The US Army launches a major design competition for its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FVL). The service wants the first prototypes flying by 2023 and expects an initial operational capability by 2028. The Army describes the desired platform as a “knife fighter” of future battlefield capabilities in a “small form factor … with maximized performance.” The next generation rotorcraft should be able to fly manned and unmanned, reduce the cognitive workload of the crew and increase the overall operational tempo while being reliable over extended maintenance free periods. A key element of the new platform will be the focus on net-centric warfare. The FVL must be able to team-up with unmanned systems and a variety of air-launched weapons and decoys. The Army plans to make the helicopter the centrepiece of the integrated air defense system (IADS) breeching team to provide freedom of maneuver in a multi-domain battle. The solicitation is part of the US Army’s effort to procure a whole family of Future Vertical Lift aircraft (FVL) in the early 2030s. The Army plans to spend approximately $15 million per industry participant in the initial design phase. Participants would receive $8.5 million in FY19 and $6.5 million in FY20. The two participants selected to continue into the prototype phase of the program would receive around $735 million each from FY20 to FY23.
The US Air Force is procuring technical support for its Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) from Boeing. Boeing will provide the service with studies and analysis, product improvement efforts, upgrades and integration work at a cost of $45 million. The JDAM program essentially makes ‘dumb’ bombs ‘smart’ by adding sophisticated rear guidance sections. This tail kit includes adjustable tail fins, a control computer, an inertial guidance system and a GPS receiver. Before release, the aircraft tells the bomb its current position and the GPS coordinates of the target. According to the US Air Force, the system is accurate to within 40 feet. One JDAM tail kit costs about $20.000 making it significantly cheaper than laser-guided bombs. Work will be performed at Boeing’s facility in St. Louis, Missouri and is expected to be completed by March 31st, 2019.
DoD is constructing a new Fighter Alert Facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Nordic PCL will construct the facility for the 199th Fighter Squadron at a cost of $41.5 million. The effort includes the construction of aircraft alert shelters, alert and maintenance crew quarters, an entry control point and sustainability and energy measures. The 199th Fighter Squadron is a unit of the 154th Wing and operates the F-22 Raptor. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the modern Air Force. The construction of the new F-22 Fighter Alert Facility is expected to be completed by December 2021.
General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems successfully completes testing of its Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) in support of a US Navy propeller Aircraft Recovery Bulletin (ARB). The tests included the C-2A Greyhound, E-2C+ Hawkeye and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. The Advanced Arresting Gear is part of the Navy’s EMALS system developed for the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. The AAG sub-program will replace the current Mk 7 hydraulic system used to provide the requisite combination of plane-slowing firmness and necessary flexibility to the carriers’ arresting wires. AAG is intended to allow successful landings with heavier aircraft, reduce manning and maintenance, and add capabilities like self-diagnosis and maintenance alerts.
Middle East & Africa
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps launches more missiles towards Syria. Fars News reports that the IRGC launched six ballistic missiles at Islamic State targets in Syria. The missiles used in the attack include the Qiam and Zolfaghar. The Qiam-1 is a liquid fueled, short-range ballistic missile and the indigenous variant of the Shahab-2. The missile was first modified in 2010, alterations include improved guidance system that can more quickly detect and correct changes in its trajectory, removing the need for stabilizing fins in boost phase. The Qiam 1 can deliver a payload of up to 746kg to a distance of 496 miles. The Zolfaghar belongs to the Fateh-110 family of missiles, it has a cluster munition warhead and a range of 434 miles. Iran is retaliating after 25 soldiers were killed in a terror attack involving armed UAVs on September 22.
French defense contractor SAFRAN will remanufacture the landing systems of the US Air Force’s KC-135s. The firm-fixed-price requirements contract is valued at $220.1 million and provides for a 10-year strategic remanufacturing and supply period. Over the next decade SAFRAN will rebuild the Stratotanker’s heat shields, main wheel, carbon brake, torque tube adjustor, assembly, and piston housing. Boeing built 732 KC-135 Stratotankers for the US Air Force between 1957 and 1965. The US Air Force still has about 550 KC-135 Stratotankers in service. Work will be performed at SAFRAN’s factory in Vellzyvillacoublay, France, and is expected to be complete by September 2028.
The Taiwanese Air Force will soon be able to fly the first batch of upgraded F-16s. The first four planes to be delivered are currently undergoing ground-testing at Taiwan’s state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. Taiwan is currently in the process of upgrading its fleet of 144 F-16 A/B jets to the Viper configuration. The $3.64 billion program is considered the most important modernization program ever undertaken by the Air Force and significantly enhances its war fighting capabilities. Upgrades in the V-variant include new mission computers, navigation equipment, large color multifunction displays, Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) transponders, updated electronic warfare suite, and the Link-16 tactical data link, as well as an AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR).
India could add two second-hand Mirage 2000 fighter jets to its fleet. The jets are priced at $2 million each and would be later upgraded by India’s state-owned HAL. The airframes reportedly still have about 3.000 flight hours left and would incorporate upgrade kits which were delivered as part of India’s Vajra modernization program. Vajra upgrades include a new RDY-3 radar with greater air-air and air-ground capability, a new night vision compatible all-digital cockpit, and improved electronic warfare systems. If the deal goes through, India would regain its initial fleet strength of 51 Mirage 2000s.
Watch: B-52 Bomber Lands In The United Kingdom