BAE-Lockheed Team supplied USAF with LRASM | British Typhoons started Baltic Air Policing Mission | China has a third aircraft carrier
BAE Systems together with Lockheed Martin have supplied the US Air Force with long-range anti-ship missiles (LRASM) for the B-1B bomber aircraft, reaching early operational capability ahead of schedule. LRASM is equipped with BAE-built sensor and targeting technology that works to detect and engage adversarial warships. Bruce Konigsberg, the company’s Radio Frequency Sensors product area director explained that the ”sensor systems provide US warfighters with a strike capability that lets them engage protected, high-value maritime targets from safe distances. The missile provides a critical advantage to US warfighters”. The system uses semi-autonomous guidance and target cueing data to precisely locate and attack targets, reducing reliance on ISR platforms, networking links, and GPS navigation, which could be compromised by enemy electronic weapons. The service branch accepted the missile systems after completing integration, simulation and flight tests aimed to demonstrate mission readiness of the technology. BAE will produce more than 50 additional LRASM sensors for integration onto the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is preparing to flight test two hypersonic weapons. DARPA director Steven Walker said during a breakfast meeting in Washington DC on May 1that both hypersonic vehicle prototypes were on track to have flights „before the calendar year ends“. One vehicle is part of the hypersonic air-breathing weapon concept, or HAWC, program. The other is the tactical boost glide, or TBG, effort. The military envisions developing TBG as an air-launched rocket with speeds faster than Mach 5 and able to reach altitudes of nearly 200,000 ft. The HAWC is also designed to be air launched but is envisioned as a hypersonic cruise missile. By the end of 2019, DARPA plans to flight test both weapons off a B-52 bomber. However, if qualifying challenges occur, Walker said the tests could extend into the early 2020 time frame. Additionally to working with the USAF on TBG and HAWC, DARPA has partnered with the US Army on the Operational Fires development program that is essentially a ground-launched capability with the TBG “front end“.
Middle East & Africa
The US State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to Bahrain for various Patriot missile systems and related support and equipment. The Patriot missile systems deal is for $2.5 billion and adds Bahrain to a list of 16 countries that use the system. In addition to the United States, other countries in the region using the system include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Poland, Romania and Sweden are among the other militaries to most recently acquire the Patriot system. Bahrain has requested 60 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles, 36 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missiles with canisters, nine M903 launching stations, five antenna mast groups, three electrical power plants III, two AN/MPQ-65 radar sets and two AN/MSQ-132 engagement control stations along with communications equipment, various tools, support equipment, training, technical equipment, and engineering and logistics support services. Lockheed-Martin is the prime contractor for the PAC-3 missile.
British Typhoons officially started their NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from Amari Air Base in Estonia on May 3. The aircraft from XI(F) Squadron normally based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire already arrived on April 24 and the crew has been working with the German Luftwaffe and their Eurofighters to prepare themselves for the NATO mission of providing a Quick Reaction Alert capability off the Baltic Sea area around Estonia. The Handover Ceremony marked the replacement of the German aircraft with the British Typhoons and their crew.
On May 4, the Chinese and the Russian Navy conducted their first ever joint warship-based live-fire missile exercise as part of the Joint Sea 2019 China-Russia naval drills. The Joint Sea 2019 is the latest iteration of an annual naval exercise between China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy and the Russian Navy that has been taking place since 2012. The drill was split into two parts, with the shore part of the exercise conducted from April 29 to 30, while the sea component was set to take place from May 1 to 4 in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea. The air defense exercise started around 12:40 pm on Saturday. Upon their approaches, the Chines Navy’s destroyer Harbin and Russian Navy’s anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs launched a short-range surface-to-air missile each and successfully intercepted the two incoming threats.
The Pentagon 2019 China Military Power Report says the first Chinese aircraft carrier with catapults will enter the fleet in 2022. China began construction of its second domestically built aircraft carrier in 2018. The new carrier, which will be the third overall carrier for China, will be larger than the first domestically constructed ship and will feature a catapult launch system. According to the Pentagon report, the design will enable the carrier to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations. China has one carrier, the Liaoning, in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Formerly a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, this vessel is the flagship of China’s Navy.
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