The US Navy announced a successful live-fire exercise of its Rolling Airframe Missile from the littoral combat ship USS Charleston on Monday. The launching of the SeaRAM missiles from the San Diego-based vessel was a part of exercises involving all of the ship’s weaponry, and occurred on Thursday, the Navy said. SeaRAM missiles, also known as RIM-116 RAM missiles, are lightweight, quick-reaction missiles designed to defeat cruise missiles and asymmetric air and surface threats. Equipped with Phalanx search-and-track radar and Electro Optic sensor, 11-missile pods are carried within launchers aboard the ship.
The US Marine Corps (USMC) will acquire a pair of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs and related systems. In a post released on the beta.sam.gov US government procurement website on April 12, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) disclosed that it had awarded GA-ASI a $13.06 million contract modification related to the procurement of two Reaper air vehicles and other unmanned aircraft system (UAS) equipment.
Middle East & Africa
Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos will travel to Riyadh on April 20 to sign an agreement for the deployment of a Greek PAC-3 air defense missile system to the kingdom.
The Pentagon will send hundreds of additional troops to Germany to improve the ability of the US military to ramp up forces to defend allies, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday in a reversal of policy from former President Donald Trump. The move will station about 500 US additional troops in Germany while shifting some units to Belgium and Italy and bringing others back to the United States.
Lockheed Martin won a $447.2 million order, which provides for the production and delivery of 12 MH-60R aircraft for the government of the Republic of Korea. According to a press release released by DAPA, a total of 12 MH-60R helicopters will be delivered to the Republic of Korea Navy by 2025, boosting anti-submarine warfare capability. As noted by Lockheed Martin, MH-60R is the most capable naval helicopter available today designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers. Work will take place in New York, Connecticut and Alabama. Estimated completion is in December 2024.
Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi has explained to a House of Councillors committee on April 12 on why the cost of upgrading the F-15J had gone up. Kishi says Japan has to spend more as the electronic warfare system that it choose for the upgrade faces parts shortages. Tokyo had wanted to buy 101 sets of the ALQ-239 Digital Electronic Warfare System (DEWS). It is now believe that they were told to switch to the new Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) instead.
Latest updates[?]: The US Navy announced a successful live-fire exercise of its Rolling Airframe Missile from the littoral combat ship USS Charleston on Monday. The launching of the SeaRAM missiles from the San Diego-based vessel was a part of exercises involving all of the ship's weaponry, and occurred on Thursday, the Navy said. SeaRAM missiles, also known as RIM-116 RAM missiles, are lightweight, quick-reaction missiles designed to defeat cruise missiles and asymmetric air and surface threats. Equipped with Phalanx search-and-track radar and Electro Optic sensor, 11-missile pods are carried within launchers aboard the ship.
Mk-44 firing RAM
The Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) MK-31 guided missile weapon system is co-developed and co-produced under a NATO cooperative program between the United States and German governments to provide a small, all-weather, low-cost self-defense system against aircraft and cruise missiles. The RIM-116 was later called RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), because it spins during flight. To save costs, Designation Systems notes that the RAM was designed to use several existing components, including the rocket motor of the MIM-72 Chaparral, the warhead of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the Infrared seeker of the FIM-92 Stinger. Cueing is provided by the ship’s radar, or by its ESM signal tracing suite.
RAM is currently installed, or planned for installation, on 78 U.S. Navy and 30 German Navy ships, including American LSD, LHD, LPD and CVN ship types. This number will grow as vessels of the LPD-17 San Antonio Class and Littoral Combat Ships enter the US Navy, and the LCS will sport an upgraded SeaRAM system that will include its own integrated radar and IR sensors. Abroad, the South Korean Navy has adopted RAM for its KDX-II and KDX-III destroyers, and its LPX Dokdo Class amphibious assault ships; other navies using or buying RAM include Egypt, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and the UAE/Dubai.
The US Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC) is planning to modify two KC-135s to equip them with a new communications, sensors and defensive pod. While tentatively called the Gladiator Pod, it is expected to enter flight testing on a few KC-135s in 2023. AATC intends to pack communication, defensive, and sensor technologies inside the shell of a Multipoint Refueling System (MPRS) Pod. The MPRS consists of a single refueling pod mounted on each wing of a KC-135 to support probe and drogue refueling. The communication systems that will be packed inside the Gladiator Pod will allow the KC-135 to act as a data node and host on the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). Defensive systems will protect the tanker with limited fighter support. It was also disclosed that the KC-135 was able to receive off-board data from the Kratos Unmanned Tactical Aerial Platform-22 (UTAP-22) during a recent test China Lake.
The US military’s ability to meet demands has largely degraded over the past two decades, according to a Government Accountability Office report. “GAO found that reported domain readiness did not meet readiness recovery goals identified by the military services,” it said. The report spotlighted “the effects of Hurricane Michael and its associated infrastructure limitations on the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jets; the effects of trained pilot shortages on the Army’s AH-64 attack helicopter; and the effects of limited depot repair capacity on the Marine Corps’ light attack helicopters.”
Middle East & Africa
According to media reports, Morocco has carried out its first drone strike in the Western Sahara. The Polisario Front announced that its police chief Addah al-Bendir had been killed “on the field of honor” in a separatist-controlled part of the disputed desert territory. The reported use of a drone strike to kill a senior Western Sahara independence fighter would, if confirmed, mark a turning point in the conflict, experts say. A Polisario official told AFP that Bendir had been killed by a Moroccan drone after taking part in a military operation near a sand barrier separating Moroccan and Polisario-controlled zones. Moroccan military expert Abdelhamid Harifi told AFP that “officially, Morocco doesn’t have armed drones — but it has a whole range of state-of-the-art unarmed drones.”
A US Air Force contract with British company BAE will see the firm support equipment for the fleet of F-16 aircraft in “more than 25 countries” through 2031. “From Boresighting avionics testing and vehicle management system tests to aircraft power, hydraulics, and electrical systems support, BAE Systems’ comprehensive approach is a key enabler for F-16 sustainment worldwide. The company will enhance aircraft supportability, reduce the logistics footprint, and minimize life cycle cost through the contract, which includes obsolescence management, logistics and sustainment, and on-base support and depot development”, it says in a press release.
Korea Times quoted anonymous sources as saying the KAI FA-50 and Pakistan’s JF-17 are the finalists in Malaysia’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) competition. The report added that the JF-17 is in the lead as it “possesses a better mid-range weapons capacity.”
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has rolled out a prototype of the multirole fighter aircraft being developed for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) under the Korean Fighter eXperimental (KF-X) programme. The locally developed twin-engined aircraft KF-21 Boramae was officially unveiled in a ceremony held on April 9 at KAI headquarters in the South Korean city of Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, that was also attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.
Watch: KC-135 Stratotanker Take Off and Landing at MacDill Air Force Base, United States Air Force
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
Latest updates[?]: Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has rolled out a prototype of the multirole fighter aircraft being developed for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) under the Korean Fighter eXperimental (KF-X) programme. The locally developed twin-engined aircraft KF-21 Boramae was officially unveiled in a ceremony held on April 9 at KAI headquarters in the South Korean city of Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, that was also attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.
KODEF ’11 slide
South Korea has been thinking seriously about designing its own fighter jet since 2008. The ROK defense sector has made impressive progress, and has become a notable exporter of aerospace, land, and naval equipment. The idea of a plane that helps advance their aerospace industry, while making it easy to add new Korean-designed weapons, is very appealing. On the flip side, a new jet fighter is a massive endeavor at the best of times, and wildly unrealistic technical expectations didn’t help the project. KF-X has progressed in fits and starts, and became a multinational program when Indonesia joined in June 2010. As of March 2013, however, South Korea has decided to put the KF-X program on hold for 18 months, while the government and Parliament decide whether it’s worth continuing.
Indonesia has reportedly contributed IDR 1.6 trillion since they joined in July 2010 – but that’s just $165 million of the DAPA’s estimated WON 6 billion (about $5.5 billion) development cost, and there’s good reason to believe that even this development budget is too low. This article discusses the KFX/IFX fighter’s proposed designs and features, and chronicles the project’s progress and setbacks since 2008…
According to the US Navy, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division has completed five weeks of integrated test evaluations of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) system. The Dahlgren Division, based in Virginia, performed interoperability testing with the G/ATOR system, preparing first by verifying the command’s infrastructure functionality, including power accessibility, radar data recording abilities and data analysis capabilities. The G/ATOR system, made by Northrop Grumman, is designed to detect low-observable targets with low radar cross sections such as rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles and drones.
Northrop Grumman is designing a new radar instrumentation system for the B-1B bomber under a $2.3 million contract. The current radar instrumentation system is over 10 years old and faces diminishing manufacturing sources for components. Northrop will be producing new single board computers, ethernet-based protocol, high-speed data lines, and solid-state drive data collection units for installation on the two instrumented B-1Bs at Edwards Air Force Base. Work is scheduled to being later this year.
Middle East & Africa
Elbit won a contract by the Israeli Ministry of Defense last year to pursue a program to develop an airborne laser weapon system. A new video posted by Elbit shows the laser mounted on a Hermes 900 unmanned air vehicle. The aircraft has been modified with canards, probably due to the increase weight on the nose to house the laser turret or to improve pitch stability in order to have a stable beam.
Babcock International and BAE Systems have been awarded a five year contract extension by the Ministry of Defense to continue in-service support to the Royal Navy’s 4.5 Mk8 Medium Calibre Gun (MCG). The agreement is worth $58.9 and will see the continuation of in-service support to the 4.5 MCG across 19 Type 23 Frigates and Type 45 Destroyers as well as HMS Collingwood.
Technology to protect emerging wideband receivers from interference, enabling their use in contested and congested environments, is being developed by BAE. According to BAE Systems, the British company will design mechanisms for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that protect emerging wideband receivers from interference, enabling their use in contested and congested environments.
The Indian Air Force has taken a new approach for its bid to acquire a fleet of aerial refueling tankers. It has now decided that it will lease those new tankers by the hour. And they will be used for training missions and free the Il-78 tankers for operational purposes.
Latest updates[?]: According to the US Navy, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division has completed five weeks of integrated test evaluations of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) system. The Dahlgren Division, based in Virginia, performed interoperability testing with the G/ATOR system, preparing first by verifying the command's infrastructure functionality, including power accessibility, radar data recording abilities and data analysis capabilities. The G/ATOR system, made by Northrop Grumman, is designed to detect low-observable targets with low radar cross sections such as rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles and drones.
The US military’s long run of unquestioned air superiority has led to shortcuts in mobile land-based air defenses, and the US Marines are no exception. A December 2005 release from Sen. Schumer’s office [D-NY] said that:
“Current radar performance does not meet operational forces requirements… consequences could potentially allow opposing forces to gain air and ground superiority in future operational areas.”
One of the programs in the works to address this gap is the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR mobile radar system. It’s actually the result of fusing 2 programs: the Multi-Role Radar System (MRRS), and Ground Weapons Locator Radar (GWLR) requirements. When the last G/ATOR software upgrade becomes operational, it will replace and consolidate numerous legacy radars, including the AN/TPS-63 air surveillance, AN/MPQ-62 force control, AN/TPS-73 air traffic control, AN/UPS-3 air defense, and AN/TPQ-36/37 artillery tracking & locating radar systems.
The F-15EX variant of the F-15 series of US Air Force fighter planes, was renamed the Eagle II in a ceremony on Wednesday at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson announced the official designation in a rollout of the plane, which will replace the aging F-15C/D fleet. The US Air Force accepted its first F-15EX from manufacturer Boeing on March 11.
The US Air Force (USAF)/Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) conventional hypersonic glide weapon prototype failed its first booster vehicle flight test on April 5, according to a statement. The ARRW failed to complete its launch sequence and did not deploy from its Boeing B-52H Stratofortress heavy bomber carriage aircraft. The B-52H flew over the Point Mugu Sea Range near California, intending to fire the ARRW booster test vehicle. Instead, the weapon returned with the B-52H to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.
Middle East & Africa
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) announced the arrival of its new Oron intelligence-gathering aircraft after it landed at Nevatim Air Base. The Oron is a Gulfstream G550 business jet that will have its mission systems installed over the next two years, the IAF said. This process will be led by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), the IAF, the Intelligence Directorate, and the Israeli Navy.
Four Greek pilots have started their training on flying the Rafale. Three of them flew the Mirage 2000 previously while the other one flies the F-16. The four of them will later become instructors to help train the next batch of eight pilots.
The Cyprus National Guard carried out a joint training exercise with Israel on April 5 to April 6. Exercise ONISILOS GEDEON 2021 involves the Tor M1 air defense missile system and Israeli F-15s and F-35s.
According to Reuters, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported a new incursion by China’s air force into the island’s air defense identification zone, made up of eight fighter jets and two other aircraft, one of which flew through the strategic Bashi Channel. Taiwan has complained over the last few months of repeated missions by China’s air force near the island, concentrated in the southwestern part its air defense zone near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
Watch: Shocking! Massive revamp Type 23 Frigate and back to sea with full power
Latest updates[?]: The US Air Force (USAF)/Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) conventional hypersonic glide weapon prototype failed its first booster vehicle flight test on April 5, according to a statement. The ARRW failed to complete its launch sequence and did not deploy from its Boeing B-52H Stratofortress heavy bomber carriage aircraft. The B-52H flew over the Point Mugu Sea Range near California, intending to fire the ARRW booster test vehicle. Instead, the weapon returned with the B-52H to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.
B-52H: flyin’ low,
Officially, it’s the B-52H Stratofortress. Unofficially, it’s the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat F–cker). Either way, this subsonic heavy bomber remains the mainstay of the U.S. strategic fleet after more than 50 years of service. A total of 102 B-52H bombers were delivered from FY 1961-1963, and 94 were still on the books as of May 2009, flying mostly from Barksdale AFB, LA and Minot AFB, ND. Of these, 18 are slated for retirement, leaving a planned fleet of 76. By the time that fleet retires in the 2030s, many will be around 70 years old.
The B-52H can’t be flown against heavy enemy air defenses, but a steady array of upgrades have kept the aircraft relevant to follow-on strikes and current wars, where its long time on station and precision weapons have made the BUFF beautiful. Those changes have included advanced communications, GPS guided weapons, advanced targeting pods, and more. The USAF isn’t done yet adding new features, and maintenance remains a challenge for an aircraft fleet that’s always older than its pilots. All of these things require contracts, and the B-52H fleet has several of them underway. So, how does 2010’s 8-year, $11.9 billion umbrella contract fit in…?
Universal Propulsion Company won a $10.9 million contract for the manufacture of up to 5,000 cartridge initiators and thrusters used in V-22 and CV-22 aircraft. This contract includes a five-year base period with no options. The V-22 Osprey is a joint-service, medium-lift, multimission tilt-rotor aircraft developed by Boeing and Bell Helicopters. Boeing is responsible for the fuselage, landing gear, avionics, electrical and hydraulic systems, performance and flying qualities. Work will take place in California. Estimated completion will be by March 2026.
The XQ-58A flew its sixth flight on March 26 and this time the drone opened its weapons bay door in-flight for the first time. A ALTIUS-600 small drone was then released from the weapons bay. Alyson Turri, demonstration program manager, added that the XQ-58A flew higher and faster during this flight.
Middle East & Africa
The UK has confirmed it is to establish a joint operating unit with Qatar for the BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) aircraft as part of a wider military co-operation agreement signed by the two countries on April 1. The unit, which will be based at Royal Air Force (RAF) Leeming in England, will operate the Mk 167 (T2 in RAF nomenclature) variant of the Hawk recently acquired by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) in support of its Eurofighter Typhoon procurement. The updated defense agreement will also see the RAF deploy a Voyager aircraft to Qatar to periodically provide air-to-air refuelling training for the Qatari Emiri Air Force.
BAE Systems won a $21 million contract from the UK Ministry of Defense. The contract is to support the Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) over the next four-and-a-half years. “The UK Ministry of Defence has been a key partner on CMWS for decades,” said Christopher Austin, BAE Systems’ director of Threat Detection Solutions. According to the company, the system alerts crews to incoming threats and commands automated countermeasure dispensing, ensuring survivability of the aircraft and its crews.
The Pentagon said that it’s aware of Russian military activity in the Arctic and that it is committed to protecting US interests in the region. “Without getting into specific intelligence assessments, obviously we’re monitoring it very closely,” John F. Kirby, the Department of Defense press secretary, said during a press conference. “Obviously, no one wants to see the Arctic as a region become militarized.” One day prior, CNN had reported on satellite images by space technology company Maxar that document Russia’s build-up of military equipment and the testing of weapons, including that of a Poseidon 2M39 torpedo, in the Arctic.
The runway reconstruction project at Hsinchu air base, Taiwan is progressing ahead of schedule and the Mirage 2000 jets can return to their home base after May. The air force says the project is now 83.9 percent completed and 7.67 percent ahead of schedule.
Watch: America’s New Stealthy Drone Fighter Is Back: XQ-58 Valkyrie Makes a 2nd Test Flight