* Following the news earlier this week that the Pentagon intends to increase the number of UAV Combat Air Patrols by 50% by 2019, private contractors are reported to already be stepping into the breach to support stretched Air Force personnel. General Atomics is reported to have been operating some ISR flights since April, with the DoD earmarking approximately 10 of the 90 scheduled Combat Air Patrols for contractors. The Air Force wants to boost the number of its own drone-operating personnel, despite planning to phase-out its MQ-1 Predator UAVs completely by 2018.
* Meanwhile, the heavyweight MQ-4C Triton UAV is scheduled to undergo a Navy operational assessment in September, with an initial production contract slated for next year hanging on successful completion of this assessment. The two months of testing could lead to a Milestone C decision and subsequently a production contract, ahead of an anticipated Initial Operation Capability date of 2018. The procurement of up to seven Tritons by Australia, announced in March 2014, is also dependent on the UAV achieving these milestones.
* The Army launched a JLENS aerostat on Wednesday to increase cruise missile early warning coverage of the East Coast, joining one first launched in December last year. The unmanned, tethered platforms will complement each other through the operation of both broad-area and precision radar systems, providing an over-the-horizon early warning capability. Developed by Raytheon, the two Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor (JLENS) units are part of a three-year evaluation program to assess the capability of JLENS with NORAD’s early warning architecture.
* The Navy is planning to test the carrier variant of the F-35 on the USS Eisenhower in early October, marking the second phase of testing for the F-35C after a first set of successful trials aboard the USS Nimitz in November. The F-35C is due to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) in 2018, making the carrier variant the last of the three Joint Strike Fighter models to enter service.
* Four firms have been awarded a three-year $994.7 million IDIQ contract to support the Army’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, while the Navy has awarded a $8.4 million contract to Camber Corp. for the development of Integration Training Solutions for the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) Threat Environment. The contract specifically tasks the company with developing training to enable “defense against Fast Attack Craft – Fast Inshore Attack Craft swarm threats, countering maritime mines, cyber/electronic warfare, and denial or disruption of the electromagnetic spectrum”.
Middle East North Africa
* The Israeli Air Force is reportedly upgrading its fleet of F-16I fighters to meet emerging missile threats. Coming only days after the Iranian Foreign Minister announced that the country would sign a contract with Russia for the potent S-300 air defense system, the Israeli upgrades will reportedly include a number of undisclosed new systems. Media reports on Thursday have now indicated that this deal has now been finalized. In May the IAF took part in exercises involving the Greek military’s S-300 systems, with this likely to have catalyzed this new set of upgrades. The country has been working to improve its fleet of US-manufactured fighters in recent years, which are the mainstay of its strike fleet, at least until the arrival of the country’s F-35 fleet.
* The gifted missile corvette reportedly delivered to Egypt earlier this week has now returned to Russia, with photographs placing the vessel in the Bosphorus, en route to Russia through the Black Sea. The Egyptian Defense Ministry announced [Arabic] that it had taken delivery of the R-32 Molnya missile corvette and that the ship’s crew would travel to Russia for training, with it now appearing that the ship will be accompanying them.
* The Russian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier has completed three months of dry dock maintenance. The Admiral Kuznetsov will now reportedly undergo further work in Murmansk before re-entering active service. Russian media reports have stated that the Russian Navy will begin construction of another carrier after 2025.
* Russia is reported to be testing the use of small UAVs to guide indirect fire. The geolocation of targets by drones such as the Orlan-10 is a result of a lack of sufficient EO/IR sensors [p. 60] capable of directing artillery and mortar fire from distance, meaning that those firing aim instead at the drone itself. Russia has been moving to increase its use of UAVs, including the Orlan-10 in the Arctic.
* Following reports from March indicating that the country was showing interest in Russian helicopters, Pakistan is buying four Mil Mi-35M Hind attack helicopters from Russia through a deal of undisclosed value. The helicopters were cleared for sale to Pakistan in June 2014, with the model also exported to Azerbaijan, Brazil and Egypt.
* Promotional material for the Hind attack helicopter: