The Pentagon is urgently trying to gain the necessary clearances required for combat aircraft to refuel from Airbus A330 MRTTs, used by coalition partners operating above Syria and Iraq. The Navy is also looking to gain clearances to use hose-and-drogue refueling systems installed on Royal Air Force Voyager tankers to certify the F-35B for this type of refuelling method. A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (a modified A330 MRTT) has already been used to conduct trials with a F-35A in September, with tests planned on a variety of other platforms.
The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter has fired its GAU-22/A internal cannon while airborne for the first time, following ground testing in July. The 25mm cannon was fired in three bursts above Edwards AFB, with further tests involving a production F-35A planned for next year. The Air Force will pass the F-35A’s Initial Operating Clearance (IOC) without the aircraft’s internal gun system, with the weapon scheduled to enter service in 2017 as part of the aircraft’s Block 3F upgrade.
A team from India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is preparing to travel to Ecuador in an attempt to resurrect a contract for Dhruv helicopter unilaterally terminated by the country in October. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is reported to have intervened to facilitate the meeting between HAL representatives and Ecuadoran officials. Four of seven Dhruv helicopters delivered to Ecuador through a contract signed in 2008 have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish].
Spain’s cabinet has approved a proposed acquisition of four MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 UAVs from the US, following State Department approval of a DSCA request by the country’s Defense Ministry in October. The $177 million procurement saw the General Atomics design – favored by the Spanish Air Force – beat off competition from Israel Aerospace Industries’ Heron TP. The contract’s value will be spread over a multi-year contract until 2020, with Spanish firm SENER acting as General Atomics’ partner. Elsewhere in Europe, the Netherlands also requested four of the same aircraft in February, with the United Kingdom operating armed Reapers.
The Russian Air Force has lost another MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor, with the Soviet-era aircraft coming down in the country’s Far East Kamchatka region during a training mission. The Russian fleet of MiG-31s is crash-prone. Two-thirds of the 150-strong fleet are undergoing a modernization program, with contracts awarded in 2011 and 2014 covering upgrades to 60 and 50 aircraft respectively. The jets are scheduled to remain in service until 2026, with work on a replacement aircraft – designated the PAK-DP – slated to begin in 2019.
The Czech Republic is planning an upgrade and procurement program aimed at modernizing the country’s army and air force, according to an announcement by Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky. Planned acquisitions reportedly include armored personnel carriers, logistics vehicles, electronic warfare equipment and small arms. The Czech government passed a slightly increase budget for 2015, representing 3.6% of the country’s GDP, however as a share in expenditure of the MoD, the figure is 1.04% which is a slight decrease when compared with FY2014. The country is also expected to become the first customer for Saab’s RBS 70 NG surface-to-air missile system, with the Czech Army conducting firing trials in late October.
India has agreed to a contract with Russia for S-400 Triumf SAM systems during the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military-Technical-Cooperation, according to Indian press reports. The deal is estimated to value 70,000cr rupees ($10.66 billion), with the number of systems included undisclosed. Confirmation of these reports is not expected until December when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to Moscow to meet with the Russian leadership. Reports from October indicated that Moscow could have linked the sale of the S-400 air defense systems to India’s decision to acquire co-developed PAK-FA fighters. India has subsequently clarified the country’s position on the aircraft, announcing later in October that it intends to procure 154 of the fighters.
Boeing has rolled-out the first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter destined for service with South Korea. Deliveries to the country are scheduled for the first half of 2016, with the helicopters first undergoing testing with the US Army. The South Korean Defense Acquisition Procurement Administration (DAPA) signed a $1.6 billion Foreign Military Sales contract with the US in April 2013 for 36 of the helicopters. Taiwan recently saw problems with the country’s AH-64Es rusting in the tropical climate.
Footage of the first firing of the F-35A’s internal cannon system in flight:
Hindustan Aeronautics’ Dhruv project aimed to create a light helicopter that was well suited to light helicopter roles in India’s range of weather and altitude conditions. The firm has supplied 76 Dhruvs to India’s armed forces, an armed version has been created, and another 159 are in production for India’s Army and Air Force as a complement to India’s derailed light helicopter competition. The Navy has declined to buy more Dhruvs for its own needs, however, saying that several aspects of the design were not up to naval requirements yet.
HAL signed an agreement with Israel Aircraft Industries in 2004 for global marketing of the helicopter, which contains IAI avionics and Snecma Turbomeca engines. Sales of 1-2 helicopters have been made to Israel, Nepal, and Bolivia for various roles, some Dhruv helicopters have reportedly been transferred to Myanmar by the Indian government, and civilian versions are flying in India and Peru. The helicopter has also been marketed in other places, such as Chile, where it lost to the Bell 412.
Now the Dhruv has reportedly won a $50.7 million Ecuadoran Air Force contract for 7 Advanced Light Helicopters in the face of competition from Israel’s Elbit Systems, EADS Eurocopter, and Russia’s Kazan. India’s Business Standard reports that HAL’s offer was about 32% lower than the second lowest bid, which as reportedly from Elbit Systems. The contract is expected within a few weeks, and the first helicopter will be delivered by HAL in 6 months.
November 4/15: A team from India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is preparing to travel to Ecuador in an attempt to resurrect a contract for Dhruv helicopter unilaterally terminated by the country in October. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is reported to have intervened to facilitate the meeting between HAL representatives and Ecuadoran officials. Four of seven Dhruv helicopters delivered to Ecuador through a contract signed in 2008 have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish].
October 16/15: After delivering seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters to Ecuador, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has now seen its contract with the country terminated after Quito unilaterally withdrew on Wednesday. Four of the seven helicopters – delivered through a contract signed in July 2008 – have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish]. HAL saw Boeing back out of a deal with the company in July, citing shoddy manufacturing quality. The company has also seen crash statistics for its licensed-manufactured aircraft (including the Su-30MKI and Hawk AJT) grow alarmingly in recent months.