- In separate events, both the Army (to a defense writers’ group) and the Air Force (to a Senate panel) testified to their inability to perform their missions without budget increases.
- The Air Force is looking nervously at its capacity to meet the congressionally-mandated deadline of 2019 to stop relying on Russian rocket engines. Air Force Secretary Deborah James told senators on Wednesday that to try to meet the deadline by 2019 would mean exchanging one monopoly franchise for another. Except, of course, it wouldn’t be controlled by Russia, a quality that of late has started to have more and more charm. It was an interesting remark given that the new monopoly in question might be that of SpaceX, the firm that has shown unprecedented speed to development. James indicated a decade was more realistic, which sounds more like the preferred timeframe of the Air Force’s long-time partner United Launch Alliance, which has a good record, but not one for sprightliness.
- The sales climate is good for people selling anti-missile technology. Lockheed is trying to make hay with its THAAD and MEAD systems, in serious talks with Qatar, Germany and Saudi Arabia. Qatar is likely to be the first among those to purchase, having defined $6.5 billion in hardware it wishes to purchase. Now that 18 countries have been given clearance to receive information on the PAC-3 MSE, more interest is being generated in the upgraded Patriot systems.
- One of the most expensive defense programs ever has been the Pentagon’s Tricare healthcare system. A new proposal to privatize it is meeting, as one might expect, with sharply divided opinions. Currently, the service is seen by members as somewhat poor, although a great deal. Participants pay about five percent of what civilians pay for private insurance. That amount would increase to about 15 percent of what civilians pay over 15 years, but services would be improved and expanded.
- Russia, perhaps fearing eventual loss of its easy port access in the Mediterranean via Syria, signed a deal with Cyprus putting a legal framework into place that would make it harder for Cyprus in the future to bow to pressure to deny Russian ships port access.
- Piaggio Aerospace’s HammerHead UAV made its first flight, again. Launched initially at the Paris air show in 2013 with a flying prototype, the first version of the final design flew for the first time just in December. Flightglobal has more details and a picture.
- BAE Systems started delivering the CV90 to Norway. 144 will eventually be delivered, a combination of 41 new infantry fighting vehicles and refurbishing of 103 CV9030s.
- Dassault appears desperate enough to land the Indian Rafale deal that it will take on liability for the set-aside fighters made by the indigenous HAL – a firm not known for exceptional reliability.
Middle East / Africa
- France is reportedly to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April.
- One of the technologies SpaceX uses to increase the velocity of its engineering…