Austal starts constructing the Navy’s next EPF | Qatar cancels purchase | Belgium: Who will make the cut ?
Navistar Defense is being contracted by the US Army to provide technical support to its MRAP fleet. The contract modification is priced at $19.7 million and provides for technical support for the in-production and out-of-production MaxxPro family of vehicles. MRAP vehicles are designed from the outset for blast-resistance against land mines and even car bombs. These vehicles normally serve a variety of roles including as armored personnel or weapons carrier, convoy protection platform, key leader vehicle and command post and armored ambulance. This contract combines a number of orders that will run through March 2020.
Austal is being tapped to start building the Navy’s next Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship. The undefinitized contract action is valued at $57.8 million and allows for the procurement of long-lead-time material and production engineering services. The Spearhead-class vessels are designed for the fast, intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment with aviation support. Bridging the gap between low-speed sealift and high-speed airlift, EPFs transport personnel, equipment and supplies over operational distances with access to littoral offload points including austere, minor and degraded ports often found in developing countries. The vessels are able to transport 600 short tons of military equipment to a range of 1.200 nautical miles at speeds of up to 35 knots. Work will be performed at multiple locations, including – but not limited to – Novi, Michigan; Mobile, Alabama and Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The US Navy’s 13th EPF is expected to be completed by November 2021.
The Air Force plans to procure another Bombardier business jet for its Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) program. BACN is an airborne communications relay that extends communications ranges, bridges between radio frequencies, and “translates” among incompatible communications systems. The BACN modified Bombardier Global 6000 would be outfitted with a specialised mission package that includes antennas, radios, flight-tracker inhibition systems and more. Dubbed the E-11A, the aircraft allows ground troops to reach needed support over mountainous terrain with imagery, video, voice and data, and it can also act as a high-altitude relay, including airdrop and airstrike operations. If the acquisition is approved the jet would be the fifth of its kind in the BACN fleet, which would grow to nine aircraft in total.
Middle East & Africa
The Qatari government will not proceed with its planned acquisition of three Boeing produced E-737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft. At the end of DIMDEX 2014 in late March, reports surfaced that Qatar had embarked on a $23 billion shopping spree that would have included the purchase of the three E-737s at cost of $1.8 billion. The Gulf state has chosen not to complete the transaction, Boeing told Jane’s on October 18th. The Wedgetail operates at an altitude of 30,000ft to 40,000f and is flown by two flight crew with between six and ten mission crew members. The aircraft is fitted with an MESA (multirole electronically scanned array) radar from Northrop Grumman. That radar exchanges the traditional AWACS rotating dome for the E-7A’s “top hat” stationary antenna. The Qatar Emiri Air Force currently has no airborne early warning capability, it is yet unclear if Qatar will purchase an alternative platform or if it has decided not to field an airborne early warning capability altogether.
The UK is requesting the purchase of sixteen H-47 Chinooks from Boeing. The potential Foreign Military Sales contract is priced at $3.5 billion and would include the delivery of the helicopters equipped with GPS, missile warning systems, radio-frequency countermeasures, multi-mode radars, electro-optical sensor systems and other equipment. The extended range Chinooks will be armed with M-134D-T mini guns and M240H machine guns. The CH-47F Chinook is the latest variant of the combat proven platform. Renewals include a new Robertson Aviation Extended Range Fuel System of internal auxiliary fuel tanks that gives the helicopter a mission radius greater than 400 miles. The Royal Air Force’s current operational Chinook fleet comprises Mk 4 and Mk 6 aircraft, fitted with digital glass cockpits. The UK’s Chinook Sustainment Programme aims to build on the platform’s success, recapitalising existing airframes and extending the capability out to 2040.
Reuters reports that Belgium will likely make a decision on which fighter jet to buy to replace its ageing F-16s by the end of this month. The country’s multi-billion contract will see for the purchase of 34 fighter jets. Current contestant are Lockheed Martin with its F-35 and BAE with the Eurofighter. “The Belgian competition is the F-35’s to lose,” Harry Breach, a London-based analyst told Reuters. He further added that the Typhoon would be a more expensive option and that smaller countries tend to pick a jet with lower size, payload and range for affordability reasons. France is not running with the Rafale, but has an interest in preventing the further spread of the F-35 in Europe. Lockheed’s proposal reportedly includes significant opportunities for Belgian companies to contribute to the global F-35 enterprise, BAE on the other hand offers Belgium a possible role in future European combat jet developments if it picks the Eurofighter over the F-35.
Poland plans to move ahead with the planned acquisition of the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) as part of its HOMAR program. The program sees for the purchase of three squadron-level units 18 launchers each, plus 2 launchers for training operations. HIMARS is a lighter version of the M270 MLRS multiple launch rocket system. Poland would be second European country to purchase the system, with Romania being the first. Both countries are NATO members and are currently strengthening their air-defense systems to deter Russia. The potential acquisition of the 56 HIMARS launchers is priced at $250 million, with the first units expected to be delivered by 2022.
Russian media outlet, TASS reports that the Russian Army will now be able to fire a new missile from the S-400 Triumf system. Dubbed the 40N6 hypersonic long-range surface-to-air missile is designed to engage low flying aerial targets at ranges of up to 400 kilometers. The 40N6 is designed to strike early warning and electronic warfare aircraft, airborne command posts, strategic bombers, and hypersonic cruise and ballistic missiles. The missile’s destruction range is up to 380 km for aerial targets and up to 15km for ballistic weapons at an altitude ranging from 10 m to 35 km. The average flight speed is 1,190 m/s. With its new homing head, the missile can destroy aircraft beyond the boundaries of the radio visibility of ground-based radars. Russia plans to purchase over one thousand missiles through 2027.
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