The Pentagon lowered the forecast procurement cost of the F-35 program by 2 percent today – that’s $7.5 billion in savings over a roughly $400 billion program. The fighters are slated now to cost a mere $159.2 million per copy, if the military does indeed purchase 2,457 of them.
In the midst of the hubbub about what will or won’t fit inside an F-35, program leads stated that the aircraft may receive a pod-mounted cyber-attack capability, according to industry reports. Whether this developmental capability is cyber in the sense of using computer networks to attack targets – or whether it is merely an EW system – remains unclear. One reason the military has been concerned about what fits into the F-35’s petite weapons bay is because the weapons affixed to pylons on the outside tend to ruin the stealth capabilities that explain much of the difference between a $20 million F-18 and a $200 million F-35.
Two US bases are likely to remain open following the withdrawal of thousands of US troops later this year. The bases – in Jalalabad and Kandahar – will remain operational principally to support the Afghan Air Force (in Kandahar) and stem the flow of Taliban fighters from Pakistan (Jalalabad).
In contract news, two power companies – TransGen Energy and New Generation Power – were jointly awarded a $7 billion DoD contract today for power purchase agreement task orders until 2023. Bell Helicopter Textron was also awarded a $32.5 million contract for rotary wing blades in a sole-source acquisition.
Turkey will receive China’s HQ-9/FD-2000 air defense system, according to a statement by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense today. The other two bidders in the T-LORAMIDS competition –Raytheon/Lockheed Martin’s Patriot system and the Eurosam consortium’s Aster-30 system – are likely to be very displeased, particularly given the calls by North Atlantic Treaty Organization members to discount the Chinese offering on the basis of integration issues and multiple deadline extensions.
The Russian Navy is to receive upgraded submarines, with a flurry of reports from TASS today. Ten existing Project 971 and Project 949A boats are to be upgraded by 2020, with new “fifth-generation” subs under development for manufacture and deployment post-2020. It is unclear whether these upgraded models will form the “new” fifth generation subs or an entirely new design will be developed. Additionally, a fifth Yasen-class is to be laid-down today, according to the same Russian media source.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) and the EU’s Athena mechanism have signed an agreement to facilitate easier defense infrastructure procurement and stimulate cooperation between the two organizations.
Singapore is reportedly close to signing a contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade its F-16s, after a cancelled deal with BAE in November. The country initially confirmed its intention to upgrade the fleet in September 2013. Also today, the US Air Force announced that it has budgeted $25 million for radar upgrades for its own F-16s.
India’s Defense Research & Development Organization is to undergo a restructuring, including the creation of seven Technology Domain groups and a commercial arm, likely to be akin to the UK Ministry of Defence’s infamous Defence Equipment & Support entity.
Malaysian company Airod has proposed an upgrade schedule for the country’s Mig-29s, to raise the ten aircraft to the “Mig-29NM” standard. The main attraction would be the potential 30% increase in operational range, as well as improved commonality with the Malaysian Air Force’s fleet of Su-30MKM fighters.
A BAE-developed 32MJ rail gun is test-fired for the US Navy: