Strategy Change May See Super Hornet Compete with F-35 | Russia’s Buk-M3 Being Prepped for Export | India’s K-4 SLBM Testing Slated for January 31Jan 25, 2017 00:58 UTC
- A change in defense strategy by the Trump Administration could see the F/A-18 compete with the F-35, according to one analyst. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday, defense acquisition analyst Andrew Hunter stated that an “advanced Super Hornet” still can’t compete with the stealthy F-35 in airspace monitored by radar surveillance, but a semi-low-observable F/A-18E/F with more carriage capacity could emerge as an attractive option against less sophisticated threats. However, if US strategy “requires to operate continuously in denied access air environments, there is no such thing as a comparable Super Hornet…It simply doesn’t exist.”
Middle East & North Africa
- The first US State Department Foreign Military Sale (FMS) approvals of 2017 came thick and fast on Monday, with total sales to partner nations amounting to $1.8 billion. One of the first buyers to be cleared was the government of Kuwait, who are seeking air-to-air missiles as well as Apache logistics support. The first deal involves the provision of 60 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), for use by the kingdom’s F/A-18 fighters, and is costed at an estimated $110 million, while the second covers a $400 million support contract, which includes sustainment and contractor logistics support for AH-64D Apache Helicopters. As with all FMS deals, Congress has 30 days to oppose the sale.
- Another FMS cleared by the State Department is the provision of ten 74K Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS) Aerostats and related equipment, support, and training to the government of Saudi Arabia. Estimated in the region of $525 million, the sale also includes: 14 Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) Radars; 26 MX-20 Electro-Optic Infrared (EO/IR) Cameras; and 10 Communications Intelligence (COMINT) Sensors. PTDS is a large helium-filled lighter than air system designed by Lockheed Martin to provide soldiers long range intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communication assistance.
- Kenya has been OK’ed by the US State Department to proceed with the possible $418 million sale of military aircraft. Included in the deal are up to 12 Air Tractor AT-802L planes and two AT-504 trainer aircraft, a weapons package, technical support and program management. The prime contractor on the deal is L3 Technologies Inc (formally L3 Communications), and once delivered, the aircraft will go toward augmenting the Kenyan Armed Force’s ability to conduct close air support missions against al-Shabaab militants from neighboring Somalia.
- US media has confirmed that a British Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) fired from HMS Vengeance off the coast of Florida last year did veer off course. Citing a US defense official, CNN also reported that the inert missile triggered its automatic self-destruct sequence once the test was in jeopardy. Since the story broke on Sunday, the UK government has come under increased pressure to release details on the test, which occurred weeks before last June’s Parliament vote on the program’s $49.5 billion renewal. PM Teresa May initially refused to comment on whether she knew about the test before the vote, before confirming that she had been briefed on a range of nuclear issues, including Trident, on taking office from David Cameron in June, 2016.
- Besides Trident, the UK has been unsurprisingly cleared to receive continued C-17 logistics support services, and equipment from the US. Valued at an estimated cost of $400 million, provisions in the contract include continued support for eight RAF C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft once the previous deal expires in September.
- Russia’s Buk-M3 medium-range anti-aircraft missile system is being prepared for export by state-owned firm Almaz-Antey. The company expressed confidence in the new system’s ability to sell abroad, citing its continuous “developments in the niche of medium-range antiaircraft missile systems” over the last half century. First units of the Buk-M3 were delivered to the Russian Armed Forces last October and are already on active duty.
- Preparations are underway for a late-January test of India’s K-4 SLBM. Slated for January 31, the missile will be launched from a submerged pontoon 20-30 meters below the surface in the Bay of Bengal. An earlier test in 2016 saw the missile successfully fired from 20 meters under water, traveling 700km range before striking its target. At its maximum, the K-4 can be fired from 50 meters below the surface and has a range of 3,500 km.
Aerial Refueling of the PAK FA/T-50: