CSBA Releases US Navy/Marine Tipping Point Report | Thales Intros Spy’Ranger Mini-drone | China Signs $2B+ Contract with Russia for Su-35s
- The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAV has reached a significant stage as it now enters the program’s Milestone C review. Operational tests will involve six test flights and if successful will lead to the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT & E) phase. Successful testing of the UAV will lead to a production contract (albeit at low levels initially) with the Navy committed to ordering three in 2016 but will increase orders to 68 in 2017. Overseas contracts potentially include seven of the Tritons being procured by Australia with Germany, India and the UK also looking at purchases.
- Boeing has reached an important milestone in the development of the latest Harpoon Block II+ missile after successful tests carried out by the US Navy. The main feature of the missile is the ability to receive in-flight updates through a network enabled data link as well as an upgraded GPS guidance kit. The missile will receive more rigorous testing in the new year, but all seems to be pointing to the positive for Boeing, who also this month received increased orders of its existing systems from foreign buyers worth $124.6 million.
- The Center for Strategic & Budgeting Assessment has released a report titled “Deploying Beyond Their Means: America’s Navy and Marine Corps at a Tipping Point.” The report highlights fears that at its present state, the Navy and Marine Corps are approaching a point at which the fleet cannot meet the demand for forces from the regional combatant commanders and may face the need to reduce presence abroad, leaving interests and allies vulnerable. One solution suggests an increase in the portion for the fleet that is forward deployed as fewer ships are required to maintain a given level of presence. This would include having two instead of one aircraft carriers in Japan, which would save about 20 percent in the deployment length by not having to transit from the West Coast and boost presence in the region. One of the main concerns and remits of the CSBA is the growing influence and threat of China in the Pacific Theater.
Middle East North Africa
- Combined efforts are being made between Britain and France in the wake of a recent increase of action against the Islamic State (IS). In the Mediterranean, the Royal Navy HMS Defender has been sent to provide air defense cover for a French naval task force led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. This adds to ongoing air strikes by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Iraq as well as providing surveillance support by sending RAF MQ-9s over the IS capital of Raqqa to aide French bombing runs. At present the RAF have not taken part in bombing IS positions in Syria but recent opinion polls suggest that Prime Minister David Cameron may have enough support to win a House of Commons vote to start a campaign before Christmas.
- The Thales Group has unveiled its newest surveillance and reconnaisance mini-drone, the Spy’Ranger. According to the company, this new tactical UAV comes from the need for a response to an increase in battlefield anti-drone measures. Designed in collaboration by a team of European UAV developers from both Thales and French aerospace SME Aviation, the Spy’Ranger follows a decade of experimentation on micro and mini UAV systems used by the French armed forces, and is fitted to build on endurance and provide increase security and survivability in hostile environments.
- MBDA has pushed back the first use In-Service Date (ISD) of the Brimstone 2 missile by six months after testing on Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornados. Problems sited with the warhead involved technical issues that had lead to detonation failures and the Inital Operational Capability (IOC) has been pushed back to May 2016. The Brimstone missile has seen successful use in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq and had been looked at by both the US and French Air Forces. $10 million worth of the RAF stockpile was bought by Saudi Arabia, the only other nation to have the Brimstone currently in its arsenal.
- China has signed a substantial contract with Russia to purchase 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters in a deal that is said to be worth $2 billion. The agreement comes shortly after speculation that a number of countries were interested in purchasing the advanced fighters, including Pakistan, Indonesia and UAE, during the Dubai Air Show. This comes at an important time for Russia who have been suffering economically from falling oil prices and frosty trade relations with western nations and Ukraine. Arms sales have been one constant in this rather bleak financial outlook as the Kremlin looks to find new buyers for its military technologies.
- Following China and their inking of contracts for the Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, the Indonesian ambassador to Russia announced that they too are interested in making a purchase. Ambassador Djauhari Oratmangun told news agency RIA Novosti that a delegation will be sent from Russia to Jakarta to discuss contracts for the purchase of a number of the aircraft. No further details about the deal are known but seem to be part of a plan to increase trade between the two in 2016 by $5 billion.
- With Thales big unveiling of the Spy’Ranger Mini UAV what will it mean for frontline forces?
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