F-35 Service Life Extended to 2070 | $33B in Weapons Sales to GCC Over 11 Months | US State Dept Approves Sale of P-A8’s to UK
- F-35s are going to be in the sky longer than expected with their service life now extended to 2070. After military branches made tweaks to the number of flight hours their fleets should log before retirement, it was announced that the program may be extended for an additional six years. Between all military branches operating the aircraft, a total of 1.6 million flight hours have been added, which will boost the operating and support (O&S) costs by $45 billion over the 2015 estimate (hiding the 2-4% drop in real 0&S costs over the life of the program).
- Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have been awarded “not-to-exceed” contracts by the USAF for $60 and $70 million respectively. The award is for both companies to further develop their competing long-range, wide-area surveillance radars systems as part of the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) program. One supplier will then be selected in either late 2017 or early 2018 to supply 17 units, to be attached to 17 yet-to-be-determined business jets built by one of three competing suppliers – Gulfstream, Bombardier or Boeing.
Middle East North Africa
- In the last 11 months, the US State Department has facilitated more than $33 billion in weapon sales to the six Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC). Armaments and weapon systems received since May 2015 include ballistic missile defense capabilities, attack helicopters, advanced frigates, and anti-armor missiles. This also included the delivery of 4500 precision-guided munitions, 1500 of which came out of US military stocks as the Gulf nations continue military intervention in Yemen and Syria. However, delays in approval of sales of 40 F/A-18 Super Hornets and 72 F-15 Silent Eagles to Qatar and Kuwait have cause some friction. It’s believed that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lodged concerns about the weapons sales to Arab Gulf countries, although those concerns are more heavily focused on denying Qatar the F-15s than on Kuwait.
- The UK’s planned purchase of 9 P-8A Poseidon aircraft has been approved by the US State Department. The $3.2 billion sale was a top priority for the British government with the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) saying the aircraft “will enhance Britain’s capabilities to provide national defense and contribute to NATO and coalition operations.” The UK’s intention to purchase the aircraft was made last November in order to help the UK protect its nuclear deterrent and fill a gap left by a much-criticized decision to scrap the Nimrod spy-plane program in 2010.
- Ilyushin Aviation Complex has announced that the IL-78M-90A aerial refueling tanker will be released and conduct flight tests this year. In a departure from previous models in the IL-78 series, the latest IL-78M-90A will be constructed in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk rather than in Uzbekistan. According to Ilyushin Aviation Complex Chief Designer Nikolai Talikov, this will make the plane the first aerial tanker to be built in Russia.
- The Czech Republic is considering developing a joint squadron of Saab Gripen fighters with Hungary after an initial plan to operate such a squadron with Slovakia has been postponed. Slovakia had planned on leasing the Swedish fighter; however, they decided to extend their current service deal with the Russian-made Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft instead. The scuppered plans have resulted in the Czechs looking elsewhere to boost regional defense cooperation and may result in their combining their 14 leased Gripens with the Hungarians 12 operable ones.
- One of the Nigerian Air Force’s recently acquired Alpha jets had an incident where one of its planes veered off the runway while landing. Both pilots were uninjured; however, an investigation is under way as to what caused the incident. The NAF purchased four second hand Alpha aircraft from the US last year for use as jet trainers and as light attack aircraft. Notably, the Nigerians independently weaponized two of the jets in order to conduct attacks on Boko Haram militants. It’s unclear whether it was an armed or unarmed plane that was involved in the incident.
- Taiwan is to receive an upgrade to the ALR-56M Line Replaceable Unit 5 Analysis Processor to a new configuration as part of its F-16 mid-life modernization program. Approval was given by the US State Department, and an $8 million contract to carry out the work was awarded to BAE Systems with work expected to be completed by March 20, 2021. The upgrade to Taiwan’s F-16 systems follows a $9.32 million contract for a software and hardware upgrade for the ALR-56M Advanced Radar Warning Receivers back in 2006, which was completed in January 2008.
- Saab’s Sea Giraffe 1X AESA Naval Radar:
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