* Despite differences over who will pay for the wall along their common border, the Mexican government has been cleared by the Trump administration for the potential purchase of 8 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahwak helicopters. Announced in a Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) press release on Thursday, April 19, the package is estimated to reach $1.2 billion with Lockheed Martin’s Rotary and Mission Systems outfit based out of Owego, New York acting as principal contractor in the sale. Included in sale are engines, radars, radios, naval equipment and spares, alongside deliveries of Hellfire missiles, Captive Air Training missiles, Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) II rockets, and Mk -54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedoes (LHTs). The Seahawk is the US Navy’s version of the US Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk. According to the DSCA, the potential acquisition of the helicopters is part of a modernization push by Mexico’s armed forces.
* Quality control issues at Boeing has caused the US Army to halt deliveries of AH-64E Apache helicopters to the service. The issue in question involves a strap pack nut on the main rotor that is corroding in coastal environments. According to Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd, program executive officer for Army aviation, the nut in question holds very large bolts that subsequently hold the rotor blades on the helicopter and is therefore determined to be a critical safety item. While Boeing had already commenced redesign efforts of the bolt in the second half of 2017, the Army decided in February to not accept Echo models of the Apache, adding in March that it would stop taking receipt of helicopters permanently until the company began fielding a new and improved, acceptable strap pack nut. Todd added that Boeing had been working at a “very thorough but expeditious pace over the last six months.” “We are in testing as we speak.” In addition to the Army, the Apaches latest model has found customers in the government’s ofIndia, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan.
* Raytheon has received a contract to provide services in support of the US Navy’s Air and Missile Defense Radar Program. Valued at more than $136.5 million, the Pentagon contract awarded by Naval Sea Systems Command enables Raytheon to provide low rate initial production work in support of the Air and Missile Defense Radar Program (AMDR) on guided missile destroyer flight III class ships. Also called the AN/SPY-6(V), the next-generation radar will be included on warships like Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) vessels. They are about 30 times as powerful as their predecessors and will be installed on Flight III variations of the Burke-class, the first of which is the USS Jack H Lucas. Work on the contract will occur in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and is expected to be complete by April 2021.
Middle East & Africa
* Turkey’s participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been called into question by a senior US diplomat as a measure to exert control over Ankara’s procurement of the Russian-built S-400 Triumf air defense system. Speaking at a congressional hearing on April 18, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell said: “Ankara claims to have agreed to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system, which could potentially lead to sanctions under section 231 of [countering America’s adversaries through sanctions act] and adversely impact Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.” While US officials have complained that Turkey’s S-400 systems would not be interoperable with NATO’s networks—with some expressing concerns that possession of the S-400 and the F-35 could be used to compromise the latter, with Russia and its allies gaining invaluable intelligence—the Trump administration’s statements on the issue have been some what vague. Mitchell’s testimony has now made specific threats of potential retaliation if the Turkish government follows through on the acquisition of the S-400 system. While it is not clear how Turkey’s role in the program will be effected, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is deeply involved in the F-35A supply chain, supplying composite parts since 2008. It is also is a secondary source to Northrop Grumman for the centre fuselage, with a long-term agreement to supply 400 of the complex assemblies to Lockheed over the life the program. The Turkish Air Force have plans for the procurement of 100 F-35As, with the first batch of 13 already paid for and deliveries scheduled to begin earlier this year.
* Italy’s Leonardo is looking to boost sales of its BriteCloud missile decoy system, targeting operators of the F-16, F-15, and Eurofighter. In preparation for the push, the firm has starting transforming the cylindrical BriteCloud into a square format so that it can fit on the American ALE-47 chaff and flare dispenser used by both the F-15 and F-16s. The system has already been adopted for use by British Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon jets and Jon McCullagh, head of combat air sales for electronic warfare at the Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems Division, disclosed to Defense News that the firm has also approached the Eurofighter consortium for the BriteCloud to completed the jet’s existing towed decoy. Released when a radar-guided missile approaches an aircraft, BriteCloud includes a radar-jamming system and produces a ghost signal that fools radar guidance systems. The US has previously used the Gen-X expendable decoy, but Leonardo claims its new product is the first digital expendable decoy on the market and the most powerful to date.
* Reuters reports that Japan is to be offered a fifth-generation fighter platform by Lockheed Martin that will fuse the export-banned F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The hybrid platform is the US defense giant’s entry into Japan’s competition to build its own stealth fighter—the F-3. In March, the Japanese government issued a third Request for Information (RFI) for the F-3 to foreign defense companies and sent a separate document outlining its requirements in more detail to the British and United States governments. In addition to Lockheed, Tokyo expects designs from Boeing and BAE Systems. Japan’s last indigenous fighter effort was the F-2, which entered service in 2000, was built jointly by Mitsubishi Heavy and Lockheed Martin. Mitsubishi has also participated as a partner manufacturer for Lockheed Martin’s F-35, controlling airframe assembly of Japanese F-35s at its Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya.
* In pursuit of what it called the air force’s want for a better fighter, India has pulled out of its partnership with Russia in the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program. In the works since 2007, the program has seen cooperation between Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau (Sukhoi) in developing and manufacturing a new fighter dubbed the Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii, or “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation” (PAK-FA). Now called the Su-57, seven prototypes are currently in flight-testing since the first took to the skies in 2010. With $8.63 earmarked for the procurement of 127 PAK-FAs that were stealthy, possessed 360-degree radar and had more powerful engines, the Indian Air Force (IAF) have now claimed that the aircraft being offered was not stealthy enough for a fifth-generation combat aircraft. India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is said to have conveyed the decision to a Russian ministerial delegation in February.
* DoD warns China & Russia with new weapons development: