Army Mulls Hollow Points for Pistols | Navy RFPs New LHA | MQ-5B Retired for MQ-1C Gray Eagle | Russia’s Aggressive Bomber Tempo Backfiring
- The Navy has reportedly issued a Request for Proposals to two shipyards for a third America-class amphibious warship (LHA-8) and six next-generation oilers (TAO(X)). The RFP was sent to General Dynamics NASSCO and Huntington Ingalls Industries, with the Navy looking to pit the two yards against one another for contracts to manufacture the first six oilers or LHA-8.
- On Tuesday, Lockheed Martin was awarded a further $718.3 million contract modification for parts, support services and simulators in support of the F-35’s Lot 8 low rate initial production. The LRIP Lot 8 contract was agreed last year, with 43 of the fighters scheduled for production under Lot 8. Also on Tuesday, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $101.3 million advance acquisition contract for 383 Helmet Mounted Displays for use with the F-35 by the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, international partners and the governments of Japan and Israel through Foreign Military Sales.
- The Army is considering hollow-point rounds for its next-generation XM-17 Modular Handgun System, intended to replace the Beretta M9. A draft solicitation for the replacement pistols was released in June, with an industry day following last week. The envisaged contract will cover an estimated 300,000 new pistols, scheduled to enter service from 2018. Prohibited by the Hague Convention of 1899, the requirement for expanding rounds reportedly stems from the lack of stopping power of existing rounds which do not fragment on impact.
- The Army has retired its MQ-5B Hunter UAV, with the type’s last flight taking place at Fort Huachuca, AZ. The Hunter was in service from 1996 and received several upgrades, including a $91.2 million reset in 2011. The UAV is being replaced with the General Atomics-manufactured MQ-1C Gray Eagle.
- Another Russian Air Force Tu-95MS strategic bomber has crashed in the country’s Far East, coming down on Tuesday during a training flight. This is the sixth crash suffered by the Russian Air Force in recent weeks. This follows both the crash of another Tu-95MS in June and the subsequent grounding of the fleet. The Russian Air Force has suffered a string of recent crashes, a result of high operational demand and under investment in sustainment. Following two crashes earlier this year, the fleet of MiG-29 fighters was grounded earlier this month, with further accidents also leading to the grounding of the Su-24 fighter fleet in July. A Su-34 also came down in early June, bringing the total number of aircraft types involved in recent crashes to four.
- Despite growing concerns over the ability of the Russian Air Force to remain airborne, the PAK DA strategic bomber – currently thought to be under development by Tupolev – is set to get new modular communication capabilities similar to that of the PAK FA/T-50 fighter. The PAK DA’s prototype engine was also reportedly tested in November by manufacturer SC Kuznestsov.
- Russia is reportedly developing aerostats capable of being equipped with anti-ballistic missile radar systems. The US has also been developing the use of aerostats equipped with radar and other sensors to counter cruise missiles and provide data to other assets through Link 16 connections.
- The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is looking for a buyer to take two vessels off its hands. The former icebreaker HMS Endurance is up for auction, with the vessel replaced with a Norwegian ship in 2011; leased after a major flooding incident on the Royal Navy ship in 2008. The MoD is also looking to sell a former Border Agency vessel, the HMCC Sentinel, an Island-class patrol ship which entered service in 1993.
Middle East North Africa
- Morocco has ordered a landing craft from French shipyard Piriou, with this expected to be delivered in mid-2016. The Landing Craft Tank (LCT) will be just under 50 meters in length, have a crew of twenty-two and come equipped with two cranes.
- The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office was handed a $332.5 million contract modification to manufacture and delivery five MV-22B Block C Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to Japan, following a DSCA request in May. The Japanese government requested seventeen of the aircraft, with this contract subsequently revising the number down. This latest modification has been tacked onto a December 2011 contract which covered the manufacture of MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft for the US Air Force and Marine Corps. Japan announced its intention to procure the tiltrotor aircraft last November, with this marking the first international export for the type.
- Afghanistan is equipping its MD 530F helicopters with M260 ground attack rockets to complement existing .50 Heavy Machine Gun Pods, manufactured by Belgian firm FN Herstal. Those were installed under a contract awarded last year and are due for final delivery this September. The rocket systems will equip nineteen helicopters, under a $13.2 million Foreign Military Sales contract awarded to the helicopters’ manufacturer MD Helicopters Inc.
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