ARL Considers Giving Troops a Third Arm | China to Build A UAV Factory in Saudi Arabia | Malaysia Up in the Air with $2B Spend; Rafale or Eurofighter?
- The US Army Research Laboratory is exploring the possibility of giving troops a body-worn weapons mount, or “third arm,” that would decrease the weight of combat loads carried by soldiers and free up their hands for other tasks. Weighing less than 4 pounds, the Laboratory is testing the body-worn weapon mount with the M4 carbine, but also have plans to extend testing with the M249 squad automatic weapon or M240B machine gun. The ARL also plans to examine the device’s potential applications for various fighting techniques, like shoot-on-the-move, close-quarters combat, or even shooting around corners with augmented reality displays.
- A number of US senators have come together in a bipartisan effort to pressure the Trump administration into approving two key defense deals with India. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mark Warner, D-Va urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in joint letters to approve co-production of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 in India and to approve the export of General Atomics’ Guardian, a nonlethal maritime version of the MQ-9 Reaper. Speaking on the F-16 negotiations, the letters stated that a successful deal “will increase interoperability with a key partner and a dominant power in South Asia, build India’s capacity to counter threats from the north, and balance China’s growing military capability in the Pacific,” while on the Guardian UAV deal, the men warned that a failure to go through with the sale “will not only have implications for regional security in the Asia-Pacific, but could also significantly impact the MQ-9 production line and put thousands of US manufacturing jobs at risk.”
Middle East & North Africa
- Israeli Air Force G550 Eitam airborne early warning aircraft have been fitted with a new sensor that allows onboard EL/W-2085 radars to detect UAVs. The upgrade was carried out by installing new software blocks into the original hardware of the aircraft’s airborne radar. Over the last number of years, Israel has noticed that a growing number of UAVs operated by militants from inside the Gaza Strip and Lebanon have attempted to enter Israeli airspace. An anonymous service official stated that the new upgrade to the Eitam platform will allow the air force to create a full aerial picture, even in areas that are beyond the capability of any ground-based radar.
- China is to commence building a UAV factory in Saudi Arabia, the first to be built in the region. Permission to allow the Chinese to build the factory was given following the signing of a partnership agreement between the Saudi King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation — part of a wider economic pact in the fields of energy, culture, education and technology worth $65 billion. China will build their CH-4 UAV at the new facility and will also use the location to promote after-sales services for China’s clients in the Middle East in addition to satisfying Saudi orders.
- Kongsberg Maritime will provide HUGIN autonomous underwater vehicle systems to Norway in an $18.2 million deal. Possessing a depth rating of over 9,000 feet and outfitted with advanced sensors, the systems will assist Oslo in the detection and identification of mines. Included in the contract are training and maintenance, as well as the provisions for mission planning, execution and analysis, plus launch and recovery systems both for the Navy’s mine hunting vessels and mobile containers. Delivery of the system has remained undisclosed.
- Ukrainian firm Practika has revealed details of the Otaman modernisation package developed for the BTR-60-series armoured personnel carrier (APC). Upgrades found in the new version feature substantial changes to the original vehicle design, a new hull built of modern steel, new powertrain, redesigned interior, and additional armor options that will increase survivability. Development of the new model began in mid-2016 and the firm plans to begin operational testing of the prototypes in late spring.
- An agreement has been signed between Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency and the UK Ministry of Defense to exchange information about future fighter technology as well as a possible co-development of a next-generation aircraft. The deal also keeps the door open to working with other countries on future projects. News of the Japan-UK fighter agreement comes only two months after London won a $125 million contract from the Turkish government to initiate collaboration on Ankara’s TF-X fighter program.
- The Malaysian government has said that it has yet to decide on whether it will go ahead with a $2 billion procurement of Rafale fighters from France. Bilateral talks between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and French President Francois Hollande did see the leaders discuss the aircraft deal, which aims at replacing Kuala Lumpur’s fleet of MiG-29 combat planes, half of which are grounded. Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was reported in the media as saying the race for new fighter jets has narrowed to the Dassault Rafale and the BAE Systems-built Eurofighter Typhoon. Speaking on the decision, President Hollande said, “all I would like to say is that the Rafale jet is the best in its category, and then we propose to discuss the prices, and the specifications. I trust you will make the decision when the time comes.”
- The first two TC-90s arrive in the Philippines from Japan:
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