* The US Air Force has begun removing nuclear weapons capability from 42 B-52H Stratofortresses, in line with regulations set out under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed in April 2010. Thirty operational and a dozen mothballed Stratofortresses will be converted to solely conventional bombers, with work having already begun to this effect and due for completion by 2017. Both Russia and the US have until February 2018 to comply with the treaty’s terms. Despite the conversion, planned work to upgrade the fleet of B-52H bombers will form part of a modernization effort to keep nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52s flying into the 2030s and 2040s respectively, with this forecast by the GAO [p. 11] back in July to value $24.4 billion over the FY2015-2024 period.
* Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has announced that his party would not sign a contract for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters if it were to win next month’s federal election, instead opting for a competition to replace the Canadian fleet of CF-18 Hornet fighters. The acquisition of the F-35 has become a highly politicized issue in recent years, with the ruling Conservative party signing a contract for 65 F-35s in 2010 before abandoning the deal in 2012 following a probe into the decision. Last week news broke that a contract to acquire the F-35 would rise above previous cost estimates owing to a low Canadian dollar.
* The UK’s Defence Ministry is reportedly looking into options for an improved Main Battle Tank (MBT), including assessing an option to procure new vehicles to replace the 227 Challenger 2 MBTs in service. A response to the Russian T-14 Aramata MBT unveiled in May, the Challenger 2 is now coming under scrutiny as officials examine whether the tank is capable of matching the new Russian design. Despite some scepticism over Russian descriptions of the vehicle’s capabilities, the T-14 has shaken up the British Army sufficiently to speed up a possible Life Extension Program (LEP) for the Challenger 2 or the procurement of a completely new fleet.
* Airbus Defence & Space is marketing the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Litening 5 targeting pod as an option for future Eurofighter Typhoon customers. The pod will be installed on a company aircraft to demonstrate the improved capability. The system is reported to have already been purchased by a European Eurofighter operator. The Litening 5 was unveiled at the Paris Air Show earlier this year and uses two FLIR systems and a CCD HD-TV camera to improve target acquisition at long ranges. The pod is expected to becoming operational by the end of next year.
* The British Ministry of Defence will help the country’s defense industry sell its wares abroad, according to the Conservative government’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. The Eurofighter will be one of two strategic export campaigns set to receive MoD assistance, with the other being complex weapon systems; likely a nod to arms behemoth BAE Systems and missile house MBDA . The UK government usually assists industry through an organization known as the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), working closely with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, with the MoD usually fire-walled from export campaigns.
Middle East North Africa
* Tunisia is upgrading its fleet of F-5E/F Tiger II fighters with new avionics, with a $32.5 million Foreign Military Sales contract awarded to Northrop Grumman by the US Air Force. Tunisia requested avionics upgrades for a dozen F-5 aircraft in September 2013, including Northrop Grumman’s LN-260 navigation system. The estimated cost detailed in the DSCA request was valued at $60 million, including logistics support and training. The contract awarded to Northrop Grumman does not detail the inclusion of logistics support or training, potentially accounting for the discrepancy between the contract value and DSCA estimate.
* Egypt is reportedly in talks with Russia over a possible sale of 46 MiG-35 fighters, with the potential deal estimated to value $2.2 billion. The manufacturer has been struggling in recent years, suffering from slack demand; the MiG-35 has yet to secure an order from either the Russian Defense Ministry or a foreign customer. However, a flurry of interest in the MiG-35 from a diverse range of nations, including Vietnam and India, as well as Russia, could see contracts in coming months.
* A Republican Congressman is calling on the Obama administration to sell armed unmanned aerial vehicles to Jordan, following the decision in October to deny a Jordanian request for unarmed MQ-1 Predator UAVs. China reportedly stepped into the breach in May to offer an alternative to the spurned Jordanians, now thought to be the Caihong-5, unveiled at the end of August. Rep. Duncan Hunter is calling on the President to sell the Gulf state Predator and Reaper UAVs to help in the country’s fight against ISIS, using an exception clause in the Missile Technology Control Regime agreement to enable the sale.
Asia & Pacific
* China and Pakistan have reportedly signed an agreement to prevent technology from the co-developed JF-17 fighter making its way into US and Indian hands. Chinese engineers are also said to be reducing the aircraft’s radar signature through using a divergent supersonic air intake with the JF-17’s Klimov RD-93 engine, with the majority of high-end technology equipping the jet coming from China, including radar, avionics and weapons.
* China may have tested a hypersonic aircraft, with this thought to be a different design to the WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicle tested for for the fifth time in August. Reports indicate that this mysterious new aircraft may have been manned, with state-owned AVIC seemingly leaking news of the test on its company website before the page was swiftly removed.
* The Caihong-5: