Latest updates[?]: Raytheon is receiving additional funding for work on the Naval Strike Missile. The firm-fixed-price modification (N00024-18-C-5432) is priced at $32.6 million and provides for manufacture and delivery of the over-the-horizon weapon system. Included in the deal are encanistered missiles (EM) loaded into launching mechanisms (LM); and a single fire control suite (FCS). The stealth-enhanced Naval Strike Missile aims to be a generation beyond the US GM-84 Harpoon. Once the NSM locks on, it strikes ships or land targets with a 265 lb. titanium warhead and programmable fuse. Work will be performed a national and international locations including Kongsberg, Norway; Tucson, Arizona; Schrobenhausen, Germany; Raufoss, Norway; McKinney, Texas and Louisville, Kentucky. The NSMs are expected to be completed by December 2020.
NSM test launch
Kongsberg’s stealthy new Naval Strike Missile (Nytt SjomalsMissil), which continues its development and testing program, has already shown potential in the crowded market for long-range ship attack and shore defense weapons. NSM’s Joint Strike Missile counterpart may have even more potential, as a longer-range air-launched naval and land strike complement to Kongsberg’s popular Penguin short-range anti-ship missile.
The market for anti-ship missiles is a crowded one, and the distinction between anti-ship and precision land strike weapons is blurring fast. Aside from a bevy of Russian subsonic and supersonic offerings, naval buyers can choose Boeing’s GM-84 Harpoon, China’s YJ-82/C-802 Saccade, MBDA’s Exocet, Otomat, or Marte; IAI of Israel’s Gabriel/ANAM, Saab’s RBS15, and more. Despite an ongoing shift toward supersonic missiles, Kongsberg chose not to go that route. So, how do they expect to be competitive in a crowded market? The F-35 Lightning II may hold the key.
Latest updates[?]: France is ordering three more A330 MRTT tanker aircraft from Airbus. Awarded by the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA), this is the third and final tranche of the multi-year contract signed in 2014. Paris needs 15 MRTTs to replace its fleet of old C-135FR and KC-135R aircraft, some of which have been in service for over 60 years. The acquisition program is priced at roughly $3.4 billion and sees for the delivery of the aircraft in France’s specific “Phenix” configuration by the end of 2023. The A330-200 MRTT is a derivative of the Airbus A330, about 60 aircraft have been ordered by 12 nations.
C-135FR refuels A330
France currently relies on 14 C-135s for its aerial refueling needs, but these militarized relatives of the Boeing 707 are expensive to maintain, lack key technologies required for unrestricted flight, and are approaching 50 years old. Over those intervening decades, European governments have built up their own aviation industry, and the Airbus A330 MRTT has been ordered by a number of countries. In 2014, France is finally joining them, and beginning a EUR 3 billion program for 12 A330 “Phenix” aerial tanker-transports.
The French purchase will cap a series of interim moves to keep the existing fleet operational. French governments have searched for space in their multi-year military budgets to fund recapitalization, even as technical delays held up key projects…
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.
Latest updates[?]: 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.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
The Bell Boeing Joint Project Office is receiving extra funding to support the V-22 family of tilt rotor aircraft. The modification to a previously awarded IDIQ contract (N00019-18-D-0103) is priced at $18 million. It exercises an option for technical analysis, engineering and integration on V-22 aircraft platform. Work under this contract will support the US Navy, Marine Corps and US Air Force; as well as the government of Japan as part of the Foreign Military Sales program. The V-22 has been in service with the Air Force and the Marine Corps for almost a decade; and the Navy plans to adopt its own variant of the aircraft to perform its critical Carrier-Onboard-Delivery mission to deliver forces, supplies and weapons to forward-stationed ships at sea. The Navy plans to buy a total of 44 CMV-22Bs starting in 2018, with first deliveries expected to start in 2020. Japan currently has 19 V-22s on order. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be completed in December 2022.
The US DoD’s Aegis Ashore missile defense system achieves another milestone. During a recently held test the system successfully identified and tracked an intermediate-range ballistic test missile and intercepted it with a SM-3 Block IIA missile. The test was conducted somewhere over the Pacific with the interceptor launched from the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. “It was of great significance to the future of multi-domain missile defense operations and supports a critical initial production acquisition milestone for the SM-3 Block IIA missile program,” MDA Director Lieutenant General Sam Greaves told Reuters. The MDA has three Aegis Ashore systems in total. One station in Romania which, operational since 2016; and another in Poland, which is expected to be operational in 2020. The SM-3 Block IIA is the co-operative US-Japanese program. It adds the larger diameter, a more maneuverable “high-divert” kill vehicle, plus another sensor / discrimination upgrade to help deal with harder targets, countermeasures, and decoys.
The US Army is ordering engineering services for the Javelin anti-tank missile. Awarded to Raytheon, the $12 million cost contract has an estimated completion date of October 30, 2019. The FGM-148 Javelin is a man-portable anti-tank missile used by the US and many allied countries. The missile has a “fire-and-forget” infrared guidance system and is designed to engage moving vehicles, fixed fortifications, troops in the open and low-flying helicopters. Work will be performed at Raytheon’s factory in Tucson, Arizona.
Middle East & Africa
The 2017 crash of a German army Tiger helicopter in Mali which resulted in the death of two crew members was caused by a mechanic’s error, a German defense ministry report claims. A mistake during a rotor blades configuration led to the autopilot automatically turning itself off when the pilot pointed the Eurocopter Tiger’s nose towards the ground. This caused the disintegration of the main rotor blade, leaving the crew with “no chance to avoid the accident,” according to the report. The Tiger helicopter had been serviced by Airbus team which apparently forgot to set the blades’ airflow angle correctly. As the helicopter was flying roughly 155 mph at an altitude of 1640 ft over the Gao desert, the Tiger’s autopilot switched itself off believing that it had recognized a manual override, leading the helicopter to tilt forwards abruptly. Once the vehicle had started to descend, parts of the aircraft broke off, including the main rotor blades.
Ireland is ordering several RBS-70 BOLIDE surface-to-air missile systems from Saab. The deal is priced at $66 million with deliveries scheduled for 2019 to 2022. The first RBS-70 system entered service in 1977, the BOLIDE is special variant of the current Mk 2 production model and features a new sustainer rocket motor. The BOLIDE anti-aircraft missile flies at Mach 2 speed and is designed to intercept targets at altitudes of more than 5.000 m to a range of up-to 8.000 m. A single Mk.2 missile is believed to cost about $100.000. In March last year Brazil ordered several RBS-70 missiles in a deal worth $11.7 million. Saab says that it has delivered more than 1.600 launchers and over 17.000 missiles to 19 countries.
Slovakia starts its largest military modernisation program in history with the purchase of 14 F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets. Slovakian minster of defense Peter Gajdoš inked the contract with Lockheed Martin on Wednesday. Slovakia will acquire the jets through the US Foreign Military Sales program. The $1.8 billion deal also provides for ammunition, logistics support and training services for 22 pilots and 160 technicians. The contract further includes an agreement on industrial cooperation with the aim to give Slovakian businesses a foothold in the aviation industry. The Slovakian air force expects delivery of the first aircraft by the end of 2022, with the remainder to be delivered by the end of 2023.
NATO Agency NAHEMA signs a NH90 Through Life Support (TLS) contract with NHIndustries. TLS is an engineering services package supporting NH90s flown by Australia, Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand. Activities in the package include the provision of continuing airworthiness and configuration management; remote technical assistance and support; as well as Integrated Logistic Support (ILS). The NH90 features a combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and mission flexibility offered by a rear ramp, making it a popular global platform. To date, more than 540 NH90 variants are currently on order, with more than 370 helicopters already delivered to 17 Armed Forces in 13 countries.
Chinese media reports suggest that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy could soon fly a two-seat variant of its J-15 fighter jet. This new version is reportedly capable of performing electronic jamming missions bringing China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier closer to full operational capability. The J-15 flying shark is based on the Russian-made Su-33 but is equipped with Chinese engines, weapons and radars. The plane made its maiden flight in 2009 and was adopted by the PLA Navy in 2013. The J-15 in its two-seat variant was first shown in 2012 and can carry China’s indigenous PL-12 medium-range air-to-air missiles. The J-15D variant with electronic warfare (EW) pods made its debut in May 2018 and is comparable to the US Navy’s Boeing EA-18G Growler.
Watch: Loading 70 Tons Abrams Onto Gigantic US AirCraft: C-17 Globemaster III
The Naval Air Systems Command is ordering a provisioning parts database of technical information from Sikorsky. The cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order is priced at $38 million and supports the initial operational capability of the Navy’s CH-53K King Stallion helicopter. The database will include 2D drawings that support all organizational, intermediate and depot levels in support of the helicopter. The provisioning database will determine the range and quantity of repair parts, and support and test equipment required to operate and maintain the King Stallion for its initial period of service. Provisioning is an integral part of supply chain management. The delivery order is partially funded ($8.6 million) through FY 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds. Work will be performed at Sikorsky’s facility in Stratford, Connecticut and is scheduled for completion in November 2023.
The US Navy’s 13th Littoral Combat Ship is receiving its last finishing touches. Lockheed Martin is being awarded with a $16 million cost-plus-award-fee order in support of the USS Wichita. The contract provides for engineering and management services during the ship’s post shakedown availability (PSA). The company will provide the Navy with 65.000 man-hours of work and is responsible for work specification, pre-fabrication and material procurement. The USS Wichita is a Freedom-class LCS, designed to conduct anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, anti-air warfare, mine warfare, electronic warfare, and special operations. The PSA is assigned to newly built, activated or converted ships upon completion of a shakedown cruise. Work performed is focused on correcting defects noted during the shakedown cruise and those remaining from Acceptance Trails. Work will be performed in Baltimore, Maryland; New York and Marinette, Wisconsin. The PSA is expected to be completed by February 2020.
Boeing is being awarded with a contract modification to sustain the US Air Force’s Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Block 10 system. Worth $22.7 million the modification exercises a contract option for sustainment and required development to keep the SBSS running. Required efforts include systems engineering, operations, operations support, and contractor logistics support. SBSS is intended to detect and track space objects, such as satellites, anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, and orbital debris, providing information to the US DoD as well as NASA. The Block 10 satellite operates 24-hours a day, 7-days a week collecting metric and Space Object Identification data for man-made orbiting objects without the disruption of weather, time of day and atmosphere that can limit ground-based systems. Work will be performed at Boeing’s factory in El Segundo, California and in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Performance is expected to be completed by June 2022.
Middle East & Africa
Israeli defense contractor Rafael is currently working on a new net-centric combat system. Defense News reports that Rafael is developing a system that will create a network between manned and unmanned armored vehicles, with one acting as a mothership that coordinates enemy engagement – quite similar to the ‘mothership’ shown in the blockbuster movie “Independence Day”. Rafael says that the technology which transforms any armored vehicle into this “ultra-modern combat system” already exists; customers who may want to buy this next-generation combat system able to simultaneously acquire and neutralize multiple targets, include the Israel Defense Force and the US Army. The US Army is already working on its next modernisation program which is quite focused automatisation and integration of artificial intelligence. The ‘Big Six’ program, announced in October 2017, looks to revamp and future-proof armor, artillery, aviation, air and missile defense, networks and soldiers. One of the first platform to be modernised will be the Bradley IFV, the new version is expected to be ready for deployment after 2026. If and when Rafael’s new combat system will find its way onto US (and other country’s) platforms remains to be seen.
The Bulgarian government plans to overhaul some of its ageing T-72M1 MBTs. According to Jane’s, Sofia expects to sign a contract with the state-controlled TEREM EAD holding company by the end of the year. The contract calls for the overhaul of 13 T-72s and refurbishment of 60 TPD-K1 standby laser sights at a total cost of $8 million. The T-72 first entered production in 1972 and an estimated 50.000 have been built, many of which are still being used by about 45 countries, including Russia. Bulgaria is also considering launching a modernisation program for its armored vehicles in 2019.
Vietnam is buying Israeli drones for its troops. A recently signed contract with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) sees for the delivery of three Heron 1 UAVs and one ground control station at a cost of $140 million. The Heron 1 MALE UAV is designed to perform strategic reconnaissance and surveillance operations. The drone is reportedly capable of flying for over 24 hours at a time at altitudes around 32,000 feet. its sensors allow for a fully automated take-off and landing, even under adverse weather conditions. The Heron 1 is built to carry multiple payloads at a time for a variety of missions, ranging from EO/IR sensors to SAR radars. Israel has sold $1.5 billion worth of arms and defense equipment to Vietnam over the last decade.
India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is marking an important milestone in its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) development program. The platform successfully flew at a 6km altitude for an extended period of time. The LUH has been undergoing tests to expand its envelop. The recent feat achieved in Bengalore is a critical requirement for certifying the 3-tonne helicopter for use. The LUH showed a satisfactory level of performance and handling qualities, which qualifies it to participate in high altitude cold weather trials scheduled for January 2019. India’s military already has some 187 LUHs on order, with 126 to be delivered to the Army and 61 to the Air Force. The LUH is being indigenously developed by HAL to meet the requirements of both military and civil operators.
Watch: Talk Techy To Me – What can you really see with infrared detectors?
In January 2001, a commission headed by then US Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld warned about a possible “space Pearl Harbor” in which a potential enemy would launch a surprise attack against US-based military space assets, disabling them. These assets include communications satellites and the GPS system, which is crucial for precision attack missiles and a host of military systems.
“The US is more dependent on space than any other nation. Yet the threat to the US and its allies in and from space does not command the attention it merits,” the commission warned.
One of the systems that grew out of the commission’s report was the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) project, which is developing a constellation of satellites to provide the US military with space situational awareness using visible sensors. After a slow start, SBSS Block 10 reached a significant milestone in August 2012 with its Initial Operational Capability, followed by full operational capability less than a year later. But lack of funding casts as shadow on whether this capability will be maintained beyond 2017. By 2014/15 the Air Force worked on a stopgap project as well as an effort to obtain proper funding for follow on satellites to be launched at the start of next decade.
Northrop Grumman is being contracted to start work on two new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. Priced at $49.8 million the firm-fixed-price modification provides for long-lead parts procurement and associated support needed to start full rate production of the two Lot 7 surveillance planes. The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is an all-weather, tactical airborne early warning aircraft that is capable of deploying from an aircraft carrier. The E-2D comes with enhanced operational capabilities including the replacement of the old radar system with Lockheed Martin AN/APY9 radar, upgraded communications suite, mission computer, displays and the incorporation of an all-glass cockpit. Work will be performed at multiple locations throughout the continental US including – but not limited to – Syracuse, New York; El Segundo, California; Marlborough, Massachusetts and Indianapolis, Indiana. Work on this contract is expected to be completed by December 2023.
Raytheon is being tapped to keep the Navy’s ship self-defense systems (SSDS) running. Awarded by the Naval Sea Systems Command, the contract modification is worth just over $21 million and provides for continued platform systems engineering and agent support of the SSDS Mk 2. The SSDS features an open architecture computing environment software, which includes selected software components from the total ship computing environment infrastructure, and is designed to speed up the process of detecting, tracking and engaging anti-ship cruise missiles. SSDS is installed aboard CVN, LSD, LPD, LHA and LHD classes. Work will be performed at Raytheon’s facility in San Diego, California and is expected to be completed by June 2019.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center is modifying a contract with Aretè Associates. An additional $17 million will allow the company to exercise an option of an IDIQ contract that sees for the production of AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) subassemblies. The COBRA system can be deployed on the US Navy’s MQ-8C Fire Scout and is designed to help detect and localize minefields and obstacles when flown over a beach or other coastal landing area. COBRA uses a fast-scanning LIDAR laser, 3D imaging camera, and target recognition algorithms. Data collected by COBRA an be sent to an amphibious landing force through the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) Assault Breaching System (JABS), which could either direct a JDAM air assault on the beach to clear mines or could feed the location of mines to the precision navigation and lane marking systems on the amphibious vehicles coming ashore. Work will be performed at Aretè locations in Tucson, Arizona; Destin, Florida and Santa Rosa, California. The subassemblies are scheduled for completion by July 2021.
Middle East & Africa
An article by Defense World suggests that Iranian and Malaysian military officials may buy Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder. Some talks were held on the sidelines of the IDEAS 2018 aerospace exhibition, which took place in Karachi late last month. The exhibition was attended by Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Qasem Soleiman and Malaysian Royal Air Force Chief General Dato’ Affendi. The JF-17 is a Pakistani fighter jet with Chinese parts. The Thunder is a single engine, lightweight, multipurpose combat aircraft that can host modern electronics and precision-guided weapons. It costs $20 million per unit. Malaysia first voiced interest buying the jet in April 2018 during the Defence Services Asia (DSA) expo held in Kuala Lumpur.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) shortlists three companies to build the Royal Navy’s new frigates. BAE Systems, Babcock and Atlas Elektronik UK will now each compete to design and manufacture the new warships. The Type 31e program sees for the delivery of five frigates at a cost of $1.5 billion. Stuart Andrew, Minister for Defence Procurement, told media that it was the first frigate competition the UK had run “in a generation”. “One of these designs will go on to bolster our future fleet with five new ships, creating UK jobs and ensuring our Royal Navy maintains a truly global presence in an increasingly uncertain world,” he said. The Type 31e frigates will be sitting between the high-end capability delivered by the Type 26 and Type 45, and the constabulary-oriented outputs to be delivered by the five planned River-class Batch 2 OPVs and will cover maritime security, maritime counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations, escort duties, and naval fire support missions. The MoD expects to announce a preferred bidder by the end of next year and wants the first ship to be delivered in 2023.
Jane’s reports that the Royal Air Force is arming its Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft with MBDA’s Meteor missile. This is the first time the French-made beyond visual range air-to-air missiles are deployed on the British Typhoons. The Meteor was conceived as a longer-range competitor to popular weapons like the American AIM-120 AMRAAM. Its ramjet propulsion is intended to offer the missile a head-on closing range of 120 km, with a 2-way datalink and full powered performance at Mach 4+ throughout its flight, instead of the standard “burn and coast” approach use by rocket-powered counterparts. The intent is to give the Meteor both longer reach, and a wider “no escape” profile. The Meteor program partners include France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
The Royal Australian Air Force is welcoming its ninth and tenth F-35A fighter jet. These will be the first JSFs to be stationed permanently in the country with the first eight used for pilot training with the US Air Force’s 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. “Today marks a very important day for the Australian Defence Force and particularly the Royal Australian Air Force,” RAAF Air Marshal Leo Davies told media representatives during the jet’s welcoming ceremony. “Welcome to the latest chapter of the F-35 story, the most significant Royal Australian Air Force acquisition in our 97-year history,” he continued. “The two aircraft that landed here today mark the latest step in an exciting journey for Air Force, which has been over 16 years in the making.” Australia is a Tier 3 partner in the JSF program and expects to buy an initial 73 F-35As with an option to buy a further 28 aircraft in the next decade.
DRS Power & Control Technologies is receiving additional funding to exercise an option to support the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The contract modification is priced at $13.4 million and provides for the delivery of power conversion modules (PCM) for Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) production ship sets. Efforts covered under this contract include non-recurring engineering work, procurement of long-lead-time materials and of low-rate initial production units for testing. Up to 12 ship sets for the guided missile destroyers can be procured. PCMs support Raytheon’s AN/SPY-6 air and missile defense radar with the right power output. This contract supports DDG-51 Flight III ships. Work will be performed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is expected to be complete by April 2022.
BAE Systems Land & Armaments is being contracted to deliver several missile canisters to the US Navy. Worth $41.5 million, the firm-fixed-price modification sees for the delivery of Mk 21 mod 2 and Mk 21 mod 3 canisters used on the Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS). The mod 2 and 3 variants support SM-2 and SM-6 missiles respectively, and are used on the Mk 41 VLS strike length system that accommodates the widest variety of missiles. The canisters serve as missile shipping and storage containers. During missile launch, they provide an internal launch rail and help contain the rocket motor’s exhaust gas. Work will be performed at BAE’s facilities in Aberdeen, South Dakota and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The canisters are expected to be completed by August 2021.
Middle East & Africa
The Philippine Air Force plans to boost its strike capability with Turkey’s T-129 ATAK helicopter. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Philstar newspaper that “the Air Force has also chosen the T-129 ATAK helicopter. I think we can only get less than 10, maybe eight.” The proposed purchase is part of a larger procurement process that also includes the acquisition of new transport helicopters. It has yet not been disclosed how much the Philippine Air Force is willing to spend on Turkey’s ATAK, but it says that its overall budget of $240 million will be enough for buying 16 Black Hawks and 8 to 10 T-129s. The T-129 is an attack helicopter, but a bit smaller and lighter than classic competitors like Russia’s Mi-28 or the USA’s AH-64 Apache. The T129A EDH carries the nose-mounted 20mm cannon turret with 500 rounds, and 4 pylons for unguided rockets. The aircraft is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environments and rough geography in both day and night conditions. Philippine officials have yet to formally announce the deal.
The Egyptian Air Force will buy more Chinese-made Wing Loong II attack drones. It is believed that Mohamed Abbas, chief of the Egyptian Air Force, signed a deal with CATIC officials on the sidelines of the EDEX 2018 exhibition held in Cairo earlier this week. A documentary recently broadcast on Egyptian state television suggests that China’s National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) has already sold several of its Wing Loong II UAVs to Egypt, which would make it the second export customer after the United Arab Emirates. Since this maiden flight in February 2017, the Wing Loong II has been hyped as potential best seller on the export market, offering a cheaper alternative to its rival—the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.
Jane’s reports that the Italian Army is currently fielding the first examples of the latest-generation Light Multirole Vehicle (LMV). The Iveco produced LMV is a four-wheel-drive purpose-built military vehicle designed to perform a range of duties from patrolling and escorting to commanding and liaisons. The LMV is similar to American Hummers in size and number of occupants but comes at a significant higher cost, that stems from some fundamental design differences that are designed to protect their occupants from mine blasts and small arms fire. The latest variant is the LMV Lince 2 in a Networked Enabled Capability (NEC) configuration. This latest variant comes with a higher payload (3000 lbs, which is an 87% increase over earlier models) and a higher level of ballistic protection and protection against explosives. The LMV Lince 2 NEC is armed with Leonardo’s HITROLE remote weapon station that can mount 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm machine guns to a 40 mm aromatic grenade launcher. Italy plans to buy a total of 400 LMVs Lince 2 NEC over the coming years.
Japan may sell an overhauled air defense radar system to the Philippines, this move would be the first defense export since ending a nearly 50-year ban in 2014. If approved, Manila could receive an upgraded model of the Mitsubishi Electric-made FPS-3 air defense radar system. The FPS-3 has been in use with the JASDF since 1991. The radar features two antennas capable of detecting fighters and ballistic missiles, and are highly capable of tracking fighters. The potential deal is expected to cost between $8.9 and $17.7 million.
Tokyo may still retrofit one of its Izumo-class helicopter carriers to embark its new F-35Bs, but refuses to call it an aircraft carrier so as to avoid criticism that having such an offensive platform would violate country’s pacifist constitution. Instead, the Izumo will be called a “multi-purpose operation destroyer”. Retrofit work will include thickening of the decks so that the Short Takeoff & Vertical Landing (STVOL) variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter can land vertically on the deck and modification of elevators to transport aircraft to their hangars.
Northrop Grumman is being contracted to supply US agencies and Foreign Military Sales customers with Joint Threat Emitters. The IDIQ contract is priced at $450 million and provides for Joint Threat Emitter (JTE) production. Awarded by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the order also includes spares, support equipment, testing and training. The JTE is a radar and satellite system that simulates a modern, reactive battlespace war environment, designed to help pilots train air-combat manoeuvres. The system provides ground threat warnings up to the exercising aircraft via an electronic signal to simulate a surface-to-air missile or anti-aircraft artillery attack for training. The mobile simulator is comprised of a Threat Emitter Unit, a Wide Band Kit, a C2 Unit, and a Remote Power Unit. Work will be performed at Northrop Grumman’s factory in Buffalo, New York, and various national and international locations. Performance is expected to be completed by December 5, 2025.
Raytheon is being tapped to support the US Air Force’s Force Element Terminal Risk Reduction effort. Raytheon will provide the service with risk reduction studies, analyses, and demonstrations of its Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Airborne Military Satellite Communication product line at a cost of $11 million. The AEHF system is a series of four military communication satellites which will entirely replace the current in-orbit Milstar system. The main function of the system is to provide secure, survivable and near-worldwide satellite communications. Work is party funded through FY 2018 and FY 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $4 million. Work will be performed at Raytheon’s Marlborough, Massachusetts, and is expected to be completed by August 30, 2019.
The US Army is procuring a number of Mk. 80 and BLU-109 Tritonal bomb components. The firm-fixed-price contract is valued at $265 million and is set to run through October, 2023. The Mk. 80 series belongs to the family of general purpose bombs and functions as building block for numerous variants of non-guided and precision-guided air delivered munitions. The series includes various configurations of 250 lb., 500 lb., 1,000 lb., and 2,000 lb. bombs. The BLU-109 is a 2,000 lb. bomb with a hardened casing meant to penetrate fortifications like secure command locations, protected weapon storage sites, and key transportation and communication resources. . It includes laser-guided variants for precision strikes such as the GBU-27 Paveway II and the electro-optical GBU-15. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order.
The US Marine Corps is buying new Amphibious Combat Vehicles for its troops. BAE is receiving an additional $140 million to build 30 Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACVs) and covers associated production efforts, fielding and support costs. The Corps’ will eventually replace its fleet of ageing AAVP7 Amtracs with 204 new ACVs at a cost of $1.2 billion. According to Naval Technology the ACV is a modern eight-wheeled amphibious armored personell carrier that can carry a crew of three with 13 embarked Marines. The vehicles feature has a blast-resistant V-shaped hull to withstand IED blasts. Its six-cylinder 700HP Cursor engine propel it to speeds of up to 10km/h at sea and up to 106 km/h at land. The ACV’s armament is yet unclear. The ACV’s armament will likely include a 40 mm grenade launcher and a .50 cal machine gun. The contract is payed for with FY 2019 Marine Corps procurement funds. Work will be performed at BAE’s factories in York, Pennsylvania and Aiken, South Carolina. Production of the new vehicles is expected to be completed in August 2020.
Middle East & Africa
Israeli media reports that the United States government is blocking the Israel’s sale of 12 American-made F-16s to Croatia. In March 2018 the Croatian government decided to procure used F-16D Barak fighter jets from Israel, in order to replace its ageing fleet of Russian jets. According to Channel 10 News, the US is blocking the $500 deal because on the grounds that Israel “acted unfairly and that it made a profit on the back of the US.” Senior officials told the media outlet that Israel equipped the F-16D Barak fighter jets with advanced indigenous electronic systems in order to give it an edge compared to US made fighter jets. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I am in favor, but Defense Secretary Mattis is against it – he is the one who is blocking it.”
The Austrian government is currently debating the future of the country’s air force. Austrian newspaper Die Presse reports that the coalition government is split over whether to keep its fleet of Eurofighter Tranche 1 Block 5 fighter aircraft or replace them with new Saab Gripen jets. Austria is currently in a legal battle with the Eurofighter consortium, accusing them of fraud and wilful deception in connection with the $2 billion, 12 unit plane order signed in 2003. The conservatives prefer to keep the Eurofighters, whereas the Freedom Party prefers to replace the planes. Die Presse notes that both options would cost about the same, and adds that keeping the jets will also require various upgrades and new weapon systems. Austria’s MoD is currently plagued by a declining budget but needs to replace its ageing aircraft fleet, upcoming purchases may include new helicopters and Leonardo’s M-345.
Japan is ordering a second KC-46A Pegasus for its air force. The aircraft is procured under a contract modification valued at $159 million. Delivery of the first tanker to the JASDF is scheduled for February 2021. Once delivered, the KC-46 will add a significant boost external link to Japan’s aerial refueling capabilities, adding to the current fleet of four KC-767J tankers. Work will be performed at Boeing’s factory in Seattle, Washington and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2021.
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