Javelins away as US clears first lethal aid package for Ukraine | Su-57 deployed to Syria | Navy orders initial Block III upgrade for Super Hornets
- Boeing received on February 28, a $73.2 million US Navy contract to perform service life modifications on an initial four F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft. The work will extend the fighter’s operational service life from 6,000 to 9,000 flight hours by converting them to Boeing’s Block III configuration which includes an enhanced network capability, longer range with conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system, signature improvements and an enhanced communication system. Work will take place in St. Louis, Missouri and El Segundo, California, with an expected contract completion time set for April 2020. A Boeing statement said that an additional production line will be established in San Antonio, Texas in 2019 in anticipation of follow-on orders over the next ten years. The F/A-18E and F-model Super Hornets are the single and tandem-seat variants of the Super Hornet respectively, and have been in service since 2002. Approximately 568 Super Hornets are in the US Navy fleet.
- The Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin two US Navy contracts Wednesday, February 28, for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Under the terms of the first agreement—a $148.7 million contract modification—Lockheed will provide additional logistics services for delivered F-35s operated by he Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-Department of Defense (DoD) and foreign military sales (FMS) customers. Services to be provided include ground maintenance activities, action request resolution, depot activation activities, Automatic Logistics Information System operations and maintenance, reliability, maintainability and health management implementation and support, supply chain management, and activities. Work will take place across the US, with some work to take place in the UK, running until April 2018. A second, smaller deal valued at $7.4 million provides funding for sustainment services in support of the F-35 aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan and Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Work will take place in both California and Japan and like the first contract, work is scheduled to wrap up in April 2018.
Middle East & Africa
- Israeli sources have expressed private reservations about Russia’s deployment of its new Su-57 stealth fighter to Syria, Flight Global reports. Satellite images captured by the Israelis confirmed earlier videos of the fighter in the region and is one of dozens of new weapons systems currently being combat tested by the Russians in Syria. While Israel has not reacted officially to the development, a senior source says there is no doubt that Moscow has sent its newest fighter to the region in order to test it against Western technologies. Israeli Air Force F-16s and unmanned assets are active in Syrian airspace, locating and targeting weapons sites that have been used by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, who are friendly to the Syrian regime and use government-held territory to transfer arms and rockets to its own territory in Lebanon. The arrival of the Su-57 comes just two weeks after a border clash during which an Iranian-operated stealth unmanned air vehicle and an IAF F-16 were shot down.
- Four years after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and after multiple calls for arms from the Ukrainian government, the US State Department has cleared its first lethal aid package to the Ukrainian military. A Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) statement released Thursday, March 1, announced the approval of a $47 million package for the delivery of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 Javelin Command Launch Units, with the aim that the missiles will help “Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements.” Rather than being the subject of fresh orders from manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the missiles will come from existing US Army stocks while the CLUs will come from on-hand Special Defense Acquisition Fund (SDAF)-purchased stocks. The SDAF is a special State Department fund set up to speed expected requests for military equipment from allies. If State Department officials expect a request will be made, they can pre-purchase the equipment so it is already under production before a deal is made official. Since 2014’s Crimean annexation and the beginning of an insurgency by Russian-backed Separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region, Kiev has called for lethal military aid to be supplied by the US. While the Obama administration did at one stage consider sending lethal aid to Ukraine, its concerns that injecting such weapons into the already volatile region could make the situation worse resulted in them just supplying training and support equipment. Late last year, the Trump administration said it would send lethal aid to Ukraine with State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert saying “US assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself.”
- BAE Systems has tapped Lockheed Martin to supply its Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) for the three City-class Type 26 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates on order for the British Royal Navy. The VLS is the only one available that is capable of launching anti-air, anti-submarine, surface-to-surface and strike-length missiles, and initial orders from London calls for the delivery of nine MK 41 VLS modules—enough for the first three ships—the already under construction Glasgow, and the ordered Cardiff and Belfast.
- China’s increase in defense spending has been described as “moderate” by a senior diplomat, Reuters reports. Speaking ahead of Monday’s release of China’s national budget by parliament, parliament spokesperson and Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said that in recent years, “China has moderately raised defense investment,” adding that a lot of this extra cash had “been to make up for past investment deficiencies, mostly on renewing equipment (and) improving material benefits for soldiers.” Last year military spending was budgeted to increase by just 7 percent, to 1.044 trillion yuan ($164.60 billion) about one-quarter of the proposed US defense spending for the year. “China has always upheld the path of peaceful development, and practices a defensive defense policy. China’s development will not constitute a threat to any country,” said Zhang. While no indication of how much of an increase would be allocated and what areas would be focused on in the budget, reports in the China Daily newspaper said China was looking to build larger aircraft carriers and was aiming to operate a fleet of at least six.
- A senior Philippines Navy official has been quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency that the service will utilize two frigates on order from South Korea as anti-air platforms. Speaking in front of the Senate during a hearing on the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) last week, Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad said: “In the current inventory of the PN, we don’t have capability for aerial denial. Wala pa tayong (We do not have) anti-air missile capability that can hit an incoming aerial object. But except for our frigates supposedly kung ma-deliver (once delivered), ito lang iyong (this will only be the) first time that we will have that capability for aerial denial.” Due to be delivered in 2020, the vessels are being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries under a $346 million contract and are based on the HDF-3000 frigate design used for South Korea’s Incheon-class frigates. The Filipino order will come equipped with weapons capable of combating surface, sub-surface and air threats, as well as electronic warfare.
- The Royal Navy’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship:
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