* An issue with the F-35‘s ejection seat has grounded lightweight pilots from flying the aircraft, according to a report by Defense News. The issue was uncovered during testing in August and the restriction (of pilots weighing less than 136lb) is reportedly only an interim measure until the manufacturer – Martin-Baker – can develop a solution to the problem in cooperation with the F-35’s Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin. Fighter ejection seats are supposed to be capable of accommodating pilots weighing between 103 and 246lbs.
* Northrop Grumman has been handed a $3.2 billion IDIQ contract to develop, retrofit, modernize and sustain the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet, with the contract running to 2020. Cost estimates for Global Hawk modernization efforts out to 2020 – originally slated as $4 billion in May – were subsequently revised down to approximately half of that earlier this month.
* Defense Department officials have warned against continued consolidation in the US defense industry, with DefSec Carter keen to assert that the clearance of the $9 billion Sikorsky acquisition by Lockheed Martin should not be the start of an emerging trend. Aside from reduced competitive pressure, a smaller number of defense prime contractors could drive up prices and down performance; a view somewhat contested by industry players.
* Boeing will develop an electronic warfare (EW) system for the Air Force’s fleet of F-15 fighters, along with BAE Systems. The new, digital system known as the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) will replace the current Tactical Electronic Warfare System in operation with F-15C and E aircraft. Prime contractor Boeing has subcontracted BAE Systems to develop EPAWSS, with the program valued at approximately $4 billion.
* DARPA has demonstrated its Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) prototype aboard a Navy ship (see video below), with the fully-automated system designed to carry communications and intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) sensors higher than a ship’s mast. The system has been undergoing rigorous testing on the east coast, with modified designs for different vessel classes. A part of the Tactical Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program – a joint ONR and DARPA effort – the TALONS system is part of a broader effort to improve distributed airborne capabilities across the Navy fleet.
* The French Direction Générale de l’Armement test-launched an M51 strategic ballistic missile on Wednesday from a site on the south-west coast of France. The missile will equip the French Navy’s next-generation ballistic missile subs, with each missile carrying six to ten MIRV warheads. An M51 missile failed a submarine test launch in May 2013, with this latest test the seventh test launch of the missile since 2006, which entered service in 2010.
* The Mistral LHD resale to Egypt has cost the French taxpayer between EUR200 and EUR250 million, according to a report [French] delivered by the country’s Senate. Industry has also seen a loss of approximately EUR90 to EUR146 million, including profit loss and uninsured expenses such as maintenance. The two Mistrals previously destined for Russia are expected to be delivered to Egypt next year, following a deal announced earlier this month.
* The Czech Republic may be buying TITUS armored vehicles, following a recommendation by the country’s Defence Ministry to the government that the 6×6 vehicle, produced by Nexter Systems, be selected on cost efficiency grounds over the locally-designed VEGA 4×4 design. The Army of the Czech Republic requires 42 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles with the program valued at $111 million. The Vega reportedly scoring 12 points compared to the TITUS’ 25 in trials.
* Jordan is upgrading four Border Patrol Aircraft with intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) through a $9.8 million contract with L-3 Communications, rather than MC-12W aircraft previously speculated by IHS Janes. The four IOMAX AT-802 aircraft were received as part of a package of six aircraft transferred to Jordan from the UAE in 2013.
* The prototype TALONS system: