SB-1 Defiant maiden flight delayed | Bulgaria opts for F-16V | Vietnam says SPYDER not effective in tropical conditionsDec 17, 2018 05:00 UTC
The US Navy is pouring more money into US, UK submarine fire control systems research. General Dynamics is receiving a $35 million contract modification that provides for R&D, and sustainment efforts for the US, UK SSBN Fire Control Sub-system (FCS) and the US SSGN Attack Weapon Control System (AWCS). This includes training services and provision of support equipment and a US/UK shipboard data system. The American Ohio- and British Vanguard-class SSBNs are carrying the Trident II D5 nuclear missile and are an integral part to a nuclear triad. From 2027 onwards the types will be replaced with Columbia- and Dreadnought-class submarines. US SSGNs are converted Ohio-class SSBNs. These “Tactical Tridents” carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and are designed to support special operations. Work will be performed at GD’s facilities in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Kings Bay, Georgia and Dahlgren, Virginia. Performance of the contract is expected to be completed by September 2019.
The US Air Force is extending a support contract with Boeing. The company is being awarded with a cost-plus-fixed-fee modification that exercises a third option-year for AC-130U operations support. Efforts covered under this contract include continued development, modification, sustainment, and maintenance of the ‘Spooky’ gunships. The AC-130U is a highly modified C-130, its primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Work will be performed at Boeing’s factory in Fort Walton Beach, Florida and US military bases in Afghanistan and Kuwait. This option year end on December 31, 2019.
Sikorsky has to re-schedule the maiden flight of its newly developed SB-1 Defiant due to some issues within the helicopter’s testbed. As reported by Flight Global, the joint Sikorsky-Boeing team discovered some issues on the aircraft’s powertrain system testbed. Company officials have stressed that those ‘minor’ problems will soon be solved. According to Sikorsky the issues at hand could be caused by faulty instrumentation or a software bug. The Defiant is a third-generation X2 aircraft will be the company’s main pitch in the US Government’s Future Vertical Lift program. Powertrain system tests are a key requirement that must be met before the Defiant can lift off. The SB-1’s maiden flight was initially expected sometime last year, but had to be postponed to later this year due to some delays in the composite rotor blade manufacturing process. The Defiant’s first flight will likely be in early 2019.
Middle East & Africa
Boeing is being contracted to support Kuwait’s fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft. The Foreign Military Sales contract is priced at $92.3 million and exercises Phase 1 integrated logistics support for 22 F/A-18E and 6 F/A-18F planes. Kuwait purchased these aircraft in a $1.5 billion deal in June this year. The F/A-18E Super Hornet is the single-seat variant and the F/A-18F Super Hornet is the two tandem-seat variant. They are larger and more advanced derivatives of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornet. Work will be performed at multiple locations including St. Louis, Missouri; Fort Walton Beach, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; China Lake, California; Patuxent River, Maryland and Gulf Port, Mississippi. The contract will run through December 2020.
The Bulgarian Air Force will soon need to replace its Soviet-era MiG-29s and is currently reviewing offers for F-16s, F-18s, new Gripen and second-hand Eurofighter Typhoons. However Boyko Borisov, the country’s Prime Minister seems to favour Lockheed’s F-16. “From what I have heard from the pilots, a new F-16 is a significantly better aircraft than all the rest that are on offer,” Borisov told reporters on the sidelines of an EU summit in Sofia. The planned purchase of 14 aircraft is expected to cost $1 billion. Lockheed is offering the latest Bock 70/72 variant of the fighter jet. The F-16 Viper includes upgraded radars, sensors and an auto GCAS suite. US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan added “Lockheed Martin has made what I think is a very attractive proposal [to Bulgaria] for the sale of fighter aircraft that other NATO allies have purchased that would make those aircraft, if purchased here, interoperable with those NATO partners.” Some F-16Vs were recently purchased by Slovakia.
Hungary is ordering 16 H-225M multi-role helicopters from Airbus. This is Budapest’s second purchase of helicopters as part of the country’s Zrinyi 2026 military modernisation program; the first was signed earlier this year and sees for the delivery of 20 H-145M helicopters. The H-225M is a medium-sized, twin-engine helicopter designed for troop transport, combat search and rescue and special operations missions. The helicopters will be equipped with the company’s HForce weapon management system. The HForce features FN Herstal HMP400 guns, Thales FZ231 unguided rockets, Nexter NC621 cannons, Wescam’s MX15 electro-optical targeting system and a helmet-mounted sight display by Thales. With this contract, Hungary becomes the 9th country to have selected the H225M; other operators include France, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Kuwait and Singapore. No details of the contract value or delivery schedule have been revealed yet.
Poland is adding four M-346 Advanced Jet Trainers to its contract with Leonardo. The contract option is priced at $147 million and extends Poland’s fleet to16 aircraft, making it the 2nd largest M-346 export customer. The M-346 is a 5th generation lead-in fighter jet that offer a high level manoeuvrability and controllability at a very high angle-of-attack using a fly-by-wire control system. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Since the jet’s introduction in 2004 Leonardo has sold 76 M-346s to Italy, Poland, Singapore and Israel.
Russian media outlet TASS reports that Vietnam may drop out of a potential arms deal with Israel. Vietnam signed a contract with Israel’s Rafael for the delivery of several SPYDER surface-to-air missile systems in 2015. The 2015 deal included the delivery of five or six batteries and 250 missiles. Over the past year Vietnam conducted several missile tests, all of which failed. One defense ministry source told TASS that the SPYDER performs poorly in tropical conditions and regularly breaks down. The source also said that the SPYDER isn’t the best choice for Vietnam due to some incompatibility issues with earlier supplied Russian surface-to-air missile systems. Neither the Vietnamese nor the Israeli defense ministry commented the report.
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