- A MQ-9 Reaper UAV has dropped a GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) at a range in Nevada, USA for the first time. By adding the JDAM to the UAV’s arsenal, operators will have a greater opportunity to track targets in bad weather as it utilizes a GPS-guidance system instead of the laser-guided munitions that are currently used, like the AGM-114 Hellfire and GBU-12. The JDAM is also liked by aircrews as it takes ten minutes less to load when compared to the GBU-12, taking 20 minutes to load instead of 30.
- Shipyard Huntington Ingalls has launched the second ship in the America-class of amphibious assault ship 13 weeks ahead of schedule. The future USS Tripoli can carry 12 Osprey aircraft and six F-35s and is fitted with .50 caliber machine guns and 20mm CWIS cannons. It can also support AV-8B Harriers, Cobra attack helicopter, cargo carriers, and other equipment. More America-class vessels are expected to be built in 2018, with the next vessel to be named after the WW2 Bougainville campaign.
- USAF F-22 Raptors have completed a series of operational tests as part of massive upgrades to the fighters. During the tests, the aircraft fired inert AIM-9 and AIM-120 missiles against multiple BQM-167A sub-scale aerial targets, a “significant effort” along the 3.2B initial operational test and evaluation upgrade timeline, the Air Force said, adding that the added capability enhances the service’s air superiority but did not offer specifics. The F-22s are due for a weapons systems upgrade in Summer 2019, which will include enhanced target location capabilities and new antennas for the aircraft’s stealth abilities, among other developments.
Middle East & North Africa
- Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in procuring several batteries of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) air defense missile system as part of ongoing negotiations with US officials over arms contracts valued in the tens of billions of dollars. As part of the package, THAAD manufacturer Lockheed Martin is also looking to sell a C2BMC software system for battle command and control and communications as well as a package of satellite capabilities, while BAE Systems is looking to provide its combat vehicles such as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M109 artillery vehicle. Those close to the talks added that Riyadh is also pursuing to conclude a $11.5 billion contracts for four multi-mission surface combatant ships and accompanying services and spares, that had been initially approved in 2015, but never completed. The flurry of negotiations come ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia this month, the first stop on his maiden international trip.
- DJI, the Chinese firm that is the world’s largest producer of commercial drones, has released new firmware for its Phantom quadcopters so that they will be disabled in Iraq and Syria. The move comes as reports surfaced that the drone had been modified and used by militants of the Islamic State to drop explosives on security forces trying to oust the group from the Iraqi city of Mosul. Known as “geo-fencing,” the update has been used to protect airports and sensitive locations from intrusion from commercial drones, but this is believed to be the first time that it has been used to prevent flights in territory controlled by the jihadists. Earlier this year IS announced the formation of the Unmanned Aircraft of the Mujahideen unit with a fleet of small commercial UAVs modified to drop explosives.
- The first F-35 to be produced outside of the US has rolled off the assembly line at a Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy. Owned by the Italian Defense Ministry and operated by the Italian defense giant Leonardo in conjunction with the fighter’s lead contractor, Lockheed Martin, the FACO will churn out 30 F-25B and 90 F-35A type fighters for the Italian armed forces, as well as 29 F-35As for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The facility will also produce 835 full wing sets that will be distributed across all participants in the program, along with other parts and maintenance equipment.
- Japan is considering the procurement of Tomahawk cruise missile for its Aegis-equipped destroyers. While the missile would give Tokyo the capabilities to strike North Korean missile launch sites from afar, officials working on the proposal are looking at ways to get the missiles without going against the country’s pacifist constitution. For some time, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been calling for significant measures to boost Japan’s defence capabilities, garnering much support from its nationalist right. However, there are fears that deploying such weapons could prompt a strong backlash from domestic opposition parties against the ruling establishment.
- The Malaysian government may move to benefit from a Japanese parliamentary plan to change its laws that would allow for the free transfer of defense equipment to foreign nations. Current laws forbid Tokyo from donating its defense equipment to other countries, but new legislation would allow the free transfer of equipment. As a result, Malaysia is seeking second-hand Kawasaki P-3C maritime patrol aircraft that will be refurbished by Japan prior to transfer. The aircraft will be used to boost the Southeast Asian nation’s efforts to monitor its coastal waters against Chinese expansion into its neighbor’s waters.
- Ingalls Shipbuilding launches the PCU Tripoli: