS
- Lockheed Martin is to provide more Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) for the USAF. The $116.8 million contract will also include provision of system upgrades, integration, sustainment, management, and logistical support. Delivery of the missiles will be completed by June 2019. Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to Surface Standoff Missile is a long-range, radar-evading cruise missile designed to destroy hostile air defenses before aircraft are within range.
- Boeing’s second KC-46A aerial refueling tanker has made its first flight. The aircraft will be used to test mission system avionics and exterior lighting before moving onto sharing the air refueling effort with the first KC-46. With a second fully configured tanker, Boeing can move through “receiver certification” for 18 aircraft types a lot more quickly. At present, the KC-46 has already demonstrated functionality with the Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F/A-18 and refueling from a Boeing KC-10.
- The decision to convert the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program to an aerial refueling tanker under the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) may require a new competition. Michael Novak, the Deputy Director of the Unmanned Maritime Systems Office under the office of the Chief of Naval Operations said that higher ups in the Pentagon were considering the change to allow all four companies that participated in the earlier UCLASS competition to be able to refine their proposals and “hit the mark for the CBARS.” The decision rests with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) on what the next step for the tanker will be.
- DARPA’s Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program has selected Aurora Flight Sciences for its $89.4 million Phase 2 contract. Aurora will now move to build a prototype of its unmanned, hybrid-propulsion “LightningStrike” aircraft. The aircraft beat competition from Boeing’s tilting ducted-fan Phantom Swift, Lockheed-Sikorsky’s proposed Rotor Blown Wing tailsitter and Karem Aircraft’s TR36XP “optimum speed tiltrotor”. The completion of the prototype is expected to be September 2018.
Middle East North Africa
- After halting its $3 billion aid deal with Lebanon, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said that the kingdom will keep the French military supplies that would have been sent under the program. The deal, which would have seen much needed equipment sent to the Lebanese Army, fell through as Riyadh is moving to toughen its stance against the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. The contracts instead will be fulfilled by the Saudi Arabian military. Last Wednesday, the six member Gulf Cooperation Council declared Hezbollah — which has lawmakers in the Lebanese parliament — a “terrorist” group due to its armed intervention in Syria in support of Assad’s Syrian government and its closeness to regional rival Iran.
- The leaders of Britain and France have agreed to invest $2.18 billion in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) project. The program aims to build a prototype combat drone, signaling a further step by the two European partners to stay in the military top tier on a bilateral basis. Full scale development of prototypes will start next year, and project partners are: BAE Systems, Finmeccanica Airborne and Space Systems Division, Rolls Royce, Dassault Aviation, SNECMA/Safran, and Thales. Operational prototypes will be ready by 2025 with a versatile unmanned combat aerial system (UCAS) possibly flying as the basis for full operational capability beyond 2030.
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has approved the purchase of between eight and ten Su-35 fighters. A finalized price and deal will be confirmed during Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu’s visit to Moscow next month, and could cost between $400-700 million depending on the final number and additional options. The planes will go toward replacing the air force’s obsolete F-5 fleet which has been in service for 30 years.
- This week will see the Indian Navy test fire its K-4 intermediate-range submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) from a submerged platform in the Bay of Bengal. The undersea missile is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead at an operational range of 3,500 km away. The K-4, which is praised for having an innovative system of interlacing in three dimensions can also cruise at hypersonic speed. This exceptional feature of the weapon system makes it difficult to be easily tracked and destroyed by any anti-ballistic missile defense systems.
- VTOL X-Plane Phase 2 Concept Video:
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