* Boeing has announced that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system now has 44 interceptors deployed at two sites on the continental United States. They added that the loading of the missile fulfils a US Department of Defense (DoD) requirement of increasing the inventory to 44 by the end of 2017, but did not reveal to which site the milestone load took place. An interceptor successfully took down an intercontinental ballistic missile during testing in May.
* Canada will have selected a replacement fighter for its fleet of CF-18s by 2021, Royal Canadian Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hood said at this year’s Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference. The official search for the fifth-generation fighter is expected to start in 2019. A new competition for the CF-18’s replacement was called for last summer following a campaign promise from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party to step away from the controversial procurement of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. While the F-35 is now back on the table as a possible option, attempts to procure the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, even as an interim measure, may be a non-runner due to the US airframer’s commercial dispute with Canadian firm Bombardier. But while new models from Boeing seem unlikely, Ottawa could procure F/A-18A/B Hornets from Australia as Canadian CF-18s run on a similar configuration and began operating within a few years of each other. Canada also owns the intellectual property on the jet and already uses L-3 for F/A-18 sustainment, thus not needing the services of Boeing.
* Embraer’s KC-390 prototype is scheduled to resume flight testing after receiving minor repairs following a stall speed incident in October. The Brazilian firm said the model, 001, “experienced an event beyond the planned limit” during a simulated icing test, which took the tanker beyond its airspeed and load factor operating limitations and required crew to return immediately to base. The aircraft has not flown since. A detailed inspection carried out by Embraer found that the incident caused no damage to the primary aircraft structure, although some external fairings and access hatches will be replaced before the aircraft returns to the sky. It added that deliveries to the Brazilian air force will not be effected.
Middle East & Africa
* An agreement has been reached between Morocco and Russia over the potential sale of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile system. Reports suggest that a deal was reached during the official visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the North African kingdom on October 11, and was signed alongside a number of other accords covering agriculture, tourism, education, as well as defense and security cooperation. The platform will go towards improving Morocco’s air defense capabilities and they will join Turkey, Saudi Arabia as recent purchasers of the system. Morocco’s neighbor Algeria, whose adjoining border has been closed since 1994, also uses the S-400. Between 2010-2014, Algeria and Morocco were number one and two respectively on the list of Africa’s biggest military spenders.
* Leonardo’s M-346FA aircraft—the Fighter Attack variant of the Advanced Jet Trainer—has made its first appearance at the Dubai Airshow. Designed to carry out multi-mission tactical strike and reconnaissance missions, the jet comes equipped with a Grifo fire control radar and has seven hardpoints for external fuel tanks and weapons, including a range of precision-guided bombs, as well as AIM-9L air-to-air missiles and an external gun. Several parties have expressed interest in the new variant. The firm is also looking to offer a new trainer version, the T-100, to the USAF’s ongoing trainer competition, and has promised to build a new facility in Alabama to handle production if selected. This week, a delegation from Alabama will visit Leonardo executives for a tour of its M-346 manufacturing facility in Venegono, near Milan, to help advance preparations already under way in Alabama for the development of the manufacturing facility at Moton Field and its 750-strong workforce.
* The latest version of the Apache, the AH-64E, has been deployed to Europe for the first time. A total of 24 E-model Apaches have made their way to Germany as the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, and have relieved the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, NY, which has been training with about 20 countries for nine months as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve—Washington’s commitment to countering Russian aggression in Eastern and Northern Europe by training allies and holding joint multi-national exercises. The 1st ACB will now spend the next nine months based at at Illesheim Army Airbase, Germany and will be the only US Army unit in Europe with the upgraded helicopter.
* Saab and Raytheon announced a new partnership that aims to develop new weapons for infantry forces. A joint statement released by both firms on Thursday said they will first commence work on improving Saab’s 84mm anti-tank recoilless rifle—the Carl-Gustaf reloadable shoulder-launched weapon—as well as working to enhance Saab’s AT-4 disposable weapon system to meet near-term US and international requirements. At present, the AT-4 can fire 84mm rockets, albeit unguided.
* India is in danger of losing out on purchasing the last available C-17 Globemaster heavy transport aircraft as New Delhi’s agonisingly long procurement process may see manufacturer Boeing offer the aircraft to someone else. In 2015, the Indian Air Force (IAF) approved the purchase of three C-17s to add to its current fleet of ten, but with the Globemaster’s production line already shut down, Boeing only had one remaining to sell. But New Delhi has so far failed to send the formal Letter of Acceptance (LoA) required as part of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process and instead are looking to request an extension of the deadline to next year, thus pushing the completion of the procurement process further down the line. As a result, Washington could rescind the offer and instead look at other interested parties.
* A look at the M-346FA at the Paris Airshow 2017: