C-130J family transport planes: The Air Force has reportedly retained some ageing C-130U Hercules aircraft for use as airborne laser testbed aircraft. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to use the aircraft to test both offensive laser weapons and defensive lasers designed to act as less-than-lethal options. DARPA has been field testing the use of lasers against hostile projectiles, with the Air Force expecting to field airborne lasers on larger cargo aircraft models from 2021. However, the further development of these capabilities could be hamstrung by sequestration and a lack of political will. More »
The Air Force has reportedly retained some aging C-130U Hercules aircraft for use as airborne laser testbed aircraft. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to use the aircraft to test both offensive laser weapons and defensive lasers designed to act as less-than-lethal options. DARPA has been field testing the use of lasers against hostile projectiles, with the Air Force expecting to field airborne lasers on larger cargo aircraft models from 2021. However, the further development of these capabilities could be hamstrung by sequestration and a lack of political will.
The Pentagon’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons program is reportedly planning to test a laser-based non-lethal weapon in coming months, with a view to evaluate the longevity of the project by May 2016. The Non-Lethal Laser-Induced Plasma Effects weapon is based on technology capable of creating significant noise effects to disperse crowds and distract individuals. The project has been seeded with two $1.5 million contracts awarded to GEOST and Physical Optics Corp, which will develop the sound and light effects respectively.
Italian firm Finmeccanica is now reported to have retracted its plan to sell off US-based DRS Technologies, after announcing its intention to flog the defense technology firm in March. The subsidiary has been performing well in recent months, including winning a $384 million contract for hardware insertions to equip Navy submarines, as well as a $100 million contract to provide surveillance systems for the Canadian Army’s LAVs. Finmeccanica acquired the firm in 2008, in a deal worth approximately $5.8 billion.
Four companies were awarded a combined up-to $900 million IDIQ, five-year contract on Tuesday to provide Wide Mission Support services to Special Operations Command (SOCOM), whilst two firms – General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc and Alliant Techsystems Operations – were awarded two contracts totaling $32.1 million for the 120mm Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP), XM1147 High Explosive Multi-Purpose with Tracer (HEMP-T) tank cartridges, following an industry day in May 2014.
Argentina is reportedly developing a new basic trainer for the country’s pilots, with the new design referred to as the IA-100. The Brigadier San Martin Argentine Aircraft Factory is the company thought to be developing the new aircraft, with the company unveiling a basic trainer concept demonstrator known as the Unasur-1 in October 2013. The new design will also be offered on the civilian market, in addition to military customers.
Middle East North Africa
Italy’s Finmeccanica-Selex ES has been awarded a contract to supply Qatar with Kronos mobile multifunctional radar systems. The low-level Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems will be used to monitor Qatari airspace, with the government announcing their intention to procure the system in March 2014. At that time the contract was valued at approximately $467 million.
European defense firms Nexter and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) are expected to sign a merger agreement on Wednesday at the French Defense Ministry, following a year of exclusive negotiations. The two firms announced their intention to merge last July, with the deal subsequently pushed back earlier this year. The joint venture, known as KMW And Nexter Together (KANT), will be based in Amsterdam and have a combined revenue thought to total approximately $2.2 billion. The French state-owned Nexter and private German firm KMW are both manufacturers of armored vehicles, producing the VBCI and Leopard main battle tank respectively, among other designs.
In other industry news, UK aerospace component manufacturer GKN has acquired Fokker Technologies in a $779 million deal announced on Tuesday. The company is based in the Netherlands and produces components for the Lockheed Martin F-35 and F-16 fighters and Boeing AH-64 and CH-47 helicopters, as well as NHI Industries’ NH90 helicopter.
The US Department of Defense and the UK’s Ministry of Defence have signed an agreement to jointly train reserve forces, allowing members of both nations’ reserve forces living in the other state to train with host-nation forces. The Foreign Resident Program is the first agreement of its type between the transatlantic partners, which also marked the 30th anniversary of the Military Reserve Exchange Program this year.
India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is buying nearly 6,000 motorbikes to assist counterinsurgency operations against Naxalite guerrillas in the country’s east. The bikes are intended to be quieter and more agile than cumbersome 4×4 vehicles, as well as less susceptible to IED blasts.
| The German Army has officially received its Puma Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) from Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, following the fleet's approval [German] in May, along with a delivery of seven vehicles as a training contingent. The German BWB procurement agency placed an order for 405 of the vehicles in July 2009 to replace the Bundeswehr's fleet of Marder IFVs, subsequently revising the number down to 350 in July 2012. The full force of Puma vehicles is expected to be completed by 2020, with batches currently being received and passed to units for training before returning to home bases. More »
| The F-35B's Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) - the system designed to monitor and relay critical aircraft system data - has received its final software upgrade ahead of the fighter achieving Initial Operating Capability. The system has also received critical hardware modifications. IOC for the Marine Corps' first F-35Bs is expected later this year, with the Corps deciding in March to push on according to schedule, despite issues with the jet's 2B software. More »
| Lockheed Martin will upgrade US Army and international partners' Patriot systems through the Foreign Military Sales program in a deal worth $1.5 billion. The contract will supply PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE interceptors for Taiwan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. These states all operate the PAC-3, with Saudi Arabia requesting $1.75 billion-worth of PAC-3 enhancements in June 2014, with Qatar ordering the PAC-3 in October as part of a $11 billion equipment deal with the US. South Korea announced in April 2014 that the country's Patriot systems would be upgraded to the PAC-3 configuration between 2016 and 2020, with a budget of around $1.25 billion. More »
| Taiwan is expected to soon place an order for eight to ten Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, according to reports this weekend. The helicopters are thought to be destined for the country's Navy, with a contract announcement expected later this year. The Taiwanese Navy currently operates the Sikorsky S-70C helicopter, with the new helicopters set to bolster the force's anti-submarine warfare capability. More »
| The Air Force has quashed Boeing's hopes of selling refurbished A-10s to international customers, following the floating of the idea in May. With the House protecting the A-10 from comprehensive retirement for another year, the Air Force is planning to mothball outgoing A-10s, thereby saving a reported $4.2 billion in sustainment over a five year period. More »