In a clever game of resource swapping, Germany is now receiving 20 Leopard 2A7 main battle tanks in return for having lent a number of Leopard 2 A6M tanks to Canada for its immediate needs in the Afghanistan deployment. Canada, as promised, procured 20 Leopards from the Dutch and paid for their refurbishment. Germany took the opportunity to have Krauss-Maffei Wegmann upgrade them to the A7 variant on its own dime. The first were delivered in December.
* Dassault is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations to sell 36 Rafale fighters to Qatar. The deal was first hinted back in March of 2014. The primary alternative is reported to be Boeing’s F-15.
* U.S. Army trainers were in Yavoriv, Ukraine training soldiers how to use two lightweight counter-mortar radars. The radars backtrack the path of incoming mortars to provide targeting information. The radars are part of a $118 million equipment previously made to Ukraine.
* If India falters in its acquisition of the Dassault Rafales, the number two official at Rosoboronexport helpfully noted that they stood ready to deliver any number of Su-30MKIs (Flanker-Hs) if given the word.
* We have already seen both the U.S. and China put 3-D printers on ships in an effort to afford inventory flexibility – essentially making parts on the fly. Taking the idea a step further, DARPA and MIT are helping the navy install a “Fab Lab” at a major Navy training port in order to bring the skills needed for fully exploiting high tech fabrication equipment on ships.
* DARPA is indicating progress in its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, designed to provide a capacity to launch a 100-pound payload into orbit for less than $1 million. Phase 1 is complete, with three different concepts proving viability. Among them, Boeing won the contract to push Phase 2, which includes diverse elements such as mission planning software and a novel single-liquid propellant. It has an ambitious schedule. First flight is slated for late 2015 and first orbital test in 2016.
* Under pressure after having said “no” a few times recently, the Obama Administration announced Tuesday that it will allow the sale of armed drones to allies – but on a case-by-case basis. This isn’t terribly new, as the U.S. has already exported drones to several of its closest allies. A key concern as has been compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime signed by 34 countries in 1987, which forbids exports of technology that could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction – then defined as a vehicle with roughly a half ton of payload capacity that can get it to a target 186 miles downrange. The State Department said that sales would likely be subject to restrictions and monitoring.
* Apparently not satisfied with just one Buck Rogers gun moving onto its ships, with the soon to be deployed rail gun, the U.S. Navy awarded Boeing a $29.5 million contract to figure out how to keep laser weapons aimed to a single point on potentially distant and moving targets. Lasers rapidly lose their effectiveness if their impact is not kept on a single point.
* TACOM Lifecycle Management Command awarded General Dynamics $49.7 million to upgrade M1A1 Abrams to M1A2 variants. This is an exercising of an option off of the original 2008 contract.
* General Atomics, recently denied permission to export its Reapers to another country, may be mollified by the $279 million order it just won from the Air Force for more Reapers.
* The U.S. Marines is authorizing the use of Glock 19s. This may appear to be big news – as the services like to keep their personal service arms choices cloistered in decades-long, inscrutable decision processes, but these guns are to go to special operations forces, which have long short-circuited those procurement processes.
* With South Korean subs in the news, here is a tourists-eye view of the captured North Korean mini-sub that was wrecked on South Korea’s rocky shores in 1996, fomenting a 7-week running battle with the occupants, all but one of which were killed…