* Lockheed Martin announced the receipt of an undisclosed value US Navy development contract to provide the service’s MH-60 helicopters with an enhanced electronic warfare surveillance and countermeasure capabilities against anti-ship missile (ASM) threats. The firm’s Advanced Off-Board Electronic Warfare (AOEW) Active Mission Payload (AMP) AN/ALQ-248 system, is a self-contained EW pod that will be integrated and hosted on both MH-60R and S-variant helicopters, and will provide the Navy with advanced ASM detection and response capabilities. The system can work either independently or with the ship’s onboard electronic surveillance sensor, SEWIP Block 2 AN/SLQ-32(V)6, to detect an incoming missile and then evaluate where it is going. AOEW then uses radio frequency countermeasure techniques to deter the missile. Under the terms of the contract, if all options are exercised, Lockheed will deliver up to 18 AOEW AMP AN/ALQ-248 pods to the Navy. The company will start manufacturing in early 2019 with a target to reach initial operational capability in 2021.
* Lord Co. of Pennsylvania were awarded Monday, a five-year long-term US Navy contract for the repair of three items used on the V-22 Osprey aircraft. The firm specialises in adhesives, coatings, specialty chemicals, electronic materials, vibration & motion control, and magneto-rheological (MR) fluids, and their Active Vibration Control (AVC) System is used to minimize vibration and reduce weight in helicopters. Work will take place at the firm’s operation in Erie, Pa., with a scheduled completion date of January 2023. Funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Navy also announced last week that the latest Osprey variant, the CMV-22B Osprey, will replace the C-2A Greyhound for carrier onboard delivery duties to the service’s carrier vessels. The aircraft are expected to be operational by 2024, with the full transition expected by 2028.
* A protest by Raytheon has been rejected by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), paving the way for Northrop Grumman to provide the new radar as part of the US Air Force’s JSTARS recapitalization program. Raytheon had offered its Archimedes radar for the JSTARS recap, while Northrop were offering a radar of their own. Companies vying for the prime contract spot—Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop—were permitted to submit two proposals: one with Raytheon’s Archimedes and another with Northrop-manufactured one. Northrop are no doubt delighted with the GAO’s decision as the firm is, at present, guaranteed a major role on the JSTARS recap program even if it loses the prime contracting spot. However, the USAF is currently reconsidering whether the current recap program is the best strategy to replace the E-8C fleet and plans to make a final determination in the fiscal year 2019 budget, meaning that Northrop’s victory may be short lived if the program is ultimately canceled. Raytheon is currently exploring its legal options.
Middle East-North Africa
* With Houthi missile attacks from Yemen—believed to originate from Iran—now becoming a more regular nuisance for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is reportedly looking to acquire the Israeli-made Iron Dome air defense system to help counter these growing missile threats. The news came though the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung, who reported that a “European weapons dealer”—Israel and Saudi don’t have official relations due to the decades of Arab-Israeli strife—was “in the Saudi capital of Riyadh” and said the Saudis are looking into the purchase of Israeli military hardware, such as the Israeli Trophy Active Protection System (APS), which intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a burst of metal pellets and can be mounted to tanks and APCs. The report added that Saudi military officials had viewed Israeli platforms during a recent defense expo in Abu Dhabi, UAE. In the last round of fighting between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip during the 2014 Israeli Operation Protective Edge, Iron Dome had an alleged 90 percent interception rate of rockets and mortars that threatened Israeli populated areas.
* The deployment of Spain’s Patriot air defense system in Turkey will be extended until June, after being originally scheduled to return home this month. Spain’s participation in the NATO mission started in January 2016 following the withdrawal of German and Dutch batteries in late 2015. Due to the ongoing war in neighboring Syria, NATO Patriot batteries are likely to remain in Turkey until the commencement of deliveries of the non-NATO compatible S-400 Triumf air defense system to Turkey from Russia, expected in 2019. Ankara is also in the early stages of developing an indigenous air defense system with the help of the European and (more importantly) NATO-friendly Eurosam consortium.
* A wide cabinet re-shuffle by the Polish government has seen Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz removed from his post. Macierewicz had been in the position since the right-wing populist Law & Justice Party (PiS) took power in 2015 and had been the face of Poland’s military modernization and the buildup of the local defense industry—resulting in his name appearing in the Rapid Fire more than most of his counterparts. His replacement, Mariusz B?aszczak had served as interior minister since 2015 and it is unclear whether other top defense officials, such as deputy defense minister Tomasz Szatkowski or Bartosz Kownacki, secretary of state in Poland’s Ministry of National Defence, will remain in place.
* Military experts in China have said its second aircraft carrier—and the first to be built domestically—will commence sea trials next month, likely around the time of the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in mid-February. The Type 001A vessel was launched in April of last year, and experts believe that its personnel will train on the Liaoning, the retrofitted, former Soviet Union-carrier, before commencing service onboard the Type 001A. China hopes to have four aircraft carriers in operation by 2030, and will be tasked with power projection in both the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. It was recently announced that its third aircraft carrier, had begun construction in Shanghai.
* High costs and compliance issues have been cited as the reason for India to ditch a $5 billion procurement for locally built (and urgently needed) minesweeper vessels (MCMV). South Korea’s Kangnam Corporation had been selected on a single-vendor basis to provide design and technology transfer of 12 MCMVs in conjunction with the state-owned Goa Shipyard. But disputes between New Delhi and the Korean shipbuilder over the design and technical transfer fee have resulted in the program being officially cancelled, with the Indian MoD saying Kangnam “was demanding over $1 billion for design and technical know-how of the MCMVs and despite yearlong negotiations refused to accept the requisite norms including intellectual property rights and production support guarantees.” Meanwhile, a senior service official called the cancellation a big setback for the Indian Navy and the priority program is now delayed by another eight years, while the ministry and Goa Shipyard issue a new global expression of interest seeking technology to build the MCMVs at a cheaper rate.
* Former general, leader of the 2014 coup, and current Thai PM Prayuth Chan-ocha, leaves a cardboard cutout of himself to answer awkward questions after a recent press conference: