* After sensationally backing out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Canadian government will not exclude the jet from the renewed CF-18 replacement competition. Canadian minister of national defence Harjit Sajjan said at the annual Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) that once the government determines its needs, and capabilities are specified, potential contractors will be allowed to bid, including Lockheed Martin with its F-35. The announcement marks the first time that Sajjan has explicitly said that the F-35 could still be in the running, after weeks of hinting at the possibility.
* Textron AirLand may be on the brink of pulling out of the USAF’s T-X trainer competition their Scorpion design. The plane falls outside the air force’s stringent requirements, and unless a change in parameters occur, a clean sheet design would provide too costly for the company. The T-X trainers require fly-by-wire technology, high-powered engines and advanced handling qualities, each of which “generally corresponds to high cost.” The news comes as Raytheon has announced its inclusion in the T-100 bid, offered jointly with Honeywell, Finmeccanica and CAE.
* Despite a successful start to the KC-46 Milestone C demonstrations, Boeing is still under pressure to keep to its tight window to have 46 of the tankers operational by August 2017. The original schedule is at present eight months behind after a number of setbacks, and leaves little room for error until the delivery deadline. While funding of the program and technical difficulties are not a contributing factor, it’s feared that the Air Mobility Command (AMC) won’t have sufficient time for the 767-2C-based tankers to declare initial operational capability on schedule.
Middle East North Africa
* Delivery of Mistral warships to Egypt is expected for September this year as 180 Egyptian naval officers prepare to go to France at the end of March for training. It’s believed that tactical training is being provided by specialists from manufacturer DCNS, shipbuilders STX France, and DCI Navfco, as well as training and support consultants to an advance group already there. Each vessel can carry 16 helicopters, four amphibious landing craft, 70 armored vehicles, and 450 soldiers; with the helicopters on board to be navalized Ka-52K attack helicopters from Russia. The sale sees Egypt’s arms sales from France increasingly grow, with negotiations ongoing between them and DCNS for four Gowind corvettes.
* Final assembly has begun on the first two of Poland’s ordered M-346 trainers from Finmeccanica. A total of eight have been ordered, with deliveries to begin in 2016 for the contract including logistic support; a training program for pilots and engineers, and a state of the art Ground Based Training Systems. Orders of the M-346 of late amount to 59 with Italy, Israel, and Singapore all awaiting awaiting deliveries.
* French arms exports have reached their highest yearly output of over $15 billion in 2015. The figure was pushed upward with the planned $7.1 billion sale of 24 Rafale fighters to Qatar, where French President Francois Hollande will sign an agreement in May in Doha. The Qatari deal marks the third large export of the fighter in recent times after sales to Egypt and India. Total exports mark a large increase over 2014, which saw $9.15 billion in sales with the French procurement agency DGA hiring extra staff to help streamline its procurement process.
* The European Parliament has voted to implement an EU-wide arms export embargo on Saudi Arabia. While not binding to member states, the resolution calls for a ban on all weapons sales to the country, amid growing concerns of war crimes committed during its ongoing war in Yemen which included the bombing of multiple hospitals run by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières. UK firms in particular may come under increased pressure with sales to Saudi Arabia which have amounted to $3.9 billion since the conflict in Yemen started.
* Australia’s recently released defence whitepaper has called for an additional $21.4 billion over the next ten years. This adjusted figure will push Australian defence spending to $42.4 billion annually in 2020-21, or two percent of gross domestic. The paper focuses on maintained acquisition of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, including adding an additional seven P-8A Poseidon aircraft to have a total fleet of 15, and five Gulfstream G550 aircraft from the early 2020s that will be modified for electronic warfare missions. Canberra also plans to continue with the purchase of seven Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned air vehicles.
* Full military thrust take-off of Japan’s X-2: