- The Marines are closing in on an acquisition program for unmanned cargo helicopters, with two K-MAX UAVs headed for the Corps’ VMX-22 test squadron by the end of September. The optionally-manned helicopters will be used to develop the cargo UAS (CRUAS) concept of operations, building on a three-year Afghanistan demonstration tour involving two K-MAX aircraft. Despite other firms offering CRUAS solutions to the Marine Corps, including the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) and the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS), both of these are in flight demonstration phases, making the K-MAX the most probable recipient of a production contract timetabled to begin in 2022.
- In a further setback for the Boeing KC-46 program to the $536 million charge last month, a mistake during ground vibration testing is likely to have delayed the tanker’s first flight scheduled for September. A chemical was mistakenly inserted into the aircraft’s fuel system, with this incident seemingly unrelated to the charge Boeing incurred in July to develop the tanker’s fuelling system as part of the program’s $4.9 billion cost-capped contract awarded in 2011. The extent of the damage is still unclear, however the incident will undoubtedly delay Boeing and Air Force development timetables.
- Raytheon’s Block IV Tomahawk cruise missile demonstrated mission planning capability during flight tests announced on Wednesday. The upgraded software allowed planners to adapt the missile’s mission profile on the fly, with this new capability now set to be rolled-out across the fleet of Tomahawks in service. The Block IV missile demonstrated similar capabilities in March 2014, when the missile received information in-flight and re-targeted itself to strike a moving vehicle.
- With Indian defense exports slowly climbing, Tata Motors has delivered 585 military logistics vehicles to the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA. The Indian firm also won a contract with the Indian government in July to supply over 1,200 6×6 trucks to the Indian Army. The delivery to MINUSMA took approximately five months and will equip Mali’s neighbors.
- Croatia has received the first batch of twelve PzH 2000 howitzers it ordered in December 2014. The howitzers are all former-German Army stock, with the dozen vehicles ordered along with software and communications upgrades for $32.8 million. Lithuania has also reportedly ordered sixteen PzH 2000s, with reports from April detailing a planned procurement of the howitzers along with Boxer APCs, despite initial reluctance from the Germans in February.
- With the delivery of a third Airbus A400M transporter to the Royal Air Force in July, the UK’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has begun construction of a new maintenance facility for the fleet. The $65.7 million project at RAF Brize Norton is slated for completion next year, with the RAF expecting the delivery of nineteen more A400Ms.
- Serbia is reportedly buying a mixture of European and Russian helicopter designs to replace Soviet-era Mil Mi-8s. The former is thought to be a pair of Airbus AS532 Cougars, with the Russian helos likely to be two Mil Mi-17s. The four aircraft are timetabled for delivery next year, with the Serbian government also looking to replace its Antonov An-26 transport aircraft.
- Russia has merged its Air Force and Aerospace Defense forces into a single entity. The Russian Aerospace Defence Forces (VKO) will be responsible for air, space, air-defence and missile-defense operations, with the merger following a similar coupling of the country’s air-defense and space forces in 2011. Control over the country’s nuclear ballistic missiles will remain with the Strategic Rocket Forces, with the new merger making the Russian’s organization more reflective of the US Air Force than its former Soviet-era, delineated structure.
- As relations thaw, Iran may be looking to bolster its beleaguered air force with surplus French Mirage fighters. Following a visit by the French Foreign Minister in July, an Iranian government spokesman indicated [Farsi] that the procurement of new fighters – specifically Mirage fighters from France – would be a high priority following the lifting of sanctions. As the French Air Force brings in new Rafale jets, the older Mirage 2000 5-EI fighters it operates will be phased out. With Dassault’s Mirage production line closing in 2007, the Iranian Air Force may look to buy ex-French Mirages in order to resupply the depleted 24 older models it currently possesses, or to acquire a new, proven multirole fighter fleet on a budget.
- The Australian government has signed a $72.9 million contract with Thales Australia for 30,000 F90/Enhanced F88 assault rifles, after the procurement was cleared by the country’s Defence Ministry in July. The new rifles will come in two barrel lengths, a 16″ carbine and a 20″ rifle, with the contract also covering the supply of 2,500 SL40 grenade launchers, selected by Thales to equip the new rifle last year.
- A K-MAX helicopter operating in Afghanistan: