MDA successfully links THAAD & Patriot systems in test | Army begins training with new SA Abrams tanks | Germany closes in on Heron UAV lease signingApr 10, 2018 05:00 UTC
- The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced April 6, the successful linking of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot air defense missiles system following a successful software upgrade. Both systems were deployed to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and successfully simulated engagement of a short-range missile target where both sets were able to track the target while exchanging information via tactical data links. No live interceptors were launched during the test. The Army hopes to have the two systems integrated within the next two years. Integration of THAAD and Patriot has become a more crucial capability need for the Army, especially on the Korean peninsula where both systems are currently deployed to counter potential North Korean attacks.
- New M1A1-SA Abrams tanks recently delivered to the US Army have been fired in training for the first time. According to a Department of Defense statement announced last week, soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division’s Delta Tank Company, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) fired the main and support weapon systems on the M1A1-SA Abrams tanks during a field training exercise in late March. The 2nd ABCT converted from a light to an armored brigade combat team last fall and have subsequently been fielding and training on their new ground combat platforms since. “Today our crews are being evaluated on their proficiency to engage targets from various positions using the Abrams’ weapon systems,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Lopez, master gunner and platoon sergeant with Delta Tank. “Because the Abrams is a stabilized platform, it allows accurate fires even while advancing towards enemy positions.” The M1A1-SA is an upgraded version of the basic M1A1 model configured with additional mission-critical technologies to bolster crew situational awareness (SA).
Middle East & Africa
- France and Saudi Arabia have agreed on a new intergovernmental agreement to conclude weapons deals, a French defense ministry official said on Sunday. The announcement comes as the Gulf kingdom’s heir apparent and defense minister, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman criticized the previous process. “In conjunction with the Saudi authorities, France has initiated a new arms export strategy with Saudi Arabia, which until now has been managed by ODAS,” the official said, referring to the organization that currently handles French defense interests in Saudi Arabia. “It will now be covered by an intergovernmental agreement between the two countries. The ODAS company will only provide for the termination of existing contracts.” Also known as MBS, the crown prince touched down in Paris on Sunday for a three-day state visit and charm offensive which comes at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron faces growing pressure at home from lawmakers and rights groups over France’s weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. France, the world’s third largest arms exporter, consdiers Saudi as one of its biggest customers. In 2016, licenses potentially worth 18 billion euros ($22.11 billion) to Saudi were approved, with deliveries worth about 2 billion euros.
- Lockheed Martin’s F-35B Joint Strike Fighter will begin its first combat deployment later this year onboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex. Ahead of its deployment onboard Essex, aircraft VMFA-211 touched down at US Central Command (USCENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida on April 4 for a two-day visit that will inform CENTCOM leadership of the jet’s capabilities before it enters the CENTCOM area of responsibility. CENTCOM’s theatre of responsibility includes Egypt, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia that includes Iraq, Afghanistan, and former-Soviet republics.
- Germany is reportedly close to signing a deal that will lease five Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Contracts for the $1.2 billion agreement are expected to be signed in the coming weeks, with the period of lease running for nine years. Airbus will also cooperate on the program and will use the skills learned to help develop a Euro-Drone with France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. The Heron deal had been initially planned to be wrap up by the end last year but was derailed at the last minute due to opposition from the Social Democratic Party. Since then, a German election, hung parliament, and subsequent horse-trading for a new coalition has broken the Heron deadlock—with a new coalition agreement signed between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU/CSU Party and the Social Democrats paving the way for smooth approval of the contract.
- The French Defense Ministry announced last week that a “first significant step” in the development of a new European fighter jet program will take place at the upcoming ILA Berlin Air Show. Speaking to French financial La Tribune, Defense Minister Florence Parly said that on a “political level, discussions between the French and German teams are intense. The industrial groups are working well together and now we have to ensure the two processes come together,” indicating that these “active talks” will result in the signing of a 10-page document that sets the jet’s operational requirements at the trade show. ILA Berlin Air Show will take place from April 25-29. It is expected that once these requirements are released the companies involved in the program—Dassault, MBDA, Thales and Safran on the French side and Airbus on the German side—would spend just under a year working separately on technical specifications before agreeing a common contract to work together. A new European warplane is expected to replace Eurofighters and Rafales from 2040.
- Reuters reports that a new helicopter tender will be kicked off by the Czech government this summer, with at least three bidders to be accepted. Taking to Twitter, Defence Minister Karla Slechtova said “We won’t go to a single company… We will address three bidders at least. We will complete the documentation and launch the tender in the summer,” she said. Both Bell Helicopter form the US and Italy’s Leonardo had submitted offers last year for the sale of the helicopters, but Slechtova scrapped the tender after taking office in December. Last October, the US DoD said that a purchase of 12 Bell UH-1Y utility helicopters would come at an estimated cost of $575 million.
- Pakistan has come out with a shopping list of defense wares that it is seeking in ongoing negotiations with the Russian government. Speaking to Russian News Agency RIA Novosti, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said talks were underway for the purchase of air defense systems, the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E and potentially the T-90 main battle tanks (MBT). While Khan did not provide a timeline as to when these talks are to turn into contracts inked, the MoD was clear in stating that talks are in play and that announcements will be made once they are completed. While the exact air defense system was not mentioned by Khan, Quwa mentions that officials had previously expressed interest in the S-400 Triumf, most recently purchased by Turkey. Pakistan and Russia formally began building bilateral defence relations following a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) in November 2014. In 2015, Pakistan signed an order for four Russian Helicopters Mi-35M assault helicopters in a $153 million deal which were handed-over to the Pakistan Army in 2017.
- Short doc from 2017 on the KC-46 Pegasus: