* US arms sales abroad have increased by 36% in the 2015 fiscal year to $46.6 billion. According to the Pentagon, these projections are going to continue over the next number of years as foreign states rush to replenish stocks and upgrade equipment. The news comes as US companies have complained that the process of approving sales by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) is too slow and can not keep with demand. However it has been said that this process will be streamlined to ease the backlog. Recent purchases have seen a shift in the types of sales being sold. Previous years had seen a focus on helicopters, munitions and equipment sales, but recently shifts have been made towards fighter jets and missile defense systems amid regional tensions in the Middle East and Asia.
* Lockheed Martin has been put on contract to upgrade the B-52H to carry its new extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff (JASSM) Weapon in a deal worth $9.1 million. The facelift will allow the B-52 to carry missiles that will double the bombers strike distance. The JASSM takes advantage of several concurrent digital upgrades that will allow every B-52 to carry smart weapons internally for the first time and on its pylons, giving the 54 year old a new lease on life and usability.
Middle East North Africa
* Russia is to install the S-400 missile defence system in Syria it has been announced. The system will be installed at the Latakia airbase in the aftermath of the shooting down by Turkey of one of its fighters this week, and coincides with the moving of the Moskava guided missile cruiser from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Last week we called out the Daily Mail for hysteria after it claimed the system was already in place in Syria, but unfortunately this has turned out to more of a prophecy. What else does the Mail know?
* Switzerland is to buy six Hermes 900 Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) UAVs from Elbit Systems in a deal worth $200 million. The delivery of the UAVs is expected to be completed by 2020 when the current UAVs in service are retired. The Hermes are thought to provide a considerable increase in the capability of the Swiss Air Force, who currently operate the Ruag Aerospace ADS 95 Ranger for their reconnaissance and surveillance needs. The Hermes saw extensive action during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last year as well as being used by Brazil when it hosted the World Cup.
* Airbus is to offer surveillance and intelligence reconnaissance upgrades for its A400M and A330 Airborne tanker planes. The announcement comes at a time when governments are seeking a short-cut to enhance intelligence gathering capabilities, as action against the Islamic State increases along with operational requirements. The ability for these aircraft to hold all required fuel in their wings allows for existing off the shelf equipment to be installed with ease. Airbus has orders for these planes from France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, all of whom are currently taking action in the Middle East. This could be seen as an attempt by Airbus to boost the usability of their aircraft amid a decrease in sales of the A400M. The drop is a result of the crash of one of the planes in Spain earlier this year.
* India is to sign a deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighters from France it has been announced. The signing coincides with French President Hollande’s visit to New Delhi to celebrate Republic Day. It is expected that the delivery of the Rafale fighters will be completed within seven years and is part of India’s move to increase its air force strength to maintain effectiveness against both China and Pakistan.
* A new arms sale is being prepared between Taiwan and the US, in a move that is likely to increase tensions with China. Details of the $1 billion deal have yet to be announced, but it is likely to include missile frigates, amphibious assault vehicles, and various missiles. The sale will be the first between the two in four years; however, over the duration of the Obama administration, $12 billion of arms transactions have been completed. The announcement comes after Obama came under criticism for not doing enough to support Taiwan in the region where tensions between China and its neighbors have been rising. This has seen increased militarization efforts by both South Korea and Japan, and the completion of several arms deals with the US.
*Japanese defence minister Gen Nakatani has raised the possibility of installing the THAAD missile defence system in the country. The system would be installed to protect against any threat that may come potentially from North Korea, who have raised the possibility of testing missiles. Pyongyang announced a no sail zone off the east coast of the peninsula earlier this month between November 11 and December 7. Nakatani’s comments come along with speculation that South Korea and the US have been discussing the installation of THAAD by Seoul during talks over deterrence methods to threats from the North. These rumors have been downplayed by both countries.
* With Kurdish forces making gains against the Islamic State, its Mad Max inspired home made armor has been getting some traction in the press recently.