* Lockheed Martin has won the Missile Defense Agency’s Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) contract, with the company handed a $784.3 million contract to build the new system in Clear, Alaska. The LRDR will provide long-range coverage of possible North Korean missile launches and other ballistic missile threats. Lockheed Martin beat rival bids from Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, building on its experience developing the Aegis BMD radar system, with the company also seeing the Space Fence system it is developing for the Air Force pass a Critical Design Review in late September. The LRDR is expected to come online in 2020, with the contract running to 2024.
* The KC-46A Pegasus tanker EMD-1 development aircraft has arrived at Edwards AFB for two weeks of work, including Ground Effects and Fuel Onload Fatigue tests. The latter involves learning more about how the aircraft operates when taking on fuel from another tanker, such as a KC-135 or KC-10, while Ground Effects testing collects data to incorporate into the aircraft’s simulator. The other development aircraft (EMD-2) deployed its refuelling boom for the first time in October, with EMD-1’s maiden flight in September.
* The Pentagon says that the work to fix the F-35’s ejection seat could take another year, with the program office stating that the manufacturer of the seat – UK firm Martin Baker – will have to cover the redesign costs. Issues with the US16E ejection seat grounded lightweight pilots at the end of September, with the risk of serious neck injury in low-speed ejections deemed too high; however, the restrictions only affected one out of the 215 pilots trained to fly the Joint Strike Fighter. The program office intends to install a head support panel in addition to a switch designed to slightly slow deployment of the ejection seat’s parachute.
* If Canada’s new Liberal government decides to pull out from the F-35 program, the per-unit cost across the international program could rise by $1 million, according to the head of the Joint Strike Fighter’s program office. While there would be no impact on the F-35’s development program – scheduled to end in 2017 – the loss of Canada’s previous 65-aircraft order could drive up the cost by as much as 1% for the remaining international partners, owing to the requirement to cover future maintenance and modernization costs.
* Despite significant criticism in recent months, the German military’s G36 assault rifle has been vindicated by three separate studies. The rifle will be replaced from 2019 onward, following a decision by the German Defense Minister in September, but the technical capabilities have been assessed as adequate, despite reports from the UK that the rifle fails to shoot accurately in hot temperatures, in addition to reports from German forces. The manufacturer Heckler & Koch has also been cleared of wrongdoing; however the German Defense Ministry has received considerable criticism over the rifle’s acquisition process.
Middle East North Africa
* Kuwait has been engaged [French] in talks with the French government over a potential sale of H225M Caracal helicopters, with the Kuwaiti Prime Minister visiting the country on Tuesday and Wednesday. The discussions also included possible contracts for Sherpa vehicles, manufactured by Renault Trucks Defence, in addition to patrol vessel upgrade services.
* Qatar has received four Leopard 2A7 main battle tanks and three PzH-2000 howitzers from Germany, according to press reports Thursday [German]. The vehicles were ordered through a $2.5 billion contract with Krauss Maffei-Wegmann in April 2013, authorized by the previous German government. There is likely to be concern in Berlin over the Qataris’ involvement in the bloody Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, where human rights organizations have called on the UN to launch an investigation into possible war crimes.
* The US Air Force deployed a dozen A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft to the south of Turkey last week in anticipation of the aircraft seeing more combat against ISIS in Syria, according to reports Thursday. The first Warthogs were first deployed to the Middle East in November 2014, with the Air Force remaining adamant that the fleet should be retired. The aircraft have been deployed to Incirlik Air Force Base, having relocated from their home base at Moody AFB, Georgia.
* The US government is reportedly planning to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan. The country has been upgrading and up-arming its fleet of F-16s in recent years, with the Obama administration facing a possible block in Congress over the sale. However, this appears unlikely given the delivery in May of a substantial quantity of surplus US hardware, including helicopters, and the approval in April of nearly a billion dollars of military equipment.
* France has reportedly agreed to invest half of the value of the contract for 36 Rafale fighters in Indian industry, with negotiations ongoing. The offset agreement is now thought to have paved the way for further negotiations over the sale of the fighters, which was first originally announced in April, following the collapse of the M-MRCA competition. These negotiation reached a sticking point in August over offset arrangements, with high level intervention in September kicking talks forward. Another potential issue has been identified as the Indian insistence on installing the indigenous Astra missile on the French fighters.
* The Multiple Launch Rocket System: