Boeing won a $198 million contract modification, which provides for the integration of a ground control station that provides command and control capability in support of the MQ-25 air vehicle for the Navy. The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is an aerial refueling drone. In early December Boeing has flown its MQ-25A test asset (T1) with an aerial refuelling store under its wing for the first time. Earlier this year the US Navy exercised an option to acquire three additional MQ-25 air vehicles, bringing the total aircraft Boeing is initially producing to seven. The Navy intends to procure more than 70 aircraft, which will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters. Work will take place in Missouri and various locations within the continental US. Expected completion will be in August 2024.
The 53rd Wing of the Air Force has combined its series of large-scale tests at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base into a new event called Black Flag. Gen. Mark D. Kelly inked COMACC Plan 21 on December 15, formalizing the creation of Black Flag as a training event “solely focused on test and tactics development in a realistic, massed force, fully integrated, high threat density environment.” Black Flag was established as the testing counterpart to Red Flag, the Air Force’s training event.
Middle East & Africa
The US State Department approved two possible arms sales to Kuwait totaling $4.2 billion on December 29. Per the larger of the two deals, for $4 billion, Kuwait’s government has asked to buy 24 AH-64E Apache helicopters, eight new and 16 remanufactured along with related equipment. The deal, if approved, would also include 22 T700-GE 701D engines, 36 remanufactured T700-GE 701D engines as well as support equipment, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications. The second FMS is for $200 million. The United States would sell spare parts to upgrade Kuwait’s Patriot missile systems. The principal contractor for this deal would be Raytheon.
The US State Department also cleared two potential Foreign Military Sales to Egypt. The first is a potential sale of 20 Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods for $65.6 million. The FMS case does not state the type of aircraft on which the pods will be deployed, but Cirium fleets data indicates that Egypt has 218 in-service F-16s, including 33 F-16A/Bs and 185 F-16C/Ds. The second is for the provision of the Northrop Grumman Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) suite aboard an Airbus A340-200 that is used to transport the country’s head of state. The value of the LAIRCM deal is $104 million.
The Swiss Air Force will start having fighters on standby 24 hours a day starting from December 31. Currently, the F/A-18s are on standby during office hours. “From now on, the air police service will be on call 24 hours a day to guarantee the security and the sovereignty over Swiss airspace,” a statement said. The plan to increase Swiss airspace surveillance was proposed to parliament in 2009, but it was boosted by an embarrassing incident five years later that cast a spotlight on the lack of round-the-clock protection. In February 2014, an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane, carrying 202 passengers and crew from Addis Ababa to Rome, and forced it to land in Geneva. Although the co-pilot-turned-hijacker announced he wanted to land the plane in Switzerland, where he later said he aimed to seek asylum, Switzerland’s fleet of F-18s and F-5 Tigers remained on the ground. The Swiss Air Force explained at the time that this was because its planes were only available during office hours.
Northrop Grumman won a $37.7 million deal for the Japan Global Hawk Program. The deal provides for the procurement of initial spare parts to include modifications to the system engineering and program management tasks required to execute, manage, control, and report on all program activities. The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is an unmanned high-altitude long-endurance surveillance aircraft that first flew in February 1998 and has been in active service with the US military since 2001.
Watch: Boeing MQ-25 Continues Flight Tests