Canada hosts industry day for CF-18 replacement | UAE revealed to be first Wing Loong II export customer | Lockheed scores THAAD interceptor orderJan 30, 2018 05:00 UTC
- Parties interested in replacing the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 fighter aircraft were told at a recent industry day that the service plans to keep flying the jets until 2032—seven years from its initial replacement date of 2025 and fifty years on from when the first jets entered service. According to federal government documents distributed at the January 22 meeting, the first of 88 planned replacement fighters would not begin deliveries until 2025 and would not be completed until 2030. While Ottawa said upgrades and structural improvements to the CF-18s would keep them in the air until 2025, it remains to be seen whether they will receive additional upgrade work to keep them serviceable and flying for another seven years, or if the capability gap will be filled by a much talked about interim procurement of second-hand F/A-18 Super Hornets from Australia. As much as USD$15.3 billion has been set aside for the replacement program, while Ottawa has earmarked USD$404 million for the interim fighters.
- General Dynamics Mission Systems received last Thursday an $8.3 million US Navy contract modification for services in support of US Navy and British Royal Navy fire control and weapon control systems on ballistic and guided missile submarines. The agreement also includes missile fire control for the Columbia-class and UK Vanguard-class Common Missile Compartment Program development—the integration of the UGM-133 Trident II nuclear missile with the common missile compartment program—through first unit UK production, and the delivery of a strategic weapon interface simulator. Work will take place mainly at Pittsfield Massachusetts, as well as other locations across the US and in the UK, with a scheduled completion date set for September 2023. Anticipating further work on submarines for the Navy, General Dynamics plans to invest some $2 billion into its shipyards over the coming years, with $1.7 billion going into its Electric Boat yard in Connecticut—where 12 Columbia subs will be produced. Employment at the firm is also at its highest in 25 years, with 16,200 currently employed at its Electric Boat operation.
Middle East-North Africa
- Jane’s reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the first export customer for China’s Wing Loong II UAV. According to satellite photos taken at the remote Qusahwirah Air Base near the UAE’s border with Oman and Saudi Arabia, three UAVs matching the Wing Loong’s specifications were spotted last October. Marketed as a more cost-effective alternative to the US-built MQ-9 Reaper, Chinese media announced in February 2017 that manufacturer AVIC had secured its first major export order for the platform, even before it had made its maiden flight. The UAE have never acknowledged the existence of Qusahwirah Air Base and has only come into the public sphere through Google Earth.
- Airbus has signed a long-term, multibillion-dollar cooperation deal with Turkey’s defense procurement agency, SSM, that aims to expand existing industrial partnerships and cooperation with the Turkish industry. The accord will see the European defense giant commit to $5 billion worth of acquisitions from the Turkish industry between 2020 and 2030, with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) set to be the main beneficiary in the agreement. However, the agreement comes as Turkey comes under criticism from European governments and NATO allies for its heavy hand in dealing with opponents to President Erdogan, and a recent military incursion into northern Syria, which has seen Turkish troops and Turkish-backed militants target US-backed Kurdish militants, whom Ankara claim are terrorists.
- Jordan has received its last batch of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the United States, as Washington looks to help bolster Jordan’s border defenses and to assist in cross-border operations against Islamist militants in Syria. In a handover ceremony attended by US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel and Jordan’s Chief of Staff General Mahmoud Freihat, the helicopters landed in a mock hostage rescue by special forces. Henry Wooster, Charge d‘Affaires of the US Embassy in Jordan, said the helicopters were part of a $470 million package approved in 2017 that included 12 Black Hawks as well as pilot training, spare parts, weapons and hangers, adding that the US “remains committed to supporting the Jordanian air force efforts to protect Jordan’s borders and deter counter acts of terror and contribute to defeat ISIS coalition operations.”
- The British Royal Navy has received its first River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel, HMS Forth, from manufacturer BAE Systems. In attendance at the handing over ceremony at the firm’s Clyde shipyard in Scotland was the recently appointed Under-secretary of State for Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Guto Bebb MP. HMS Forth will remain at the Scotstoun yard in Glasgow for a short period to complete some additional work requested by the MoD and on departure will be the first complex warship to leave Glasgow since HMS Duncan in 2013. She will be commissioned into service later this year in Portsmouth. During his visit, Bebb also oversaw the progress in the production of the first vessel to be produced under the Type 26/City Class frigate program, the future HMS Glasgow.
- Lockheed Martin announced Friday, the receipt of a $459 million contract modification for the production and delivery of interceptors for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Awarded to help support growing US Army operational requirements, the modification brings the total contract value to $1.28 billion with funding provided in 2017 and 2018. Work will take place at Lockheed Martin facilities in Texas, California, Alabama and Arkansas and is expected to be completed by June 25, 2021. Deployed on the US Pacific coast, Turkey and the UAE, THAAD’s most controversial deployment is in South Korea, where the stationing of the system—to counter ballistic missile threats from North Korea—has received damnation from residents living where it is deployed, anti-war activists, and of course North Korea. China also opposes THAAD on the Korean peninsula, claiming its radar is capable of penetrating Chinese territory.
- Maiden flight of the Tu-160M2