Japan to postpone F-3 program, will buy F-35s, interceptors | First operational MQ-4C delivered to US Navy | UAE announces orders from Dubai Airshow
- Northrop Grumman announced Friday that it has delivered the first operational MQ-4C Trition UAV to the US Navy at its facility at Point Mugu. It will be joined by a second operational Triton later this year and both aircraft will be prepared by the maintenance detachment of Unmanned Patrol Squadron based at Point Mugu before deployment to Guam in 2018. In addition to Guam, the Navy’s first MQ-4C squadron will be based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, with the service planning to deploy Triton squadrons to NAS Mayport, Florida, NAS Sigonella, Italy and the Middle East in the future.
- The first flight of Bell Helicopters V-280 Valor tiltrotor will take place before “the end of the autumn,” according to Vince Tobin, vice-president military business at Bell. In preparation for the sortie, Bell have conducted ground trails of the tiltrotor’s GE Aviation T64 powerplants over the last two months, with recent testing seeing the Valor rotate its engines between 75°-95°. Tobin added that initial flights will involve low hover manoeuvres, moving to transitions into airplane mode, before an eventual expansion of its flight envelope in spring 2018. The Valor is being developed initially as part of the US Army’s joint multirole technology (JMR) demonstrator program, and Bell hopes the aircraft will then be selected for the multi-service future vertical lift (FVL) initiative, initially as a replacement for the army’s fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks.
Middle East & Africa
- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will purchase additional laser-guided missiles from Raytheon in a $684.4 million deal announced by the military Tuesday. Speaking at a news conference during the Dubai Airshow, Major General Staff Pilot Ishaq Saleh al-Balushi said the Emirates was buying GBU-12 and GBU-10 Paveway laser-guided bomb kits, and to date has been the largest deal announced by the UAE during the exhibition. Other UAE orders reported by Reuters include artillery purchased from Germany’s Rheinmetall, a transportation contract with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, and plans are in place to tap Dassault and Thales to upgrade its fleet of 75 Mirage 2000-9 aircraft.
- Oriole Capital Group of the USA will invest $150 million as part of an agreement with Kharkiv State Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Ukraine to resume the production of the An-74 transport aircraft. Signed during the Dubai Airshow, the accord will see the continued “production, modernization, and sales of AN-74 aircraft,” and was hailed by Oriole CEO Hossein Mousavi as a “monumental step towards our common goals.” Oriole Capital Group was founded by executives from Wamar International—a diverse manufacturing and services company engaged in armored vehicle manufacturing, gas turbine manufacturing, and aviation optimization technologies—and Aero-Pioneer Group—an airborne logistics company that owns and operates aircraft in austere environments on behalf of large NGOs and international organizations. Its team includes former members from Boeing, Hawker-Beechcraft, Cessna, Thales, United Airlines, Textron Aviation, Raytheon, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has signed an agreement with Italian firm Leonardo for the supply of equipment that will simulate radar threats onboard its fleet of new A400M transport aircraft. One threat simulation system will be ordered initially, with future orders expected to grow as the RAF’s fleet does. It uses special Radio-Frequency (RF)-emitting ‘hoods’ which will cover the A400M’s sensors while the aircraft is still on the ground, stimulating its RF sensors with real radar energy. The RAF will also purchase Leonardo’s handheld threat simulator, which will allow crews to conduct more thorough pre-flight checks before taking off in a hostile environment. The value of the contracts were undisclosed.
- Japan is likely to delay plans to develop its next advanced stealth jet, the F-3, despite having tested its $350 million ATD-X demonstrator aircraft—a forerunner for the F-3—in 2016. Funding for a F-3 program, which is expected to reach $40 billion over its lifetime, is likely to be diverted instead into to purchasing additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, as well as new ballistic missile interceptors for its Patriot and planned Aegis Ashore systems. Also stalling the F-3 program is bureaucratic indecision on whether to pursue a solely indigenous development or to seek international collaboration. A decision is expected in 2018, meaning that the program is unlikely to feature in 2019’s five-year defense equipment plan.
- AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters from South Korea participated in their first live-firing of AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles during exercises on Monday. Located at a range off the western coastal city of Gunsan, all helicopters completed a 60Km flight before launching their munitions from different distances and in different manners so that pilots can better familiarize themselves with the missile, and all Hellfires made their target. Four additional Apaches also joined the exercise as command and back-up planes. Seoul has been operating 36 E-model Apaches since January of this year, with US Force Korea also operating 48 Apaches on the peninsula.
- A South Korean AH-64E live-firing from June:
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