* Not a single F-35A was downed by “hostile” fire during the Air Force’s recent Green Flag West exercise, the first exercise in which the Joint Strike Fighter has participated. None of the F-35s were shot down, whilst F-16s and A-10s were. The inclusion of the JSF in the exercises has been criticized as a public relations stunt; additionally, the level of operational pressure the F-35s were put under during the exercises compared with other aircraft has not been released. Whether the F-35 genuinely outperformed the other aircraft and as a result received no simulated destruction – or was just exposed to less severe operational testing – is hard to say.
* The Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 program benefited from a $11.5 million contract with Boeing on Thursday, with this to provide sustainment and development work. The SBSS program needs a follow-on to the existing satellites in orbit, with the Air Force arranging an industry day in January in order to present its acquisition strategy. Principally this involves the planned procurement of three new satellites, with a rough schedule of these entering service before 2021.
* Also on Thursday, Oshkosh Defense was awarded a $780.4 million contract to recapitalise over 1,300 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, 435 palletized load systems (PLS) and over 1,000 new palletized load system trailers, as well as other equipment. The contract will run to 2022, with the multi-year contract incrementally funded.
* Wright State University of Dayton, Ohio has been handed Air Force research work to investigate interactions with semi-autonomous UAVs. The $7.5 million, four-year modification will look into how multiple unmanned aerial vehicles could be controlled by a single human operator.
* Belarus is engaged in negotiations regarding a possible purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems, with the country also scheduled to deploy their four existing S-300 systems by the end of this year. Manufacturer Almaz-Antey is currently fighting EU sanctions, with China buying the S-400 system back in January for around $500 million per-unit.
* Russia is reportedly planning to convert MC-21 passenger jets – manufactured by Irkut – to an AWACS platform comparable to the NATO E-3 Sentry, based on the civilian Boeing 707-320B. The details of the project are yet to be set, with Irkut and the Russian Defense Ministry currently engaged in talks. Irkut has also been contracted by the Ministry to convert 45 MC-21 airliners for troop-carrying purposes.
* France is reportedly set to receive its latest A400M transport aircraft, despite the recent grounding of other European fleets and the identification of problems with Airbus’ final assembly line, with this ultimately responsible for the crash in May. France is also scheduled to start parachute testing with the A400M later this month, with the delivery of the next aircraft bringing the French fleet up to seven.
* France has also received an additional NH90 helicopter, to add to the fourteen already in service with the French Army. A contract was struck in 2008 for 34 of the helicopters, with options totalling the same number.
* The Russian state exporter Rosoboronexport has reportedly received bids for 25 to 30 Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A strategic airlifters, according to Russian press. The aircraft is also capable of acting as an AWACS platform and a mid-air refuelling tanker, with the alternative designation of IL-476 used interchangeably. Russia ordered 39 of the aircraft in 2012. In November last year, the first aircraft was delivered for conversion to an AWACS platform.
* The United Arab Emirates is reportedly showing interest in procuring V-22 tiltrotor aircraft from Boeing, following the Paris Air Show. The possible sale of the aircraft to Israel is still on hold, with Japan recently requesting seventeen Ospreys in a $3 billion sale. The company has also been chasing the United Kingdom and Singapore as possible future customers. However, the future of the aircraft is uncertain despite optimism from the manufacturers.
* Following the US State Department approving a possible sale of A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Lebanon earlier this week, Mali has agreed a contract with manufacturer Embraer Defense & Security for six of the aircraft. The T-29 has seen substantial export success to other African states, including Angola, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mauritania and Senegal. Under Mali’s contract Embraer will also provide contractor logistics services to the six Super Tucanos, as well as pilot training.
* China and Russia appear to be close to signing an agreement on the sale of 24 Sukhoi SU-35 fighters, according to reports in the Russian press. The possible deal was first reported in November, with the Russians sliding back from previous insistence on an order for 48 units to the current 24. China has a history of purchasing Russian aircraft and subsequently reverse-engineering them in order to produce clones and develop a level of maintenance self-sufficiency. The PLA Air Force is most likely purchasing the SU-35 to complement the J-11D fighters already in service, as an interim measure before its more advanced fighters enter service over coming years. North Korea has also previously shown interest in the SU-35.
* On board a V-22 Osprey…