Exchange Rate Causes Sharp Rise in Dutch F-35 Program | UK to Launch Competition for Infantry Vehicle | UK MoD Signs $39.5M Contract for ISR UAVs
- Air Force Special Operations Command is reported to be looking to acquire an expendable unmanned system capable of acting as remote sensors deployable from C-130 gunships. A Coyote UAV is currently being used as a concept-demonstrator, with a longer-term solution also reported to be underway. AFSOC also wants to see lasers incorporated into the gunship of the future, retaining some aging C-130s to use as test beds. The Air Force wants industry to come up with a solution for an electric-powered laser weapon to equip the AC-130J by the end of the decade, the first aircraft of which was delivered at the end of July.
- The Dutch F-35 program could rise in cost by an additional half-million euros, bringing the program up to EUR5.2 billion ($5.9 billion). The rising cost has been attributed to the dollar’s exchange rate, something likely to continue altering the program’s costs as the Dutch place incremental orders to eventually fulfill their requirement for 37 F-35s, replacing their fleet of F-16s. The first tranche of eight F-35s was ordered in March, with these scheduled for delivery in 2019.
- The UK’s Ministry of Defence is reportedly close to relaunching a competition to equip the British Army with a 8×8 wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, following a breakdown in negotiation between the MoD and General Dynamics in 2008. The British Army has already got underway testing various vehicles, with the winning design set to operate alongside the recently-renamed Ajax (formerly Scout) family of armored vehicles, currently under construction by General Dynamics in Wales.
- Italian armaments manufacturer Beretta has unveiled its ARX-200 battle rifle design, intended to supply Italian special forces [Italian] as part of the country’s future soldier program. Final production models of the 7.62mm rifle are reportedly scheduled for delivery to the Italian army later this year, with the rifle likely to be used as a designated marksman rifle, equipping one soldier per section.
- The SOM-J cruise missile currently being developed by Lockheed Martin and Turkish firm Roketsan is reportedly scheduled for flight testing in 2017. The testing on an F-16 fighter will lay the foundation for integration testing on the F-35. Recently entering a risk reduction phase, the SOM-J is intended to fit inside the F-35’s internal weapons bay, with the two firms signing a cooperation agreement at DSEI to further develop the missile.
- The United Kingdom’s Defence Ministry is bringing two ISR UAVs into its equipment “core fleet”, signing support contracts worth £23 million ($39.5 million) on Thursday. The Black Hornet nano and Desert Hawk III UAVs were used extensively by British troops in Afghanistan. The former recently underwent testing with the US Army, while the Desert Hawk IV design is also reported to be undergoing evaluation.
Asia & Pacific
- With Airbus walking away from the competition earlier this month, the Japanese Defense Ministry has reportedly selected the Boeing KC-46A to supply the country’s next generation refuelling tanker. Price negotiations are now scheduled, with the number of tankers the Defense Ministry plans to procure not yet determined. Boeing lost out in South Korea to the Airbus A330 MRTT in July.
- Thailand has opted to buy four Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 trainer/light attack jets, with the South Korean design fending off competition from the Hongdu L15. Thailand joins South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines as the fourth Asian state operating the T-50, with the jet also participating in Peru’s light attack aircraft competition.
- The Pentagon and India’s Defence Ministry are fast-tracking India’s Foreign Military Sale acquisition of 145 M777 Howitzers, following delays to the acquisition. The two sides are reported to be jointly drafting a letter of acceptance, following procurement clearance of the BAE Systems-manufactured guns by the Indian government in May. With a revised price of $700 million, the letter of acceptance is also reported as a prompt for BAE Systems to kick offset arrangements in motion with local Indian firms, with this estimated to cover approximately 30% of the contract’s value.
- AVIC has unveiled an upgraded version of its Wing Loong UAV, with the II model reportedly capable of carrying a dozen air-to-surface missiles, ten more than the Wing Loong I design. Still in development, the larger Wing Loong II is also reportedly equipped with synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical sensors and self-protection systems. The Wing Loong I recently carried out weapons drops, reportedly involving eight different weapon types. The new model bears a strong resemblance to the MQ-9 Reaper and is thought to possess similar performance characteristics.
- US forces with the M777:
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