* The Army will likely release a Request for Proposals for the CH-47 Chinook Block 2 program early next year; however the enhancements required by the Army have yet to be finalized. Janes reports that one of the possible technologies set for inclusion in the Block 2 package is the Advanced Chinook Rotor Blade (ACRB), thought capable of adding an additional 1,800lb of lift capacity, with the Army having already invested $17.9 million in March 2013 to develop the technology.
* The crash of a Royal Air Force HC2 Puma helicopter in Afghanistan on Sunday also claimed the lives of two US service personnel. The fifth person to die in the crash was a French civilian contractor, with reports by the Associated Press now indicating that the helicopter may have struck an observation balloon as it came into land at the NATO Resolute Support Mission base in Kabul.
* Lockheed Martin has successfully tested a counter-UAV system, designed to detect and intercept unmanned aircraft with ‘non-kinetic’ methods. The ICARUS system has been undergoing a year of field testing and demonstrations to potential customers, with this latest test taking place at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting.
* The Army wants to buy missile systems capable of scaling up from counterinsurgency operations all the way to highly kinetic combat operations, using modularity to rationalise the various missile systems currently in service. The plan is to use the Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) to bring together the multiple air and missile defense systems under one integrated command and control system, with the IBCS currently in development under a $577 million, five-year contract awarded to Northrop Grumman in April 2010. Other routes to improved commonality and modularity include adding different missiles to the prototype Indirect Fire Protection Capability system and acquiring a new 360-degree radar capable of plugging into the Army’s various missile systems.
* Germany’s Defence Ministry has halted deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters following the discovery of a technical fault with the Airbus-manufactured jets. The technical problem is thought centered around the connection between the aircraft’s vertical stabiliser and the fuselage. This is the second time quality control measures for the European fighter have caused problems, with manufacturing defects in September 2014 [German] also leading to a suspension of deliveries. In both cases BAE Systems was the consortium member responsible for manufacture of the defective parts; however this latest problem is not thought to pose any immediate flight safety issues for operators of the aircraft.
Middle East North Africa
* Israel has flown an upgraded C-130H for the first time, following an upgrade contract with Elbit Systems awarded in December 2012. Israel’s Hercules transport fleet also includes C-130J, with the two models expected to operate into the 2040s. The upgraded H models include new avionics systems, thought to share common features with the J models currently in service.
* Thailand has awarded a follow-up order to AgustaWestland for eight more AW139 helicopters to supplement the two currently in service. The first two helicopters were delivered February 2014 following a contract in October 2012 and are thought to be employed in a VIP transport capacity. The eight new AW139s are slated for delivery next year. Thailand operates a fragmented helicopter fleet, including various US, European and Russian models.
* China appears to have reverse-engineered the Russian Su-30MK2 design to operate the SD-10A air-to-air missile and electronic warfare pods, with the work thought to have been carried out by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. China is also thought to be producing and selling unlicensed versions of Russian radar systems.
* India is buying 194 microlights from Slovenian firm Pipistrel, with these intended to be used as low-cost training and ISR platforms. The company won a tender originally released in 2011, with negotiations spanning a four-year period. The bulk of the new aircraft will head to the country’s National Cadet Corps to be used as a basic aerial trainer. The remainder will be used by the Indian Air Force and Navy, with a number planned for modifications to operate as a platform for ISR sensors. The microlights will reportedly be designated the SW-80 Garud in Indian service.
* A future MBDA concept vision: