Latest updates[?]: The Kuwaiti Army will start to receive the upgraded M1A2 Abrams main battle tank (MBT), known as M1A2K, almost two years behind the initial schedule. In its announcement of the news via social media in late July, the army claimed the M1A2K will enter operational service "soon" and boost the combat efficiency of the Kuwaiti land forces. Kuwait plans to upgrade all 218 of its Abrams MBTs to the M1A2K configuration, but the program's timeframe seems to have been revised after it encountered delays for undisclosed reasons.
America’s M1 Abrams tanks come in a number of versions. In addition to the M1A1 that is now standard, the US Army is beginning to field its M1 TUSK for urban warfare. It also operates the M1A2 System Enhancement Program (SEP), currently the most advanced standard variant.
This Spotlight article covers the M1A2 Abrams SEP upgrade program, and will be updated and backfilled as new contracts are issued and key events take place.
According to Jane’s, the US Navy is not keen to use the MQ-4C in an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) role. The Hudson Institute’s senior fellow, Bryan Clark, had told Janes that the new sensors onboard IFC-4 variant of the MQ-4C have passive sensing capability to be used for AEW&C. Doug Shaffer, Northrop Grumman vice-president and program manager for Triton programs, also revealed that the company is thinking about having the E-2D and MQ-4C share each other’s pictures in demonstrations. But the mission set has been ruled out by Captain Dan Mackin, the maritime UAS manager. Mackin wants the unmanned air vehicle to focus on maritime surveillance.
On August 5, US Air Mobility Command commander Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost approved a second Interim Capability Release (ICR) mission for the KC-46A Pegasus. The first ICR decision approved the KC-46A’s Centerline Drogue System mission set on July 9. Transportation Command can now task the KC-46 for the C-17, the B-52H, and the KC-46 receivers. This is the first ICR decision regarding the air refueling boom mission set. As a result, the Pegasus aircraft and crews can now accept operational tasks that would otherwise be filled by KC-135s and KC-10s.
Middle East & Africa
Sailors from the navies of Ghana and Nigeria joined the US Navy’s USS Hershel “Woody” Williams for maritime security training this week. The vessel, an expeditionary sea base, returned to West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea after participating in the 32-nation Obangame Express 2021 exercises in March.
In a bilateral contract worth close to $354 million, Eurofighter and NETMA, the NATO Eurofighter & Tornado Management Agency, have defined the next steps in the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon. Consolidation Package Step Two and Three, Phase 1 Contract’s most important features will enable Typhoon to operate the Meteor beyond-visual-range, air-to-air missile while transferring the capability from the existing M-Scan radar to the new E-Scan radar.
Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) laid down keel for the Indian Navy’s first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) shallow water craft. GRSE has delivered three P-28 class ASW corvettes (NS Kamorta, INS Kadmat and INS Kiltan) to the Indian Navy. The warships have around 90% indigenous content and tonnage of 3250 tonnes.
South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) will start testing its new Grenade-Launching Drones and Small Modularized Drones next year. DAPA’s Grenade Launching Drone is an attack drone that is equipped with six 40mm class grenade and can remotely control fire to a short-range target (within 2km). The drone is equipped with a two-axis gimbal and recoil absorber to offset the impact of the drone’s movement and grenade launch. It is fitted with an optical and thermal imaging camera and laser range finder. This kind of drone has high utility as an offensive weapon.
Watch: Dream Realized: The Air Force’s New Multi-Mission KC-46 Tanker Is Ready
Lockheed Martin won a $35.6 million contract modification for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system. Under this contract modification, Lockheed Martin will provide 36 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs) A2 as a lifetime buy to support the THAAD weapon system. Work will take place in California, Texas and Wisconsin. Estimated completion date is August 4, 2021.
Skydweller Aero has been given $5 million by the US Navy to demonstrate its unmanned air vehicle (UAV) that is based on the Solar Impulse 2. The US-Spanish startup has tested and flown autonomous flight software on the Solar Impulse 2. The company hopes to fly the plane at the stratosphere while carrying an 800lb payload. It can remain airborne for 90 hours.
A Boeing E-3D Sentry has returned to its home base at RAF Waddington following its final mission on Operation SHADER, bringing to a close 30 years of operational service. According to the Royal Air Force, the period between retirement and the Wedgetail becoming operational, the Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance requirements will be covered by a combination of other aircraft and E-3s from the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force.
The US government is selling another batch of RIM-116C Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) Block 2 missiles to Japan. This time, the $61.5 million Foreign Military Sale package is for 44 missiles. The country bought 51 missiles in September 2020.
The US State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the government of Japan of AEGIS Class Destroyer Support and related equipment for an estimated cost of $134 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin won a $35.6 million contract modification for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system. Under this contract modification, Lockheed Martin will provide 36 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs) A2 as a lifetime buy to support the THAAD weapon system. Work will take place in California, Texas and Wisconsin. Estimated completion date is August 4, 2021.
THAAD: In flight
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a long-range, land-based theater defense weapon that acts as the upper tier of a basic 2-tiered defense against ballistic missiles. It’s designed to intercept missiles during late mid-course or final stage flight, flying at high altitudes within and even outside the atmosphere. This allows it to provide broad area coverage against threats to critical assets such as population centers and industrial resources as well as military forces, hence its previous “theater (of operations) high altitude area defense” designation.
Latest updates[?]: The US State Department approved a proposed sale of shoulder-fired Javelin missiles to the Republic of Georgia, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said on Tuesday. Georgia had requested to buy eighty-two (82) Javelin FGM-148 Missiles; and forty-six (46) Javelin Command Launch Units (CLU). The estimated total cost is $30 million.
The FGM-148 Javelin missile system aimed to solve 2 key problems experienced by American forces. One was a series of disastrous experiences in Vietnam, trying to use 66mm M72 LAW rockets against old Soviet tanks. A number of replacement options like the Mk 153 SMAW and the AT4/M136 spun out of that effort in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until electronics had miniaturized for several more cycles that it became possible to solve the next big problem: the need for soldiers to remain exposed to enemy fire while guiding anti-tank missiles to their targets.
Javelin solves both of those problems at once, offering a heavy fire-and-forget missile that will reliably destroy any enemy armored vehicle, and many fortifications as well. While armored threats are less pressing these days, the need to destroy fortified outposts and rooms in buildings remains. Indeed, one of the lessons from both sides of the 2006 war in Lebanon has been the infantry’s use of guided missiles as a form of precision artillery fire. Javelin isn’t an ideal candidate for that latter role, due to its high cost-per-unit; nevertheless, it has often been used this way. Its performance in Iraq has revealed a clear niche on both low and high intensity battlefields, and led to rising popularity with American and international clients.
Latest updates[?]: The US State Department signed off on a deal worth $82 million to supply Harpoon Joint Common Test Set (JCTS) and related equipment to the Government of India. The Government of India had requested to buy one Harpoon Joint Common Test Set (JCTS). Also included is one Harpoon Intermediate Level maintenance station; spare and repair parts, support, and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training; US Government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support, a Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) release said.
Harpoon in flight
The sub-sonic, wave-skimming GM-84 Harpoon is the US Navy’s sole anti-shipping missile, with the minor exception of small helicopter-borne AGM-119B Penguin missiles. The Harpoon has been adapted into several variants, and exported to many navies around the world. At present, the Harpoon family includes AGM-84 air, RGM-84 sea/land, and UGM-84 submarine-launched versions. Variants such as the Joint Standoff Land Attack Missiles and the upgraded AGM-84K SLAM – Expanded Response will also be covered in this DID FOCUS Article. It describes the missiles themselves, and covers global contracts involving this family.
The Harpoon family’s best known competitor is the French/MBDA M38/39/40 Exocet, but recent years have witnessed a growing competitive roster at both the subsonic (Israel’s >Gabriel family, Russia’s SS-N-27 Klub family, Saab’s RBS15, Kongsberg’s stealthy NSM, China’s YJ-82/C-802 used by Hezbollah in Lebanon), and supersonic (Russia’s SS-N-22 Sunburn/Moskit, SS-N-26 Yakhont, and some SS-N-27 Klub variants, India’s SS-N-26 derived PJ-10 BrahMos) tiers.
Lockheed Martin won a $51.8 million deal, which provides for program management support to include development of customer unique capabilities in support of the continued development of the air system for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program for a Foreign Military Sales customer. Work will take place in Texas, California and Florida. Estimated completion date will be in January 2024.
The US Air Force has carried out wind tunnel testing of directed energy system turret earlier this year. “There is a growing interest for directed energy systems within the DOD for many purposes, especially defending our systems and personnel,” said Dr. Rich Roberts, chief of the Aerodynamics Branch Store Separation Section. “There are a number of systems in use and being developed across the DOD. Integrating the DE systems on aircraft has obvious benefits but also creates challenges, especially at higher speeds.”
Middle East & Africa
The Egyptian Navy received a German S-44 submarine in Alexandria on Monday. The craft is question, a 209/1400 mod class submarine is the last of four that Egypt received with the aim enhance its defense capabilities and combat efficiency, an Egyptian military spokesman said in a statement.
According to The Times, HMS Monmouth and HMS Montrose, two Type 23 Frigates vessels, will be given to Greece as part of efforts to ‘sweeten the deal’ to sell the Greek Navy the Type 31 design. In March it was announced that Montrose as well as sister ship Monmouth would be decommissioned earlier than planned
Lockheed Martin won an $117.7 modification, which provides non-recurring engineering and field services representative efforts to bring 12 MH-60R aircraft from standard Foreign Military Sales (FMS) configuration to a Republic of Korea Navy configuration. The MH-60R is a naval version of the American-made UH-60 Black Hawk designed and manufactured by Sikorsky company which is now part of Lockheed Martin. Work will take place in Connecticut, France, New York and Rhode Island. Estimated completion date is in November 2026.
The Yomiuri reports that the Japan Ministry of Defense intends to deploy anti-ship and anti-air missile units to Ishigaki Island next year. The number of personnel will be between 500 to 600 and four islands in the Okinawa island chain will have missile bases.
Watch: Protecting HMS Queen Elizabeth: On The US Destroyer USS The Sullivans
Lockheed Martin won a $108.8 million modification for AEGIS combat system engineering agent (CSEA) efforts for the design, development, integration, test and delivery of Advanced Capability Build 20. The Aegis combat system uses powerful computers and radar to track and guide weapons to destroy enemy targets. More than 100 Aegis-equipped ships have been deployed in five navies worldwide. Aegis, not an acronym, refers to the shield of the mythical Greek God Zeus. Work will take place in Moorestown, New Jersey. Expected completion date will be in December 2021.
The US Air Force has successfully demonstrated that the F-16’s Electronic Warfare System can receive software updates with new Mission Data File while airborne. The test was carried out during a recent Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstration at Nellis Air Force Base. The jet downloaded the data file using an existing Beyond Line of Sight satellite communication system. It was processed by a custom-developed Center Display Unit software, and load into the ALQ-213 Countermeasures Signal Processor.
Middle East & Africa
The UK and Kenya have signed a new Defence Cooperation Agreement to tackle the shared threat from Al-Shabaab. According to the UK Ministry of Defense, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Defence Dr Monica Juma signed the deal. British troops currently help to train over 1,100 Kenyan soldiers every year before they deploy to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to fight Al-Shabaab and the British Army and Kenya Defence Force (KDF) conduct around five joint training exercises every year, involving around 750 Kenyan and 5,000 British troops.
The UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) today awarded BAE Systems approximately $348.77million to progress the design and development of Tempest, the UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS). The contract, signed by BAE Systems, officially marks the start of the programme’s concept and assessment phase. The programme is being delivered by Team Tempest – combining the expertise of the UK MOD, BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce. Working with international partners, the team is leading progress towards a UK-led internationally collaborative Future Combat Air System.
The UK Royal Navy (RN) Type 23 frigate HMS Portland has completed first-of-class sea acceptance trials (SATs) of Ultra Electronics’ Sonar 2150 bow-mounted medium-frequency sonar. Trials took place over multiple days at sea, detecting and tracking a target and proving its passive and active performance.
The US State Department approved a potential sale of 300 Javelin FGM-148 Missiles to Thailand accounts for another estimated $83.5 million. Thailand’s request would include 300 Javelin missiles, as well as 50 Command Launch Units, plus associated technical support and training. Thailand wants to use the Javelin to replace the 106mm Recoilless Rifles that the Royal Thai Army was given back during the Vietnam War; doing so will improve the country’s anti-tank capability and help with interoperability, according to the DSCA statement.
Watch: F-16 Fighting Falcon Fighter Jet Take Off U.S. Air Force
General Atomics won a $33.7 million contract, which provides for logistic support, maintenance services, supply chain and spares management, and sustainment support in support of the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft and its dual control mobile ground control station. The MQ-9 Reaper is the primary offensive strike unmanned aerial vehicle for the US Air Force. It is part of a remotely piloted aircraft system. A fully operational system consists of several sensor/weapon-equipped aircraft, ground control station, Predator Primary Satellite Link, and spare equipment along with operations and maintenance crews for deployed 24-hour missions. Work will take place in Arizona, Bahrain and California. Estimated completion date is in July 2022.
An MQ-4C in Integrated Functional Capability (IFC)-4 configuration has made its first flight at NAS Patuxent River on July 29. The press release added that multiple MQ-4Cs have been modified into the IFC-4 configuration in support of IOC in 2023.
Middle East & Africa
The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale worth $3.4 billion of 18 examples of the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter to Israel. The package includes the King Stallion helicopters, made by Lockheed Martin, in Shelton, Conn., and up to 60 T408-GE-400 engines, made by GE Aviation, in Lynn, Mass., as well as up to 36 embedded navigation systems with anti-spoofing and an unspecified number of GAU-21 .50-caliber machine guns.
A Russian Su-35 fighter has crashed into the Sea of Okhotsk on July 31 after experiencing an engine failure in mid-air. The pilot ejected and was recovered safely.
An Italian F-35B Lightning II, belonging to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) landed on the Italian Navy’s ITS Cavour aircraft carrier for the first time on July 30, 2021 during navigation in the Gulf of Taranto. The aircraft is the BL-4 built at the Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO), in northwestern Italy, and recently delivered with the serial MM7454 and codes “4-03”, which flew for the first time in June. As the other two F-35Bs delivered to the Navy, it features the wolf’s head insignia on the tail, the wolf’s paw prints on the rudder, the Italian Navy roundel and the “MARINA” text.
South Korea has started deploying an upgraded version of its indigenous 81-millimeter mortar system. According to Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the development of the system took five years and was completed in 2019. The system is about 20% lighter and can now be move easily due to having its own carrier vehicles.
Watch: Italian Navy F-35B Lands Aboard ITS Cavour for the First Time