* Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg met with President Trump last week, as the men hammered out a new deal on a contract for two new Air Force One aircraft. While an agreement has yet to be finalized, the US Air Force (USAF) is seeking that Boeing agrees to a fixed-price contract that will see them absorb any cost overruns on the conversion of two 747 jumbo airliners that the service bought last summer. According to the USAF’s 2019 Fiscal Year funding proposal released last week, $4 billion has been requested for the project, an estimate that Trump had described last year as too expensive—even though only $170 million had been awarded to Boeing at the time for preliminary designs—later boasting that he had managed to knock $1 billion off that $4 billion estimate. Time will tell how much savings were made, if any.
* Raytheon and Lockheed Martin’s Javelin JV operation landed a $94.8 million foreign military sales (FMS) contract from the US Army on Thursday, February 22, tasked with providing the customers with its anti-tank Javelin weapon system. The agreement will see France, Taiwan, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, and Lithuania receive the systems, which also include rounds, command launch systems and battery coolant unit spares. Work will take place in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be completed by August 2020.
* Issues concerning the 30mm GAU-23/A cannon on the AC-130J Ghostrider gunship have been put down to software issues, after testers identified problems such as recentering the cannon after being fired last month. Speaking to reporters, the head of US Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, said he was confident that the problems could be fixed with software patches. “Do we have software issues we need to address? Sure, but the testing continues forward,” he said, adding that news surrounding the snafu has been largely overblown.
Middle East & Africa
* F-15QA fighter aircraft being produced for Qatar will come with a newly designed wing, as manufacturer Boeing prepares to offer the design option for any future structural upgrades ordered for the US Air Force’s F-15Cs. Speaking to Flight Global, Steve Parker, Boeing’s vice-president of F-15 programs said the QA variant introduces a number of previously-announced features, including an advanced cockpit system with a large format display, and that the redesigned wing will strengthen the internal structure of the fighter without changing its aerodynamics. If the USAF decide to keep its F-15Cs flying for another two decades, the new features will be offered as part of any service life extension work ordered, and could also be offered to any other operators of F-15 aircraft, such as Japan.
* Sweden joins Romania and Poland as the latest government to purchase the Patriot Configuration-3+ air defense system, after the potential sale was cleared by the US State Department last week. Valued at an estimated $3.2 billion, the package includes four Patriot Configuration-3+ Modernized Fire Units consisting of: four AN/MPQ-65 radar sets, four AN/MSQ-132 engagement control stations, nine antenna mast groups, 12 M903 launching stations, 100 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missile-TBM (GEM-T) missiles, 200 Patriot Advanced Capabilty-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles, and four Electrical Power Plants (EPP) III. Also included are communications equipment and technical publications, along with training equipment. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have been listed as prime contractors, and 24 US Government and 32 contractor representatives will be sent to Sweden for an extended period for equipment de-processing/fielding, system checkout, training, and technical and logistics support.
* A British Royal Navy Sea King helicopter has been deployed to Europe for the last time, recently completing a two-week deployment to the Netherlands. During its stint, the Mk7 “eyes in the sky” early warning helicopter from 849 Naval Air Squadron took part in Exercise Skinners’ Gold 4, directing Dutch F-16s over the North Sea and northern Holland for mock intercepts of enemy aircraft. The helicopter is being phased out in September, being replaced by the crowsnest system which will be fitted on Merlin Mk2 helicopters.
* An anonymous source in the Indonesian Navy has said the service will receive four ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) this summer, Jane’s reports. The UAVs along with their support equipment are being procured by a grant provided by the US government under a capacity building program for allied Southeast Asian navies and coastguards known as the Maritime Security Initiative (MSI), with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia also involved. The scheme aims to help boost these nation’s capabilities to defend and survey their maritime territories and economic resources, as well as allowing them to better contribute to regional maritime security.
* More anonymous naval sources—this time retired and from Japan—have told the Japanese daily, Asahi Shimbun, that Tokyo’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyers have already been designed to operate short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) fighters. One person quoted said during the design phase of the ship, consideration was given to have the F-35B operate from the vessels someday, while another added that a ski-jump was to be added when the ship is required to operate the F-35B. While Japanese defense officials have expressed their desire to procure the F-35B, funding has yet to be allocated as the government focuses on upping numbers of the conventional take-off A-variant.
* The future Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79):