4th MUOS Set for Late August Launch via Atlas V | AF Awards $42.5M to Beef Up ISR | DTRA Inks Contract for CBRN Prep
- The Marines are exploring possible upgrades to their fleet of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. This plan would involve bringing 131 A and B model Ospreys up to the C spec in order to access the higher availability rates offered by the C variant. The C model boasts a variety of improvements on earlier models, including a redesigned Environmental Control System (ECS) to keep devices and troops from overheating. The Marines are now reportedly in talks with manufacturer Boeing to establish the likely costs of these upgrades.
- A fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite is being prepared for launch aboard an Atlas V rocket at the end of August. The Lockheed Martin-manufactured satellite will be joined by a fifth satellite, intended to serve as an on-orbit spare for the constellation. Designed to provide next-generation communications capability, the Navy project has been valued at $6.2 billion over its entire lifespan. Last week the Navy ordered MUOS-compatible Digital Modular Radio sets from Northrop Grumman to equip vessels.
- On Friday the Air Force awarded a $42.5 million contract for research into “human-machine teaming” for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. Encompassing development, experimentation and demonstration of a “cognitive systems engineering design cycle”, the contract is scheduled to run until 2022. Also on Friday, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency handed Computer Sciences Corp a one-year, $10.3 million contract to assist with developing US preparedness for CBRN threats, including the development of a counter-proliferation strategy.
- The Air Force is planning to retire its fleet of MQ-1 Predator UAVs by 2018, with the majority of the drone’s supporting infrastructure re-purposed to support the larger and more capable MQ-9 Reaper. A previous retirement date of 2017 for the 145 UAVs was pushed back after the Air Force upped operations as a result of the invasion of Iraq by ISIS. As suggested elsewhere, instead of permanent mothballing, the retired MQ-1 Predators could be re-roled to perform naval intelligence missions, or sold to allied nations – something the Air Force has ruled out.
- The Navy has signed a 25-year deal of undisclosed value with San Diego-based Sempra Energy for the supply of solar energy, with facilities currently under construction set to supply around a third of the power supply to fourteen USMC and Navy facilities. The Mesquite 3 facility is being built 60 mile west of Phoenix and is scheduled to come online next year. In other energy news, the Air Force awarded a $19.2 million contract modification on Friday for Phase III of the energy conservation measure and energy conservation program, with work scheduled to take place at Tinker Aerospace Complex.
- The Czech Republic has boosted the number of helicopters it plans to procure as a replacement for its fleet of Mil Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-24 transport and attack helicopters. The country announced its intention to increase defense procurement spending in June, with bids for the helicopter procurement program expected in mid-September; delivery of the new helicopters is anticipated to take place in 2017 and 2018.
- Russia is reportedly scheduled to begin development work on a new interceptor before 2020, with the new aircraft set to replace the Soviet-era MiG-31 Foxhound. The new aircraft, designated the PAK-DP, is set to begin in 2019, with the Russian Air Force currently working to upgrade the majority of its Foxhound fleet through two contracts covering 60 and 50 aircraft in 2011 and 2014 respectively. The new aircraft will therefore likely operate alongside these newer models when it enters service around 2028. The Foxhound’s upgrades will reportedly include an inertial navigation system for Arctic flights.
- Israel has reportedly sold IAI Heron UAVs to Jordan, in a first-of-its-kind deal. Having recently demonstrated NATO compatibility, the twelve Heron UAVs will assist in Jordan’s fights against ISIS. The two former enemies have become increasingly close in recent months, with Israeli refuelling tankers escorting Jordanian fighters in a transatlantic journey last week and the gifting of AH-1E/F Cobra attack helicopters from Israel to Jordan in late July.
- One sticking point in the ongoing government-to-government negotiations between India and France over the procurement of 36 Rafales has reportedly been identified. The Indian Air Force wants to modify the fighters to carry the indigenous Astra air-to-air missile, with the French refusing to do so; citing the associated cost increases with the required recertification such a move would entail. These contract negotiations have been playing out since the Indian Prime Minister announced the acquisition in April. The French government has lowered the per-unit cost of the deal, dropping this by 25% in May. They are offering French missiles instead of the Astra, likely manufactured by European missile house MBDA. The Indian Air Force also wants to integrate an Israeli-manufactured helmet display system, something which the French are unlikely to allow.
- Additionally, French negotiators have reportedly rejected Indian proposals for a 50% offset arrangement in the Rafale contract negotiations. The French government has responded by offering to manufacture aircraft in India through future contracts, under the ‘Make in India’ procurement framework. Indian insistence on an offset will drive up the price of the 36 Rafales, which are currently on offer for the same price being paid by the French Air Force, following the aforementioned price drop in May.
- Taiwan has signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for a pair of Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods for the country’s F-16s. Japan also recently acquired a pod for integration onto the F-2 aircraft, with Jordan signing for ten of the pods in June.
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