Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $1 billion modification for the Apache AH-64E full-rate production. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will be performed in Mesa, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of December 31, 2027. The Apache attack helicopter is a combat proven aircraft manufactured by American aerospace and defence company Boeing for the US Armed Forces.
AH-64 in Afghanistan
The AH-64 Apache will remain the US Army’s primary armed helicopter for several more decades, thanks to the collapse of the RAH-66 Comanche program, and the retirement sans replacement of the US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). Apaches also serve with a number of American allies, some of whom have already expressed interest in upgrading or expanding their fleets.
The AH-64E Guardian Block III (AB3) is the helicopter’s next big step forward. It incorporates 26 key new-technology insertions that cover flight performance, maintenance costs, sensors & electronics, and even the ability to control UAVs as part of manned-unmanned teaming (MUT). In July 2006, Boeing and U.S. Army officials signed the initial development contract for Block III upgrades to the current and future Apache fleet, via a virtual signing ceremony. By November 2011, the 1st production helicopter had been delivered. So… how many helicopters will be modified under the AH-64 Block III program, what do these modifications include, how is the program structured, and what has been happening since that 2006 award? The short answer is: a lot, including export interest and sales.
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
Nimitz Class cutaway
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
General Dynamics won a $9 million modification to exercise options on previously awarded contract N00024-23-C-4413 for the USS Arlington (LPD 24) fiscal 2023 docking selected restricted availability. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Virginia, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC), Norfolk, Virginia, is the contracting activity. The USS Arlington is a a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.
The United States Air Force (USAF) has confirmed that hypersonic missiles will not be bought in fiscal 2024. Instead, the Air Force will continue to focus on research and development of the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), which features a boost-glide hypersonic vehicle. The budget request for the upcoming fiscal year includes $150 million allocated to ARRW R&D. Aside from the ARRW, the request also includes $380 million for R&D on the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), which is a scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon. In December 2021, Raytheon Technologies was awarded a $985 million contract to continue its HACM development.
Middle East & Africa
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has recently inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Australian’s Daronmont Technologies, collaborating to bid on Australia’s Ministry of Defense Tender (AIR-6502) for the supply of Medium Range Ground Based Air Defense system. IAI’s wide Australian Industry Capability (AIC) plan will implement Daronmont’s established integration, manufacturing and development capabilities to supply BARAK-MX Air and Missile Defense (AMD) system – a battle-tested defense system – that will provide an efficient safeguard to the Australian Defense Forces (ADF) and other national properties. Moreover, it will deliver initial combat capability.
The British Ministry of Defense is reportedly investigating the supply of Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fighter jets to European MiG-29 operators. The ultimate aim is to replace the Soviet-era MiG 29 planes gifted by these operators to Ukraine, with these advanced Eurofighter aircraft. In parallel, Poland is considering gifting its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine within the next four to six weeks, a move that would bolster Ukrainian forces’ firepower. These planes are already familiar to the country’s air force and can be utilized immediately. However, both the UK and Poland have stated that this supply would be part of a larger international coalition. Other countries, including Slovakia, have also declared their readiness to provide their MiG-29 planes to Ukraine, and NATO nations have urged others to come forward.
The Swedish Defense Materiel Administration (FMV) has demonstrated a new battle management system (BMS) for the Swedish Armed Forces. Called the BMS 3.1.2, the capability grew out of trials to develop a command support system for the combat vehicles of the Swedish Army’s two training companies. An initial system, dubbed the LSS Mark 2.0, was fielded in 2021 but had technical deficiencies, according to FMV.
Russia said Wednesday it had started naval exercises with China and Iran in the Arabian Sea as it seeks to shore up ties with Beijing and Tehran. The Russian defense ministry said in a statement that the trilateral exercises dubbed the “Marine Security Belt 2023” had begun in the vicinity of the Iranian port of Chabahar. The naval part of the drills will take place on Thursday and Friday.
LPD-17 San Antonio class amphibious assault support vessels are just entering service with the US Navy, and 11 ships of this class are eventually slated to replace up to 41 previous ships. Much like their smaller predecessors, their mission is to embark, transport, land, and support elements of a US Marine Corps Landing Force. The difference is found in these ships’ size, their cost, and the capabilities and technologies used to perform those missions. Among other additions, this new ship is designed to operate the Marines’ new MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, alongside the standard well decks for hovercraft and amphibious armored personnel carriers.
While its design incorporates notable advances, the number of serious issues encountered in this ship class have been much higher than usual, and more extensive. The New Orleans shipyard to which most of this contract was assigned appears to be part of the problem. Initial ships have been criticized, often, for sub-standard workmanship, and it took 2 1/2 years after the initial ship of class was delivered before any of them could be sent on an operational cruise. Whereupon the USS San Antonio promptly found itself laid up Bahrain, due to oil leaks. It hasn’t been the only ship of its class hurt by serious mechanical issues. Meanwhile, costs are almost twice the originally promised amounts, reaching over $1.6 billion per ship – 2 to 3 times as much as many foreign LPDs like the Rotterdam Class, and more than 10 times as much as Singapore’s 6,600 ton Endurance Class LPD. This article covers the LPD-17 San Antonio Class program, including its technologies, its problems, and ongoing contracts and events.
Latest updates[?]: The British Ministry of Defense is reportedly investigating the supply of Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fighter jets to European MiG-29 operators. The ultimate aim is to replace the Soviet-era MiG 29 planes gifted by these operators to Ukraine, with these advanced Eurofighter aircraft. In parallel, Poland is considering gifting its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine within the next four to six weeks, a move that would bolster Ukrainian forces’ firepower. These planes are already familiar to the country’s air force and can be utilized immediately. However, both the UK and Poland have stated that this supply would be part of a larger international coalition. Other countries, including Slovakia, have also declared their readiness to provide their MiG-29 planes to Ukraine, and NATO nations have urged others to come forward.
The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
Northrop Grumman won a $57.5 million modification, which exercises options to provide continued sustainment, engineering, logistics, and test support for MQ-4C Triton air vehicles, mission control and operator training systems; continued field service representative’s technical support to ensure that the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) aircraft are mission-capable for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions supporting aircraft early operational capability and initial operating capability; and continued reach-back engineering support for both the Navy and the government of Australia MQ-4C Triton UAS assets. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, Maryland (36.5%); San Diego, California, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Mayport, Florida; Baltimore, Maryland; various location within the continental US (CONUS); and various location outside CONUS (12.7%), and is expected to be completed in March 2024.
Russia’s relations with the United States are in a “lamentable state” and at their lowest level after a Russian jet downed one of the US’ drones, the Kremlin has said. The US said a Russian fighter plane caused its drone MQ-9 Reaper to crash into the Black Sea on Tuesday, marking the first direct encounter between US and Russian forces since Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Middle East & Africa
For the first time, a civilian industry will provide maintenance services for operational systems employed by the Israeli Navy. The agreement aims to increase accessibility and efficiency, while reducing costs. In addition, routine maintenance work will be performed at the highest professional level, thus ensuring optimal operational capabilities. The multi-year agreement will extend for over 20 years and includes maintenance services for dozens of “Typhoon” remotely-controlled naval weapon stations (RCWS). The maintenance services provided by RAFAEL will bolster the technological and operational cooperation between RAFAEL and the Israeli Navy and establish maintenance capabilities for additional systems.
The Spanish Air Force has officially inked a deal to acquire an additional 16 PC-21s, reinforcing their pilot training division with more Pilatus trainer aircraft. Having decided to purchase 24 PC-21s in early 2020, this recent development now solidifies Spain’s position as the largest PC-21 operator in Europe. After using the PC-21 for over 18 months, the Spanish Air Force has been left in awe with how efficiently the integrated training system works. It provides a range of benefits from reliable and efficient aerodynamics and safety systems, to avionics that allow it to perform diverse phases of flight training. Lieutenant Colonel Ildefonso Martínez-Pardo González, AGA Air Operations Group Commander, noted that the PC-21 has exceeded their expectations and that their partnership with Pilatus has been exemplary.
The Polish military has deployed anti-tank barriers on its borders with Russia and Belarus to prepare for a potential escalation of the war in Ukraine. Poland could be heavily affected by the armed conflict should it spread beyond the borders of Ukraine. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz B?aszczak recently uploaded photos on Twitter showing his country’s security measures to protect its border with Kaliningrad Oblast.
Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), a military R&D and systems integration center, unveiled its version of the Switchblade miniature loitering munition. The press conference in Taichung highlighted three other indigenous unmanned air vehicles: Albatross II, Cardinal III, and new variants of Chien Hsiang. NCSIST official Chi Liping informed the media that the miniature loitering munition, which is yet to be named, can be used by a single soldier to accurately target high-threat targets, including high-value individuals and vehicles. The munition is like a large grenade that can be carried in a backpack and used for nearshore attacks. The munition has a range of over 10km and can loiter for more than 15 minutes, fitted with electro-optical and infrared cameras. It has been designed to self-destruct at the end of its flight.
Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems won a $48.5 million modification for AEGIS fielding and sustainment engineering support, software development, in-service maintenance, integration, and logistics and fielding support for AEGIS combat system configurations already delivered, or in the process of being delivered, to the Navy fleet. Work will be performed in Moorestown, New Jersey (96%); and Dahlgren, Virginia, and is expected to be completed by December 2023.
The Canadian government is considering purchasing 14 P-8A Poseidon aircraft from Boeing under a $6-billion deal. The information surfaced after Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand traveled to the US to meet with representatives from Boeing and discuss future military programs and collaborations. In 2022, Ottawa issued a request for information for a new multi-mission aircraft to replace its fleet of 14 CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.
Middle East & Africa
Elbit Systems was awarded a contract to supply Electronic Warfare (EW) self-protection suites for a fighter aircraft that is being supplied to a NATO member country in Europe. As part of the contract, Elbit Systems will equip the aircraft with its EW self-protection suite, including Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) and Countermeasure Dispensing Systems (CMDS). The operational and combat-proven RWR rapidly detects and accurately locates a wide range of enemy threats, even in a dense EW environment, enabling reliable and timely warnings to the aircrew, and an automated or manual response by the CMDS.
In a move to bolster Belgium’s military capabilities, the Council of Ministers has given the green light to the acquisition of 20 light helicopters, 15 of which will be utilized by the army while the remaining five will be allocated for the police force. The purchase will be facilitated through NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). The NSPA serves as a centralized purchasing and support agency for NATO, working to enhance the alliance’s military capabilities and effectiveness. It provides a wide range of services, including acquisition and procurement, logistics and supply chain management, operational and systems support, and scientific and technical services.
Madrid’s unresolved orders for the Airbus A400M airlifter, the biggest defense project in Europe, are in turmoil and may have a significant impact on aviation investment in one of Airbus’s co-founding nations. Sources in the defense sector have disclosed that Spain is becoming increasingly hesitant about delivering the remaining 13 planes from their initial order of 27, indicating that the Spanish Air Force may not require them. This implies that only 14 A400M cargo planes will be in service with the Spanish Air Force. Designed to boost the strategic autonomy of seven European NATO nations, the A400M project has been hit by cost overruns and delays. As a result, any decision over the future of the A400M is expected to trigger intense negotiations over alternative defense orders and Airbus’s ongoing investment in Spain.
The US is preparing to sell three to five nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, an unprecedented step that’s expected to pave the way for Canberra to co-develop and then eventually build its own attack boats in the decades ahead, President Joe Biden announced Monday alongside his allied counterparts. Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese detailed a three-phrase approach in the Australia-UK-US deal known as AUKUS, which ultimately ends with London and Canberra creating advanced versions of the highly sensitive vessel for their navies.
According to Defense Post, The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is developing a next-generation missile concept with a rapidly pivoting forebody. The missile’s “active morphing” capability increases its range and effectiveness against highly maneuverable targets at a limited cost. The missile’s agility is achieved through the articulation control actuation system (ACAS), a “composite high-strain skin structure that envelops an internal electromagnetic actuation system,” the AFRL explained.
On March 10th, Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram visited Kyiv, Ukraine, and announced that Norway will be sending two NASAMS air defense systems to Ukraine. Gram noted that Ukraine is in dire need of additional air defense systems and Oslo is providing assistance. The United States also previously announced in January that they will be transferring NASAMS air defense systems to Ukraine as part of a new aid package. The NASAMS missile systems are medium-range complexes developed in the 1990s by the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace in partnership with the American Raytheon. Norway will be providing Ukraine with two complete NASAMS firing units in cooperation with the United States, which will add to the two firing units that the United States provided last fall.
Middle East & Africa
Lockheed Martin announced Friday that it has completed developing the first export version of its F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft for the Royal Bahraini Air Force. A ceremony to mark the milestone was held in Greenville, South Carolina, with defense representatives from Bahrain and the US in attendance. According to the company, the advanced aircraft is the first of 16 under order as part of a $1.1 billion deal signed in 2018.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF)have signed an agreement to extend their bilateral Typhoon cooperation for two more years. The partnership comprises 12 Squadron, a British-Qatari Eurofighter Typhoon unit formed in 2018 to serve as the first joint squadron between the nations since World War II.
The Finnish government has granted Estonia a license to re-export D-30 towed howitzers to Ukraine. The grant includes ammunition. The number of guns to be exported was not revealed. Estonia announced the delivery of the Soviet gun to Ukraine as part of a weapons package worth 220 million euros ($235 million) in April 2022.
KF-21 Boramae, produced by Korea Aerospace Industry, has successfully completed its first night flight test, following the first prototype’s maiden flight in July of last year, with a gap of seven months. The KF-21 program is a major step forward for South Korea’s domestic aerospace industry, as it aims to develop a domestically produced advanced multi-role fighter aircraft, which can replace its aging fleet of F-4 fighter jets currently in service. KF-21 prototypes 3 and 4 departed from the South Korean Air Force’s 3rd Training Flight Center on the evening of March 9th, flying over the southern region of the Korean peninsula for about an hour. The aircraft maintained an altitude of 20,000 feet and a speed of approximately 248 knots.
North Korea has fired two strategic cruise missiles from the “8.24 Yongung” submarine in the waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula. This recent act by North Korea has escalated tensions in the region and violates United Nations resolutions banning the country from developing or testing missile technology. North Korea’s state news agency KCNA says the cruise missiles successfully hit their targets after traveling 1,500 kilometers, proving the country’s advanced military capabilities. The missiles are believed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
WATCH: Big Blow to Russia from Norway! Norway to Send 2 NASAMS Systems to Ukraine!
Boeing won a $18.7 million order to procure the long lead components and parts in support of MH-47G rotary wing aircraft. The MH-47G aircraft provides US Special Operations Forces heavy assault, rotary wing aircraft support. This contract action supports a requirement for replacement of the aging fleet of remanufactured MH-47G aircraft that has airframe components dating back more than 45 years and maximize commonality with the Army’s CH-47F Block II aircraft. The majority of the work will be performed in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.
The US Air Force has contracted Persistent Systems to establish seamless networking at the country’s three strategic-missile bases. The company has already begun installing the world’s largest mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) across an area of 25,000 square miles (64,750 square kilometers) at the Malmstrom, Minot, and Francis E. Warren bases, home to 400 Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The $75.5 million installation will take 36 months to complete.
Middle East & Africa
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems will exhibit at DSEI JAPAN 2023, a comprehensive defense and security exhibition to be held March 15-17, 2023, at Makuhari Messe in Chiba City, Japan. Through its exhibit, the company will introduce its cutting-edge defense technologies that provide crucial security solutions for the most advanced threats. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. has developed, produced and manufactured some of the world’s most sophisticated and commonly used defense systems. The portfolio boasts combat proven and technologically advanced systems like the TROPHY Active Protection System and the IRON DOME Missile Defense system. Both of these technologies achieved recognition by a 2020 Forbes assessment of the “Most Important New Weapons of the Last Decade.”
Iran has launched the mass-production line for its domestically-developed training jet, Yasin. The new jet trainer was unveiled during a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by senior military officials, including Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani. The Defense Minister explained that the Yasin is capable of carrying out various tactical aerial warfare actions, such as close air support (CAS), in addition to combat missions. Before the development of the Yasin, jet pilot training for Iranian pilots was conducted outside Iran, as western and US sanctions prevented Iranian pilots from receiving training abroad. However, Iran began designing jet trainers over a decade ago, and the Yasin is the second generation of a prototype that was first introduced in 2019. This latest version of the Yasin is equipped with a homegrown ejection seat, avionics, engine, landing gear, and full cockpit devices, which are all manufactured domestically.
The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) has begun testing four competing proposals for its 8.6-millimeter sniper rifle project. Arms manufacturers Sako, Haenel, Unique Alpine, and Desert Tech showcased their pitches ahead of a final selection later this Spring. During the trial, the tenderers assessed the technical suitability of the competing sniper rifles by integrating various accessories. The test firing also determined the accuracy and reliability of the weapons and their optical sights.
The Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Toowoomba Anzac-class frigate has conducted a live-fire test using an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) off the coast of Western Australia. The trial marks the first time the vessel has fired the weapon since its revamp under the Aznac Midlife Capability Assurance Program. Alongside the demonstration, the service validated the Toowoomba’s onboard combat systems and overall operational readiness.
WATCH: Iran unveils Yasin training jet’s production line
Boeing will commence production of the first 13 MH-139A Grey Wolf multi-mission helicopters under a $285-million contract with the US Air Force. The production begins an effort to replace the service’s aging UH-1N Huey fleet with up to 84 MH-139As. Once delivered, the helicopters will be used for aircrew survival training, airlift missions, and intercontinental ballistic missile support. Each MH-139A will have 50 percent more speed and range and 5,000 pounds (2,300 kilograms) maximum gross weight compared to its predecessor.
All F-35 fighter jets should be retrofitted within 90 days with a fix intended to solve a potential engine vibration problem, the F-35 Joint Program Office said Thursday. The JPO issued an order Wednesday evening recommending the fleetwide retrofit — globally, not just American aircraft — over the next three months, as well as immediately putting it in place for a “small number” of fighters that have been grounded since December.
Middle East & Africa
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), through its defense electronics subsidiary, ELTA Systems, has announced the release of its new multi-mission ARC 840 Software Defined Radio – Network Centric Operations (SDR-NCO) system. The latest product in ELTA’s line of military airborne communications systems, SDR-NCO draws on decades of experience in the development of high-performance communications solutions, including advanced Line of Sight (LOS) and AESA satellite terminal systems. The SDR-NCO provides voice, video and data communications over a comprehensive frequency range including VHF, UHF and L-Bands. It is interoperable with a wide variety of existing military and commercial radios – allowing aircrews to communicate with forces on the ground, in the air, and on the sea, for effective collaboration across a diverse task force.
Romania plans to buy a battalion’s worth of Abrams tanks from the United States, with a request to approve the acquisition expected to be sent shortly to the Romanian parliament, according to Maj. Gen. Teodor Incica?, the head of the armaments directorate at the country’s Ministry of Defense. Incica? said in an interview with Observatorul Militar, a podcast produced by the ministry, that the tank type was selected after the General Staff of the Romanian Land Forces decided it was best suited to strengthen the service’s combat punch.
Germany is considering purchasing many Boxer armored vehicles from Australia in a potential $1.9-billion deal. The development was reported by Andrew Tillett in the Australian Financial Review, citing Berlin’s $157-billion spending spree on new weapons and equipment. According to the report, negotiations are in the advanced stages, and deliveries could begin as soon as 2024. The outlet also noted that Germany’s planned acquisition could be much bigger than the Australian Army’s order, which covers 211 Boxer vehicles.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense has assessed that the use of manned fighter jets has limitations in responding to the increased number of scrambles needed to counter the risk of unauthorized entry into Japanese airspace. Of significant interest is the fact that the Ministry is contemplating using unmanned aerial vehicles to scramble for balloons as well. As a part of their initiatives, the Self-Defense Forces aim to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured in the United States, which they plan to purchase. Initially, they will utilize these vehicles to track ships sailing offshore, with the intention of gradually increasing their capabilities to respond to fast-moving aircraft and balloons, which have recently gained attention.
WATCH: A Look Inside the M1 Abrams – POV of Tank Crewman [Training]