King Stallion Helicopter program is falling behind schedule | Pompeo concerned over Turkish S-400 buy | AUS and Canada assist in enforcing North Korean sanctionsMay 01, 2018 05:00 UTC
- Bloomberg reports that the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter program may be falling behind schedule, as Pentagon officials have found that a significant number of components require redesign and re-qualification. While a spokesperson from Sikorsky’s parent-company Lockheed Martin said that most of these items are already “fixed and proven or are in process,” initial operational capability—originally scheduled for December 2019—could be delayed by as much as eight months. According to a Pentagon review prepared in February, four helicopters currently in the flight test program were operating at 69 percent effectiveness as of late last year, “well below” the 75 percent to 90 percent benchmark needed. 200 King Stallions have been ordered by the US Marin Corps in a $31 billion heavy-lift program with Lockheed chasing exports to potential operators such as Germany.
- A new assessment carried out by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that Boeing will be unable to deliver all 18 KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling tankers this year and will only be able to do so in May 2019. Speaking on the new timeline after a visit to Boeing’s Seattle facility in March, Air Force Under Secretary Matt Donovan said the firm “were very pressurized to get this the last ten yards” to delivery, adding that first delivery “is not a contractual requirement,” and the original goal of April to June 2016 “was always an estimate.” Still, it’s “a psychological milestone, and it’s important to us.” He added that he had also seen software fixes that “will vastly improve” the refueling operations.
- Brazilian airframer Embraer told journalists at a recent earnings call that first deliveries of its KC-390 military airlifter to the Brazilian Air Force (BAF) will take place “closer to end of the year.” The announcement was a forecast update which had been previously scheduled for mid-2018. A slowdown in defense spending by the Brazilian government—the aircraft’s flagship customer—due to a slowing economy had already caused the program to be delayed by two years.
Middle East & Africa
- New US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has voiced concerns with his Turkish counterpart over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system. “The secretary underscored the seriousness of US concerns … if they (Turkey) go ahead,” a senior US official said after a meeting between Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers session, Reuters reports. Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcasters after the meeting that the S-400 deal was completed but that Turkey would be open to purchasing other defense systems from its allies. “We have completed the S-400 process. That is a done deal,” he said. “But we need more air defense. We can discuss what we can do for further purchases.”
- Greece’s Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) finally approved Saturday, the $1.46 billion upgrade package for its fleet of 85 F-16s. The potential foreign military sale to modernize the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) fighters to the Viper (V) configuration had been approved by the US State Department following the visit of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the White House last October. According to Reuters quoting a Greek defense ministry official, three of the 85 jets earmarked for modernisation will be upgraded in the United States while the rest will be refurbished in Greece and will be paid in annual instalments of about 110 million euros over a decade. Athens said on Saturday that Washington had accepted a revised Greek proposal that takes into consideration the country’s fiscal obligations in the coming years. It did not give details on the revised proposal.
- The Finnish government has kicked off its legacy F/A-18 Hornet fighter replacement competition, earmarking between 7-10 billion euros ($9-12 billion) for the purchase. 64 multi-role fighters will be procured under the program. Likely candidates to enter the fray include American F-35 and Super Hornets from Lockheed Martin and Boeing respectively, the French Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter consortium’s Typhoon, and fellow Baltic bro Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Bids are to be entered by early 2019 with a winner picked by 2021. Previously, during a visit by Finnish Sauli Niinsto to the White House, Donald Trump announced that Finland had had already chosen Boeing’s Hornets as its next fighter, with Niinisto silently looking on rather confused. Niinisto later tweeted a contradiction to Trump’s claim by simply calling the news a duck. “The news of the purchase of F-18 fighter planes is a duck,” he tweeted in Finnish. In this particular context, a duck translate’s into one of the Commander-in-Chief’s favorite expressions—fake news.
- A study commissioned by Japan’s Defense Ministry and prepared by the Japanese shipbuilder Marine United Corp has concluded that the firm’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyers can support Lockheed Martin’s F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. Published last week, the study was prepared with how the Izumo could be used to provide rear-line support to the US military in mind, and the shipbuilder was also asked for estimates for the cost and construction schedule if changes were made to allow the Short Takeoff & Vertical Landing (STVOL) variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter to land vertically on the deck and to use elevators to transport aircraft to their hangars. Many of these details, however, were redacted from the publicly available version. Speaking on the potential modernization work, one Japanese official said the study was conducted because, with the deployment of F-35B fighter jets to US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, the need might arise to use the Izumo as a carrier during joint Japan-U.S. military training or when US aircraft experienced mechanical problems. It had previously been reported that Japan may buy as many as 40 F-35Bs to compliment its current procurement of the the conventional takeoff F-35A, with the aim of using flying them from its southern island bases which have runways too short for the F-35A.