AF Scientists: UAVs Could Be More Lethal, Survivable | More $ for F-35 Program Mods | Orion Fends Off Fatigue
- The Navy has successfully demonstrated the use of a Standard Missile-6 to intercept a short-range ballistic missile. The tests, conducted off Hawaii, also included the use of a SM-2 Block IV missile against a ballistic missile and two more SM-6s against cruise missile targets. Moving from initial-rate to full-rate production in May, the Navy ordered 74 SM-6 missiles from Raytheon in June. The Navy also announced in January that the missile will be deployed on more than 35 vessels equipped with the Aegis combat weapons system.
- The Air Force’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) has recommended adding new sensors, weapons and countermeasures to MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs to increase survivability and lethality in contested airspace. The SAB is also pushing for Manned-Unmanned Teaming, something already baked into the latest iteration of the AH-64E Block III Apache, with tests in June demonstrating the helicopter operating alongside a MQ-1C Gray Eagle, with the UAV assisting in target-painting and surveillance. A full report on the topic – ‘Enhanced Utility of Unmanned Air Vehicles In Contested and Denied Environments’ – will be published in December.
- The Air Force’s P-3 Orion maintenance monitoring system, the Fatigue Life Management Program, was bolstered with a $32.3 million five-year contract with Lockheed Martin on Tuesday. Covering P-3 aircraft from the Navy and several other government agencies, the contract also provides engineering services for international operators, including the German Navy, which recently handed the company a contract to re-wing its eight P-3Cs. Similarly, Norway will also benefit from the contract, with the Scandinavian country also re-winging its Orions.
- Lockheed Martin was also awarded the latest contract modification in the F-35 program on Tuesday, totalling $431.3 million. The modification to the Joint Strike Fighter’s Lot IX advance acquisition contract covers special tooling and test equipment, and follows a pair of contract modifications valued at $819.6 million in mid-July for the procurement of helmet mounted display systems and the Autonomic Logistics Information System, among several other things.
Middle East North Africa
- As President Obama attempts to placate both Israel and GCC states following the framework deal signed with Iran in April, US defense firms are likely to benefit on both sides of the geopolitical equation. US military aid to Israel could increase by over a billion dollars annually, if a proposed increase to Foreign Military Financing is accepted from 2017. The Gulf Cooperation Council states are also set to benefit from expedited US arms transfers following talks in Doha, particularly advanced air and ballistic missile defense systems such as Patriot PAC-3 systems, recently requested by Saudi Arabia.
- Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries procurement agency has released a Request for Information [Turkish] regarding the purchase of manned ISR aircraft platforms, despite the country having already sunk significant investment into UAV development. The agency is reportedly planning to purchase five such aircraft for around $50 million, with firms given until 12 August to respond. Turkey leased five modified Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350s in 2012, with the Beechcraft aircraft also in service with US forces and Iraq, among others. Turkey has also been pursuing the development of unmanned ISR platforms, most notably the TAI Anka.
- Russia has completed testing of its new ‘improved Kilo’ Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarine, the Novorossiys, which included firing cruise missiles in the Barents Sea. The new boat was launched in December 2013 and will join the Russian Navy’s fleet in the Black Sea. Vietnam has ordered six Varshavyanka-class subs, commissioning two of these in recent days to bring the total number in service to four. The remaining pair are expected to be delivered in 2016.
- A squadron of Royal Air Force GR4 Tornado bombers will see their service lives extended until at least March 2017, as the UK plans for continued operations against ISIS over Iraq. 12 (Bomber) Squadron has already had its service life extended by a year in January, with the squadron previously scheduled to become equipped with Eurofighter Typhoons, ahead of the Tornado’s planned exit from service in 2019. The Ministry of Defence accelerated the upgrade of the Tornado bombers in October 2014 ahead of their deployment, kitting them out with Brimstone precision missiles.
- Australia’s government is backing domestic shipyards to produce the country’s next generation of warships. The Defence Minister announced on Tuesday an A$89 billion ($65.8 billion) shipbuilding program to sustain the country’s shipbuilding industry and bring forward plans for the construction of new vessels. The plan covers the construction of Australia’s new surface vessels and the procurement of next generation submarines under the SEA 1000 program. The announced plan will bring forward construction of new Offshore Patrol Vessels (under the SEA 1180 program) and the Future Frigate program (SEA 5000). These will both be competed through Competitive Evaluation Processes, with the Future Frigates already earmarked for construction in South Australia.
- The Royal Thai Air Force is reportedly planning to stand-up two new squadrons of unmanned aerial vehicles in coming years, with plans to rotate the RTAF’s three Israeli-manufactured IAI Arava patrol out of service to create space for the new UAVs. As other regional powers flex their unmanned muscles, most notably China, smaller states are likely to continue looking for cost-effective ways of monitoring and patrolling disputed areas throughout the South China Sea.
- Air Force Special Operations Command receives its first AC-130J Ghost Rider gunship on 29 July:
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