* Talks are being carried out between Lockheed Martin and President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team over a number of programs including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Trump had made disparaging comments about the F-35 last year on a conservative talk show, calling into question the fighter’s cost-benefit when compared to the capabilities of existing aircraft. Speaking on the talks, LM’s executive vice president for aeronautics Orlando Carvalho said, “We believe that in working with his transition team all the right information will get communicated and they’ll make the right decisions.”
* Shares in major US defense companies ended strongly last week, as news of a Trump presidency heralds good news for continued arms export growth. Investors, betting on higher Pentagon spending under Trump, spurred the growth with Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics share prices hitting lifetime highs last Wednesday. Under the Obama Administration, US arms exports, measured by production costs, grew 54 percent in 2015 from 2008, the year before President Barack Obama took office, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Middle East & North Africa
* AH-64 Apaches operated by Israel now have an anti-tank capability. Modifications to the attack helicopters now allow for the firing of the Rafael Spike anti-tank guided missile. The program began in 2014 following the halting by Washington of a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel during Operation Protective Edge. The offensive, which saw IDF forces conduct several weeks of operations in the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas rocket fire, has drawn international criticism on both sides.
* Israeli media have reported that Azerbaijan is interested in the Iron Dome missile interceptor system. If true, it will mark the first sale of the system to a foreign customer. The news comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit Azerbaijan in the coming months amid growing ties with the region. Such a sale could, however, increase tensions between Azerbaijan and neighbor Armenia, who has been in conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
* Airbus has been slammed by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian over the company’s delivery schedule of the A400M transport aircraft. In recently released minutes from a November 2 meeting of the defense committee of the lower house National Assembly, Le Drian stated “The problem is the company…Today, the A400Ms delivered are not operational – and the problem does not concern just France: that is the case everywhere.” Talks are now underway for a more timely delivery of tactical versions of the A400M which has seen issues with a lack of capabilities including parachute drops, self defense, and landing on short runways. In order to cover urgent operational requirements and fleet replacement, Paris has ordered four Hercules C-130J transport planes to fill the gap.
* Bulgaria has signed a deal with Russia to purchase ten engines for its aging fleet of MiG-29 jet fighters. The $23.75 million deal includes the supply of four new and six repaired engines. Last year Bulgaria signed an agreement with NATO ally Poland to repair six MiG-29 fighter jets, part of a push by Sofia to reduce its reliance on Russia. In an effort to move toward greater compliance with NATO standards, the Balkan country is also planning to buy eight new or second-hand fighter jets in 2017.
* Russia is prepared to commence delivery of six MiG-29 fighters to Serbia, as long as Belgrade pays the $50 million required for the aircraft’s repair and transfer. Discussions of such a sale have existed since January as both countries hold discussions on increased trade and economic cooperation. Speaking on such cooperation, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said that any such acquisitions would not be used for offensive measures and only for the defense of the country and its people.
* The Indian Navy has been asked to clarify their need for US-2 amphibious aircraft before the government gives the acquisition the go ahead. It was expected that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, would approve the procurement from Japan last week but are now requesting more information on how the aircraft will be deployed. A detailed explanation is being prepared by the the sailing branch.
Aurora Flight Sciences unmanned version of the Bell UH-1H: