* The USAF has lifted its two-year ban on lightweight pilots flying the F-35, after concerns that an ejection could cause a severe neck injury. The approval means the Martin-Baker Mk16 ejection seat meets the original service specification for the F-35A, which requires the manufacturer to accommodate all pilots weighing over 46.7kg. To solve the problem, changes were made to the helmet, the ejection seat and the ejection sequence. The Vision Systems International helmet saw a weight reduction, while the ejector seat had a head support installed onto the rear risers of the seat as a cushion as well as a switch that modifies the ejection sequence in the event the pilot needs to exit the cockpit in flight. The modifications will now be retrofitted on 100 F-35As already delivered to the USAF and enter Lockheed’s production system.
* Textron’s Fury precision-guided glide munition has completed flight-testing. The company announced that a total of 13 test flights for the Fury weapon were conducted for a 23.8 flight hours between captive carriage, survey flights and 10 weapon releases from unmanned aircraft systems. On two occasions, the Fury flew with Textron’s Shadow UAS from an altitude of 8,000 feet and a standoff range from the target of nearly a mile. The new system features a common interface that allows for rapid integration on multiple manned and unmanned platforms. It has tri-mode fuzing—impact, height of burst and delay—for engagement of a broad target set.
Middle East & North Africa
* Lockheed Martin has received a delivery order from the USAF for the provision of 14 Sniper targeting pods to Kuwait. The pods will be installed on the Gulf state’s fleet of F/A-18C/D aircraft. Since 2016, the firm have also began efforts to integrate the pods on Kuwait’s Typhoon aircraft. Deliveries of the new pods are expected to commence on 2018 in order to address “urgent operational needs” in the Kuwaiti Air Force. A member of the Saudi-led coalition currently involved in Yemen, Kuwait has contributed aircraft to conduct airstrikes during the intervention.
* A DoD foreign military sales contract awarded to Lockheed Martin will see the firm conduct work for Qatar’s Patriot system. Valued at $25.4 million, the variants scheduled to be worked on by the firm include the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and Missile Enhancement Aft Block I redesign. Work will be conducted in Grand Prairie, Texas, and Lufkin, Texas, with the program expected to be completed by May 15, 2020.
* An MQ-9 Reaper UAV operated by the British RAF recently interrupted a public execution by the Islamic State. While flying over the town of Abu Kamal, flight crew had noticed two shackled prisoners being unloaded from a pick up truck in front of a large crowd. Unable to target militants located near the civilians, a Hellfire missile was fired at two IS sentries posted on a nearby roof. The explosion killed one of the militants while remaining fighters and public fled. However, it remains unclear if the prisoners due to be executed escaped or were taken away by their would-be executioners.
* The British Royal Navy operated HMS Queen Elizabeth will receive its first F-35B aircraft next year, with the new aircraft carrier also receiving Merlin, Apache, Wildcat and Chinook helicopters. Royal Navy sailors have also trained alongside their US Navy counterparts on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, with British personnel fully embedded in the USS Wasp trials and will use the data gathered from this event for future trials and operational deployments to support the UK’s flying trials aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018. British F-35 pilots also recently embarked on the USS America for at-sea developmental testing phase 3 (known as DT), the last trial that paves the way for the US Marine Corps to deploy the jet operationally on amphibious assault ships.
* Full-scale flight testing of the Ka-62 medium helicopter is scheduled to take place later this year. Designed by the Kamov design bureau as the civilian variant of the Ka-60 military helicopter, the Ka-62 has been developed to perform a wide range of operations, including the transportation of passengers, rescue efforts and works in the interests of the oil and gas industry. It can carry up to 15 people or 2.5 tonnes of cargo.
* Australia’s DoD has announced plans to invest $965 million in order to develop infrastructure at the country’s naval shipyards. Known as the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, the investment is aimed at ending the boom-and-bust cycle that has afflicted the industry for many years, and preparing its shipyards for the development and manufacture of next-generation vessels. Included in the work will be new cranes and heavy lift transportation capability, the construction of welding stations and modernization of workshops and buildings. Under the government’s 2016 White Paper on Defense, Australia is planning to build about $66.7 billion worth of submarines, frigates and patrol boats over the next 35 years.
* Textron Fury: