USAF to Become the Agents of SHiELD | Pentagon: Multi-Billion Investment in Tomahawks and SM-6 | UK MoD Buying Zephyr Solar PlanesFeb 05, 2016 00:20 UTC
- The USAF is considering defensive lasers for future fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, along with future bombers from 2021. A Request For Information (RFI) notice posted by the US Air Force Research Laboratory is looking for market information for a podded laser weapon system that can destroy missiles directed at stealth fighters and bombers. The search for an advanced laser, referred to as the Self-protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program would be significantly more powerful than current-generation self-protection capabilities and potentially burn or otherwise disable infrared and radar-guided missiles at high speeds.
- The Pentagon is to invest in the development of Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles which will be capable of hitting moving vessels. $2 billion has been requested for the purchase of 4,000 Tomahawk missiles with manufacturer Raytheon. Raytheon has invested in a multi-modal seeker that would allow the missiles to hit moving targets so that missiles may be adapted from land missiles into anti-ship missiles. A further $2.9 billion will also be made available for the purchase of 650 SM-6 interceptors as well, to advance them to become anti-ship missiles for the first time. This will allow the SM-6 to operate in an offensive capability instead of operating solely as an anti-ballistic weapon.
- USAF orders of the F-35A jet will drop from forty-eight to forty-three in Fiscal Year 2017. However, the budget will include increased money to purchase ten additional F-35C models for the Navy and three F-35B models for the Marines over what had been planned. It’s unclear whether the total number of total aircraft to be procured under the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program will decrease overall. The move has not been too surprising as analysts and government officials have hinted that changes to JSF procurement could change. The cutting of the F-35As in 2017 is expected to free up millions in savings over the next several years.
Middle East North Africa
- Turkey may look to purchase four more airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft as part of an add-on option to an existing $1.6 billion order. With the original order placed in 2003, the last of four of the aircraft was delivered last December, after initial delivery was planned for 2008. Amid rising security issues along Turkey’s borders, after the eruption of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, and increased tensions with country’s like Russia, it is likely that more of the spy planes may be bought to help with reconnaissance and battle management operations. If the procurement is to go ahead, the planes would be bought under Ankara’s next 10-year procurement plan currently being drafted.
- The UK plans to buy two unmanned solar-powered aircraft, known as Zephyrs, which are capable of carrying small payloads that might consist of reconnaissance cameras or communications equipment. The Zephyrs hold the absolute endurance record for un-refuelled aeroplanes staying up for 336 hours, 22 minutes and eight seconds. Developed in the UK by QinetiQ, the technology has been recently bought and marketed by Airbus with the MoD’s vote of confidence expected to lead to an increase in sales. High altitude, solar powered planes have often been used for civilian purposes by companies like Google and Facebook to deliver broadband to locations that lack fixed-line connections.
- Former Communist-era jets and helicopters used by the Albanian Air Force are to go under the hammer later this month. The Chinese and Soviet Union built aircraft include 10 Mig-19s, six Mig-21s, six Yak-18s and four Mi-4 helicopters. They will be auctioned off in the capital Tiriana with the total value estimated at $483,000. Albania’s defense ministry has said that they only have historic value, and are for civilian purposes with expressed interest coming from museums and private collectors in Europe and the US. After seeing pictures showing the state of some of them, one would hope no one has ambitions to put them to military use as Albania says goodbye to relics of its past.
- Finland’s former prime minister has given his backing to the Saab Gripen as the jet of choice to replace the Finnish Air Force’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fleet. Matti Vanhanen stated his support for the Swedish aircraft in a book published this week mentioning the deepening defense cooperation between the two countries. While the government has yet to state any preference between the Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, Vanhanen acts as a close advisor to current Prime Minister Juha Sipila. With a final decision not to be chosen until the 2020s, the Gripen looks to be gaining the early lead in a procurement that could range between $5-11 billion. While both Sweden and Finland are non-aligned nations, increased cooperation between them, Baltic, and other Nordic states are bringing them into closer cooperation with NATO.
- Chief of US Naval Operations, John Richardson, has said talks with India over development of New Delhi’s next aircraft carrier are progressing well. US assistance will mostly come in the form of providing new electromagnetic launch technology that will enable the navy to fly heavier planes from a carrier, and is set to become the biggest military collaboration between the two countries. The vessel, to be India’s third, will be their biggest one yet, and the third to be inducted into the Indian Navy. It will join the Russian made INS Vikramaditya and the indigenously produced INS Vikrant, which will enter service between 2018-2019 and will patrol the waters in the Indian Ocean. Increased naval activity from China in the region has worried both countries, and India has been bulking up their fleet with a dozen new submarines, six of them nuclear-powered and has more than 40 warships which are under construction.
- The Zephyr UAS to be bought by the UK: