$305.5M Contract to LM for JASSM | Army Plans to Lighten Load on Gray Eagles | Army & AF Invest in CountermeasuresOct 15, 2015 00:20 UTC
- Lockheed Martin has been awarded a production contract for the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), with the $305.5 million contract also covering upgrades, logistics and support services. The stealthy cruise missile’s extended-range (ER) upgrade hit full-rate production in December last year, with the US planning to purchase around 2,400 JASSM missiles and a further 3,000 JASSM-ER variants. Poland became the third JASSM export customer in September after Lockheed Martin announced a Foreign Military Sales contract to provide forty missiles to equip the Polish Air Force’s fleet of F-16C/D fighters.
- The Navy has announced that there will be an independent review into the Remote Minehunting System, a module designed to operate with the Littoral Combat Ship fleet. The review is due by the end of November, with concerns over the program’s technical capabilities leading to a delay in operational testing in September. The RMS completed developmental testing in December 2013, with Senators McCain and Reed expressing particular criticism of the RMS. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin has pushed back at this criticism, stating that the RMS has achieved its operational availability and reliability requirements.
- The problems grounding lightweight pilots from flying the F-35 are now thought to be centered on the Joint Strike Fighter’s sophisticated Gen III helmet. The helmet – designed and built by Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems – is now thought to be too heavy to ensure a safe ejection at low speeds. The precise issue of whether the Martin Baker ejection seat or the helmet requires modification – or both – is currently under review by the Joint Project Office.
- As the Army looks to standardize equipment to better enable Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T), the datalink equipping AH-64E Apaches will be replaced by one capable of operating across a broad spectrum of bandwidths used by various UAV systems. L-3 was awarded a contract last month for the MUM-TX datalink capable of operating across this spectrum, with this set to equip the future Apache fleet. In June the Army carried out a MUM-T test involving an AH-64 Apache and a MQ-1C Gray Eagle, with the Apache demonstrating the ability to launch a Hellfire missile using data remotely received from the UAV’s sensors.
- Meanwhile, the Army is looking to field a wider array of weapons on the MQ-1C, with a particular focus being given to cheap, small munitions to complement the expensive AGM-114 Hellfires to which it sis currently limited. The program office is also looking for subsonic, lightweight weapons weighing around 30lb. The Hellfire currently weighs in at 105lb, with the reduced weight allowing for more weapons to be carried by the UAV. The Army also wants to implement a host of other improvements to the Gray Eagle, including more jam-resistant datalinks and assured position navigation and timing.
- The Air Force has awarded a contract to Orbital ATK for next-generation aircraft countermeasures, with the “spectrally matched” system – known as the MJU-73/B – capable of accurately replicating an aircraft’s heat signature to fool incoming missiles. The Army has also been investing in infrared countermeasure systems for its helicopter fleets, awarding a $35.3 million EMD contract to a Northrop Grumman-led team in late August – loser BAE Systems has since protested this decision.
- As Norway eyes a defense budget hike for FY2016, the country’s defense establishment is looking to bolster funding for its future fleet of 52 F-35s. With procurement of the first 22 F-35As cleared by the Norwegian Parliament – covering deliveries to 2019 – the program is expected to see a doubling of its budget in 2016, with the country’s P-3 Orion ASW fleet also seeing a budget boost.
Middle East North Africa
- Sky News is reporting that several Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are negotiating a potential sale of Israeli air and missile defense systems as fears over Iranian missile technology grow. The Iron Dome system the countries are looking to acquire would be purchased through Raytheon. In August 2010 the company partnered with Rafael Advanced Defense Industries to position the system for the US export market. The GCC states are also reportedly interested in acquiring the longer-range David’s Sling system, which when used in conjunction with Arrow interceptors can target subsonic intercontinental ballistic missiles. An integrated GCC missile shield system has been discussed for years, with the concept receiving a renewed push after the signing of the JCPOA with Iran in July.
- China will reportedly deliver a further fifty JF-17 Thunder fighters to Pakistan, with deliveries spread over a three-year period. Pakistan has received sixty of the co-developed aircraft already, with these forming two combat squadrons and a training, test & evaluation contingent. The two states have also reportedly signed an agreement to keep the JF-17’s technology away from strategic rival India, with China also reported to have pressured Pakistan to keep this technology away from the US.
- The Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) during trials by the Royal Australian Air Force: