- Vencore Services and Solutions is being tapped to support the US Air Force’s Technical Applications Center (AFTAC). The awarded contract has a value of $49.8 million and supports R&D operations to develop future nuclear monitoring equipment. Nuclear surveillance is needed for the monitoring of treaties and observing global nuclear developments. Vencore will provide services that are heavily focused on organizing a group of highly-specialized scientists, engineers, and analysts to work in support of nuclear detection missions. The company will develop the future systems and other advanced detection technologies, including new analysis- methods and techniques. Consisting of more than 3,600 sensors worldwide, AFTAC operates and maintains a global network of nuclear event detection equipment called the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection Systems (USAEDS), the largest sensor network in the US Air Force. Once a disturbance is detected underground, underwater, in the atmosphere or in space, the event is analyzed for nuclear identification, and the findings are reported to national command authorities. Work will be performed at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. It has an estimated completion date of August 20, 2024
- The Navy is currently testing its MQ-8C Fire Scout UAS. A press release confirms that the UAV finished its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado. The MQ-8C “Endurance Upgrade Fire Scout” is based on Bell Helicopter’s 3-ton 407 model, which serves as the base for the Iraqi Air Force’s manned IA-407-armed scout helicopters. MQ-8C is effectively a full-sized light naval utility helicopter, with 8 hours endurance carrying a 1,250-pound payload, and a maximum underslung payload of more than 2,600 pounds. The crew of the Coronado and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, or VX-1, conducted combat simulations to evaluate the Fire Scout on target identification, intelligence and surface warfare, the results of which will help the Navy decide how best to use the rotorcraft. The unit also evaluated best practices concerning pairing the Fire Scout and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. The Fire Scout has a range of nearly 600 miles and can fly to up to 12,500 feet. The Fire Scout can be armed with Hellfire and Viper Strike missiles, alongside several other weapons systems.
- The US Army is again boosting the upkeep of its Abrams tanks. Honeywell International Inc. is being awarded a contract modification valued at $119.6 million in support of the Army’s Total Integrated Engine Revitalization Automotive Gas Turbine program for M1 Abrams tank engines. Approved for production in 1990, the M1A2 represents the US Army’s technological improvement of the basic M1A1 design and the most modern battle tank in the world. It is equipped with a 120mm gun and is protected by depleted uranium armor. Over 10.000 Abrams tanks have been built so far, many of which were exported to militaries across the world. Work will be performed in Phoenix, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of March, 2021.
Middle East & Africa
- Jane’s reports that the Tunisian Navy commissioned its second Multi Service Offshore Patrol Vessel (MSOPV) 1400 and a third Istiklal-class patrol boat at the port of La Goulette. The Syphax is the second of four MSOPV 1400s currently being built for the Tunisian Navy. The ship is being built and developed by Romanian defense contractor Damen. The MSOPV is Damen’s second generation offshore patrol vessel design and was revealed several years ago. It incorporates Damen’s Sea Axe hull shape for superior seakeeping – since the hull is designed to reduce water resistance, the new OPV is fuel efficient and capable of speeds up to 25/26 knots. A Multi-Mission Bay can be equipped with dedicated mission modules (e.g. mission containers) for missions such as counter piracy, counter-drug operations, anti-mining warfare, search-and-rescue and so forth. The Multi-Mission Bay is also equipped with a nine-meter RHIB, which can be launched over a dedicated slipway through the rear of the vessel while the OPV is sailing. Meanwhile, the third OPV, Hannon, commenced initial sea trials in the Black Sea late last June.
- The Czech Ministry of Defense is looking into a variety of systems to replace its obsolete Russian-designed 2K12 Kub mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. The government has allocated about $450 million for procuring a new SHORAD SAM system with a range of 9 miles. It is yet unclear what kind of system the government is looking for. Currently there are several types of SHORAD systems on the market. Earlier this year, Estonia, which is also a NATO member opted for MBDA’s Mistral. However, considering its limited range of 4 miles, it seems unlikely that this system will be ordered. Another option could be Israel’s Iron Dome, which has an all-weather-range of up to 43.5 miles. The Ministry plans to equip the 25th ADM Regiment with four batteries, each equipped with up to eight ready-to-fire missiles.
- India’s plan to build and commission its second indigenous aircraft carrier has been postponed again. Steadily declining budgets, technological hurdles and prolonged delays by the Ministry of Defense in approving the program make it very unlikely that the Vishal will enter service by 2030-2032. The proposed 65,000–70,000 ton conventionally powered ‘flat top’ carrier would be capable of embarking 50–60 fixed- and rotary-wing platforms and cruise at 30 knots, but it would also cost between $12 – 13 billion. India’s Navy has currently one carrier in operation the refurbished Soviet-era Kiev-class Vikramaditya. By 2018–19, Vikramaditya was to have been supplemented by INS Vikrant, the 37,000-tonne Project 71 carrier with a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) configuration that has been under construction since 2009 at Cochin Shipyard Limited, southern India. At this point the Vikrant is scheduled to enter service by October 2020. The Indian Navy plans to field three carrier battle groups under its Maritime Capability Perspective Plan.
- The Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet EA-18G Growlers is expected to achieve its initial operational capability (IOC) in the coming months. Australia is currently only the second operator of the aircraft, after the US Navy. The EA-18 is more than 90% common with the standard F/A-18F Super Hornet, sharing its airframe, AESA radar, stores management system and weapons options. The exception is the Super Hornet’s Vulcan Gatling gun is substituted with electrical equipment. Additional electrical equipment is added throughout the airframe, and Raytheon’s internally-mounted AN/ALQ-227 communication countermeasures system uses a dedicated, omni-directional antenna for signals detection, analysis, and recording. In May 2013, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Defense Stephen Smith announced that 12 new-build EA-18G Growlers would be acquired for the RAAF, in place of an earlier plan to modify 12 ‘pre-wired’ RAAF F/A-18Fs to Growler configuration. The production of Australia’s 12 EA-18Gs was formally contracted as part of a larger US Navy buy of 44 Super Hornets and Growlers in July 2014.
- Spectacular Typhoon Display – Yeovilton International Air Day 2018