* The F-35B has reached another program milestone following the completion of weapons load testing during trials on board the USS America assault ship. During the trials, pilots intentionally conducted flight tests under unfavorable conditions to gauge the fighter’s limitations; international partners also participated. The tests were part of F-35 program lead contractor Lockheed Martin’s third developmental test phase for the fighter, which aimed to assess the aircraft’s combat capabilities in a maritime environment. In comparison to its A counterpart, the F-35B is designed to include a short takeoff and vertical landing capability to allow for operation on naval vessels.
* Repairs on the last of 13 F-35A fighters affected by faulty insulation issues have been completed. In September, 57 aircraft suffered the coolant line glitch, 15 of which were already fielded, while the others were still in production. Both the company and the USAF maintain that the faulty parts were the result of a supply chain issue rather than a design flaw.
Middle East & North Africa
* A deal negotiated between Germany and Israel for the provision of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) submarines is garnering criticism for its unusual secrecy from Israeli naval and military officials. When compared to the three year procurement negotiations needed for the F-35, the submarines were concluded within one. While the F-35 involved much coordination and contact between US government and industry representatives, the IDF branches and Israeli government, this recent deal has failed to involve the naval branches and is being spearheaded solely by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A potential conflict of interest raised by some media outlets highlighted that Netanyahu and the Israeli agent for TKMS share the same attorney, and that attorney’s law partner is the same man who Netanyahu entrusts to negotiate the most sensitive affairs of state.
* Switzerland’s Defense Ministry plans to ask parliament next year for funding to extend the life expectancy of their F/A-18 Super Hornets. $486 million will be requested for the modernization. The Swiss Air Force is also looking to keep a number of their aging F-5 Tiger aircraft, until a new replacement fighter is selected in 2022 and inducted into service in 2025. Saab’s Gripen, the Eurofighter and Dassault’s Rafale are believed to be in the running and follow the 2014 rejection by Swiss voters to acquire 22 JAS-39 Gripen fighters.
* Inspired by the shell of the ironclad beetle, BAE Systems will use a bendable titanium alloy in their future military vehicles. Known as “memory metal alloy,” the flexible material will allow the suspension to “bounce back” into shape after impact, allowing operators to continue their mission with the vehicle. The company claims that their latest project marks the first time it will be used to build an entire suspension system.
* Russian industry is currently developing a new anti-tank missile set to replace the Khrizantema-S and Shturm-SM currently in service. The new tank-killing munition will come with a fire-and-forget targeting capability, capable of destroying moving and stationary air and ground targets, including main battle tanks, small surface ships, low-flying air targets and fortifications.
* Officials from South Korea have continued their negotiations in Washington over technologies needed for their KF-X fighter program. A request for AESA radar, infrared search and track, electro-optical target tracking devices, and jammer technology transfers was denied by the Pentagon last year, resulting in Seoul having to pursue the technologies themselves. Speaking on the discussions, Korean Minister for the Defense Acquisition and Procurement Administration (DAPA), Myoung-jin Chang, said “there are additional technologies that we are awaiting approval from the US government and we are pushing for these to be approved and we look forward to your continued support.”
* The final six of new training helicopters ordered by Australia have been cleared by lead-contractor Boeing. In 2014, Canberra selected a joint team involving Boeing, Thales and Airbus to provide them with the airframes, flight simulators and synthetic training devices, as well as instruction for army and navy pilots under their Helicopter Aircrew Training System program. The full compliment of 15 helicopters are Airbus’ H135 model, manufactured to the older T2+ standard.
Indian fighters land on the newly opened Agra-Lucknow expressway: