DoD grounds all F-35s | Lockheed Martin & Rheinmetall pitch Black Hawk to Germany | China’s new stealth-bomber is making progress
Parts of the global F-35 fleet are currently grounded in the wake of one of the aircraft crashing in South Carolina two weeks ago. The initial investigation that followed the incident, concluded that the crash was caused by a faulty fuel tube. The DoD’s Joint Program Office says in a statement that “the US Services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft.” So far, the F-35 has run into its share of problems, including faulty ejection seats, software issues and maintenance problems. The US military currently has 245 JSF’s in its service while there are 75 F-35s in the international fleet. However, whereas the Israeli Air Force halted all F-35i flights, the UK decided not to ground its jets but paused some F-35 flying as a “precautionary measure.”
Iridium Satellite LLC is being awarded with a $44 million contract modification that provides for the extension of services on the current airtime contract. The DoD is Iridium’s largest single customer, with the company supplying up to 40 percent of DoD satellite demand. From 2015 through 2017, Iridium replaced its former low-earth-orbit satellite constellation with a total of 72 new satellites and on-orbit spares, which provide more features, more flexibility, and more bandwidth to US troops. Performance of this contract will be at Iridium’s facility in Tempe, Arizona and is set to run from October 22, 2018 through to April 21, 2019.
Middle East & Africa
The Cameroonian military is taking delivery of its new Panthera T6 armored personnel carriers (APCs). The Panthera T6 is produced by Dubai-based firm Minerva Special Purpose Vehicles (MSPV). The APC is based on the Toyota 79-series 4×4 chassis and can be used in urban and cross-country patrol and border security operations. The T-6 is available in various body configurations and offers protection against assault rifle fire and two DM51 hand grenades. The T6 is powered by a 4 litre V6 petrol engine driving all four wheels through a five speed manual transmission. It seats two plus six, although other seating arrangements are available. The Cameroonian military will equip its Rapid Intervention Battalions with the new APC’s. The Battalions are currently conducting on a counter-insurgency deployment in the southwest and northwest regions.
Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall are teaming up in an attempt to land a tender to supply new heavy-lift helicopters to the German military. Together they will make a joint bid to supply the German navy and air force with a number of MH-60s. The navy is currently in the process of replacing its fleet of 21 Westland Sea Lynx ASW helicopters, which will be retired in 2025. The air force also plans to replace its current fleet of heavy-lift helicopters, a process that will likely cost about $4.6 billion. Competitors for this tender will likely include Airbus with its NH90 and AgustaWestland.
Flight Global reports that OCCAR is moving forward to upgrade the fleet of Tiger attack helicopters. The European defense procurement agency has placed two multinational de-risking contracts that are directly linked to the planned mid-life upgrade program for the Tiger. The program consists of a series of agreements with Airbus, MBDA and Thales and is conducted on behalf of France, Germany and Spain, which currently have 136 Tigers in their fleets. The program will bring the Tiger to an enhanced Mk III standard that sees for the integration of new avionics and an improved weapon system. OCCAR currently plans to reintroduce the first modernised helicopter to operational use between 2025 and 2026.
Chinese media confirms what years of reports and rumors suggested, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will soon be able to fly a new stealth-bomber. A documentary broadcast by China Central Television claims that the Hong-20 or H-20 is currently making “great progress” and will soon make its maiden flight. The Chinese government had disclosed it was working on this type of aircraft in 2015, but did not give it an official designation at that time. The bomber is developed by the Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. There is little hard data about the H-20, but the information that is available says that it will reportedly be a stealthy flying wing that can carry at least 10 tons of weaponry out to an unrefueled range of approximately 5,000 miles. The Hong-20 will be an essential platform for China’s nuclear triad consisting of ground-based ICMBs, sea-launched SLBMs and nukes launched from long-range bombers. Experts believe that the aircraft will make its first flight in early 2020.
The South Korean military is opting for Raytheon’s Standard Missile family to thwart potential missile attacks from North Korea. Maj. Gen. Kim Sun-ho, the head of Joint Chiefs of Staff’s force buildup planning bureau recently confirmed that the military will procure the naval-based SM-3 interceptor. The SM-3 will be part of the Korea Air and Missile Defense network (KAMD) and serve along the US Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. The SM-3 is designed to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and its Block IB variant allows for defense against medium range missiles fielded by countries like North Korea and Iran, and some Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles developed by those regimes. No details about the timetable for adopting the SM-3 have been given so far.
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