* A GAO report released at the end of July has detailed how US government expenditure on strategic bombers is expected to reach $58 billion over the next ten years. This figure is projected to be split between the development and manufacture of the Air Force’s new strategic bomber, the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), and upgrading of two in-service platforms, the B2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress. The LRS-B program is expected to eat up $33.1 billion over the 2015-2024 period, whilst the upgrading of the B-2 and B-52 fleet is expected to total $24.4 billion. The LRS-B program is due to announce a contract decision in August or September, slipping from a previous timetable of a June or July announcement. The report also forecast $1.3 billion spend on new tailkits for the B61-12 nuclear bomb, which was successfully flight tested in mid-July.
* The Navy has test-fired modified AGM-114L Hellfire missiles as part of its Surface to Surface Missile Module, successfully launching the missiles against small moving targets in recent tests. One of the Littoral Combat Ships‘ intended Mission Modules, the SSMM is intended to increase the lethality of the Navy’s growing LCS fleet and is scheduled for deployment in late 2017.
* A Colombian Air Force CN-235 aircraft came down in the country’s north-east over the weekend killing eleven crew members. The Airbus-manufactured aircraft was reportedly modified for electronic intelligence (ELINT) collection purposes.
Middle East North Africa
* Israel has completed nine years of upgrade work on its fleet of 23 CH-53 helicopters, with the Sikorsky-manufactured helicopters now reportedly capable of flying to 2025. The aircraft were upgraded by the Israeli Air Force at approximately $2 million per unit, reportedly a fraction of the cost that outsourcing the work would have entailed.
* The British Ministry of Defence awarded two contracts totalling $2.3 billion on Monday for the overhaul of the MoD’s IT and communications systems. Named the New Style of IT and Global Connectivity respectively, the contracts were announced by UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. The Atlas consortium, comprised of Airbus Defence and Space, CGI and Fujitsu, led by HP, was awarded the first, $1.45 billion contract to improve upon the MoD’s existing Defence Information Infrastructure. Fujitsu was also awarded an $857 million contract to develop global communication systems, with further contracts for the voice and cellphone portions of the project anticipated.
* Rheinmetall Defence and Thales have been awarded subcontracts on the United Kingdom’s FRES/SCOUT SV armored vehicle program, both related to the vehicle’s turret. The former will provide Lockheed Martin with the turrets’ structure, following the awarding of a $1 billion contract to the US company in October 2014 for the delivery of 245 turrets and a $143 million contract to Rheinmetall on Monday. French firm Thales will provide sighting system for the 245 turrets, with the Ministry of Defence awarding a £194.9 million contract to the company at the end of July. CTA International (a BAE System and Nexter joint venture) was awarded a $234.2 million contract in late May to produce the vehicle’s 40mm cannon. General Dynamics was awarded the program’s prime contract in September 2014.
* The British Army has retired the AH7 version of the AgustaWestland Lynx utility helicopter. However, the AH9 version will remain in service, with the AW159 Wildcat set to form the backbone of the next generation of Royal Navy and British Army helicopters, particularly as the Lynx AH9 retires in 2018.
* Talks between India and France over the agreed sale of 36 Rafale fighters in April have now missed a negotiation deadline. Disagreement over India’s offset arrangements are thought to be the sticking point, despite France reportedly offering a 25% price reduction to initially bag the sale. The official demise of India’s MMRCA competition will likely see the Indian Air Force put additional pressure on India’s negotiators to come through, particularly as the Dassault production line is becoming swollen with new orders, pushing the Indian Rafales down the line.
* India and Israel will test-fire the jointly-developed Barak-8 Surface-to-Air missile this month, as Bharat Dynamics Ltd prepares for series production of the system. Further testing from an Indian Navy ship is also likely in coming weeks, with the INS Kolkata the likely platform for this. BDL has been contracted to fit out the Kolkata with 32 missiles, with India and Israel agreeing in February to also co-develop an air defense system for the Indian Army. A November 2014 test conducted by Israel Aerospace Industries saw the Barak-8 system take out a target during testing in Israel.
* China is tightening up its export controls, with a particular focus on unmanned aircraft and high-powered computers. China has been developing both highly advanced military and budget commercial UAVs, with the sale of these abroad likely to form a major part of China’s defense export strategy in coming years. States failing to acquire more established (i.e. US or European) systems – either through expense or political blockage – could look to China, with a recent example being Jordan.
* A Chinese Predator UAV…