- The US Army is currently acquisitioning mortar rounds for its troops. American Ordnance LLC and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems have been selected to compete for each order as part of a $511 million firm-fixed-price contract. Orders will be made for 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortar propelling charges. The US Army inventory has a variety of different mortar types. Equipped with different fuses and cartridges each type fulfills certain operational requirements. For example, the M720, M720A1, M768 and M888 High Explosive cartridges come with either a Multi-Option Fuse or a Point-Detonating Fuse and are designed to be effective against personnel, bunker and light material targets. General Dynamics produces a special kind of mortar propellants that are both flash-suppressed and clean burning resulting in minimum residue, flash and blast overpressure. Work is scheduled for completion by May 2023. Work locations will be determined with each order.
- The Navy is contracting Lockheed Martin for a number of support activities as part of the F-35 Lightning II program. The company is being awarded a $558 million contract that provides for sustainment support, equipment, training devices, training facilities, Autonomic Logistics Information System hardware and software, and facilities in support of low-rate initial production of Lot 11 F-35 Lightning II aircraft. This contract combines purchases for the Air Force, the Marine Corps and Foreign Military Sales customers. The F-35 II fighter program is considered the most expensive of its kind. The jet comes in different variants making it a versatile piece of equipment. The F-35A or Conventional Take-Off and Landing version is being flown by the Air Force, whereas the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing version that is part of the Marine Corps aircraft fleet. Work will be performed at multiple locations, including Orlando, Florida and Redondo Beach California, and is scheduled for completion by February 2023.
- Boeing is being tapped to provide the Navy with three additional P-8A planes under a $416 million contract. The Poseidon is a multi-mission maritime aircraft that will completely replace the old P-3 fleet. The P-8 uses the same 737 airframe as the US Navy’s C-40 Clipper naval cargo aircraft. The base model is Boeing’s 737-800 ERX, with “raked” wingtips that improve performance for low-level flight. The P-8A has 11 weapon hard points: 5 in the rotary weapon bay, 4 under the wings, and 2 under the fuselage. Weapon load can exceed 10t/ 22,000 pounds, and all hard points have digital weapon interfaces. The aircraft is designed to work in conjunction with the MQ-4C Triton and essentially provides the Navy with an anti-submarine, anti-ship and anti-smuggling platform that can sweep the area, launch sensors or weapons as needed, and remain aloft for many hours. Work will be performed at a number of locations in- and outside the continental US, including Seattle, Washington and Cambridge, United Kingdom. The contract is expected to be completed in October 2020.
Middle East & Africa
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is set to receive eight CH-47F transport helicopters from Boeing. The contract modification is valued at over $25.7 million. The contract is funded through of the Fiscal 2017 foreign military sales fund. The CH-47F Chinook’s load capacity has made it the world’s most popular heavy-lift helicopter. The USA expects to be operating Chinooks in their heavy-lift role past 2030. The CH-47F looks similar to earlier models but offers a wide range of improvements in almost every aspect of design and performance. The CH-47F Chinook and MH-47G Special Ops version are the latest variants in a family of helicopters that first saw service in 1962 during the Vietnam War. New “F/G” models feature numerous upgrades over the old CH-47Ds, including more powerful engines, reduced vibration, upgraded avionics and self-defense systems, and manufacturing advances designed to improve both mission performance and long-term costs. Work will be performed in Ridley Township, Pennsylvania, with an estimated completion date of July 2021.
- The UK has taken delivery of the first of an eventual 25 AW101 Merlin HC4 helicopters. The delivery is part of the Royal Navy’s effort to modernize its fleet of transport helicopters. The entire effort approaches $3 billion for a final total of 55 refurbished helicopters, and these refurbishments will be carried out as part of the AW101 fleet’s long-term maintenance plan. After being upgraded and marinized under a $517 million contract, the Merlin HC4 heavy-lift transport helicopter will be operated by the RN’s Commando Helicopter Force. The Merlin HC4s replace the fleet of existing Sea King Commando Mk.4 helicopters, their updated configuration includes the same cockpit modernizations and redesigns as for the Mk.2, plus standard naval changes like a folding rotor head, strengthened landing gear, deck lashing points, and a fast roping point for the Royal Marines. The next milestone for the Merlin HC4 will be embarkation aboard the RN’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
- Jane’s reports that the Slovakian defense contractors Incoff Aerospace and Compel Industries recently presented their Predator AX-1 loitering munition. Loitering munitions can hover over the target for a long period of time and then strike it at the precise moment chosen by the operator. In the event that the preconditions for the attack have not been fulfilled, the strike platform may be returned to base, to be launched again on another day. The Predator AX-1 project started in May 2017 in response to a Slovak Ministry of Defense requirement for an expansion of its unmanned systems inventory. The AX-1 is manufactured from carbon fiber composites and features a mid-body wing set unfolded mechanically after launch. Powered by two electric motors with slewed push turbine propulsion, the loitering munition system offers both PG-7VM HEAT-T or TB-7V thermobaric warhead options. The Predator AX-1 is similar to AeroVironment’s Switchblade system.
- The Australian Army has announced that it will soon roll out the PD-100 Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System. The rollout and sustainment of the micro unmanned aircraft systems $13.6 million project marks a key milestone in the technological advancement of the Australian armed forces. The PD-100 Black Hornet is produced by the American company Flir Systems. The system is a surveillance micro drone that can be easily started from the palm of a soldier’s hand. The drone can fly horizontally and look on a suspected area or hover beside a building and look into a window, giving soldiers on foot patrols an advantage of seeing what’s there from a safe distance. The Black Hornet is a “flyable robotic video camera” that bears a resemblance to a helicopter and is small like a hummingbird. Its small size and electric motor makes it virtually inaudible and invisible beyond short distances. The Australian Army operates several UAS platforms, ranging from the rotary-wing Black Hornet PRS to large, nine-hour endurance surveillance systems such as the RQ-7B Shadow 200.
- Sea Ceptor firing trials from HMS Argyll