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Boeing reveals MQ-25 prototype | Ukrainian protest puts brakes on Bulgaria’s MiG modernization | F-35 completes Weapons Delivery Accuracy (WDA) flight tests

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Americas * After a week of teasing its release, Boeing’s Phantom Works unit revealed Tuesday its prototype that will be entered into the US Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial tanker program. A photograph of the aircraft facing the camera released by the firm shows that Boeing have incorporated a wing-body-tail design, diverting from the original […]

* After a week of teasing its release, Boeing’s Phantom Works unit revealed Tuesday its prototype that will be entered into the US Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial tanker program. A photograph of the aircraft facing the camera released by the firm shows that Boeing have incorporated a wing-body-tail design, diverting from the original flying wing design it considered putting forward to the precursor of the MQ-25 program—when the Navy prioritized strike and ISR capabilities over mission-tanking for its first carrier-based drone. Engine runs will be conducted before the end of the year, with deck handling demonstrations to follow in the new year. During the demo, prototype operators will taxi the aircraft via remote control and move it within the confines of the deck, as well as validating that the aircraft will engage the launch bar of a catapult. Boeing said first flight will take place when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.

* Testers from the US Air Force’s (USAF) 461st Flight Test Squadron and F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) have concluded Weapons Delivery Accuracy (WDA) flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, marking a major milestone in getting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s Block 3F software ready for combat. All three variants of the next-generation fighter were used during the tests—which began in 2013—with the ITF delivering 55 weapons during the testing, and included air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-120s, the AIM-9X and the UK’s Advanced Short Range AAM, as well as the Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, GBU-39 small diameter bomb, GBU-12, GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition and the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon. Each weapon test required multiple missions including software development, “dry runs” and then the actual weapon release. The F-35 Integrated Test Force, operating at both Edwards AFB and at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, continues to conduct developmental flight test for the DoD’s F-35 Joint Program Office. Ongoing testing at Edwards AFB includes mission effectiveness testing, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime interdiction, and offensive and defensive air-to-air combat testing.

* Lockheed Martin was awarded Monday a $110,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract as part of the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate (AFRL/RW) Gray Wolf Cruise Missile Science and Technology Demonstration Program. The award calls for Lockheed to undergo design, development, manufacture, and testing work of prototype-affordable cruise missiles to advance networked collaborative operations technologies for defeat of enemy integrated air defense systems. The program is a spiral development effort, using open architectures and a modular design to enable testing of multiple variant full-scale prototypes. Work will be carried out in Dallas, Texas, with an estimated completion time scheduled for December 17, 2021.


* Paul Kehoe, Minister of State at the Irish Department of Defence has signed a $38 million deal with Pilatus for three PC-12 NG aircraft. The Swiss-made aircraft will go towards replacing the Irish Air Corps’ five Cessna 172H Skyhawk aircraft (first purchased in 1972), marking a significant increase in capabilities for the service. “This will provide us with a huge generational jump forward from the days of the Cessna and allow us to fulfil the roles that are are envisaged for the Air Corps”, one senior military officer said. Deliveries are scheduled to take place between 2019 and 2020 and once operational, will be used for a range of missions, including medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), logistical support, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). The purchase is being funded from the defence capital funding budget of $494 million for 2018-2021 and this will alsoallow for the replacement of both of the Air Corps CASA maritime patrol craft and other major equipment projects during that timeframe.

* Bulgaria has had to put the brakes on its $50 million MiG-29 fighter jet modernization, less than two months after parliament approved funding for the upgrades to fifteen aircraft. Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG had been tapped to take on the work, but an appeal filed with the Bulgarian competition regulator by Ukrainian arms company Ukrinmash has temporarily kiboshed the four-year program. Bulgaria, an EU and NATO member, considered the MiG maker as the only company capable of providing reliable support for the aircraft and did not invite other bidders for the deal. The move has outraged the Bulgarian Minister of Defense, Krasimir Karakachanov, who called the appeal a “a sabotage attempt” against the ministry’s plans for a direct contract with the Russian company. “The Ukrainian company does not have a license, it does not have capability to carry out such overhauls”, he told a news conference.

* Elbit Systems has announced the receipt of a $46 million follow-on contract to supply additional J-Music Direct Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) self-protection systems to NATO’s A330 Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) Program. Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway have so far signed up to procure seven aircraft that will be operated on a pooled basis under NATO command, with scope for adding four additional aircraft if additional NATO members joined the initiative. The contract will be completed over a four-year period.


* The Bangladeshi government has released a request-for-proposals (RFP) for an ISR and ground attack-capable Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The request states that the Bangladeshi Air Force (BAF) requires a package consisted of a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), ground control station (GCS), sensor subsystems and air-to-surface munitions. Its minimum cruise speed must be at least 140 km/h and a loiter speed capped at 140 km/h (or lower). The UAV must have a maximum speed of 200 km/h or more and a flight ceiling of approximately 20,000 ft, if not higher. Three hardpoints and a minimum payload of 120kg have also been requested, alongside a range of 1,000 km and endurance of 15 hours. Taking these specifications into account, potential options for Dhaka’s include several options from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)—the CH-4 and the Wing Loong II—and Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) Anka UAV.

Today’s Video

* Footage of recent testing of Indonesia’s indigenous P-250 bomb:

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