* A Raytheon-manufactured JLENS (Joint Elevated Netted Sensor) aerostat broke free from its moorings on Wednesday, before floating 160 miles over Pennsylvania, prompting the scrambling of F-16 fighters. The blimp eventually came down in the north of the state after drifting for three hours, after taking down several power lines in the process. The aerostat was one of two providing radar coverage of the east coast, with the second, fire-control radar blimp now grounded. The heavily-criticized, $2.7 billion program has come under increasing pressure in recent months, particularly after it failed to spot a gyrocopter approaching the Capitol in April.
* Boeing is deliberating over whether the company should lodge a protest at the Air Force’s decision on Tuesday to award the lucrative Long Range Strike – Bomber (LRS-B) contract to Northrop Grumman. Boeing and Lockheed Martin submitted a joint bid in July 2014, the two sides partnering in July 2013, with Boeing acting as prime in the relationship. A decision on whether the company will move forward with a protest is expected within the next two weeks. Northrop Grumman also launched a website dedicated to the new bomber, hours after the contract award was announced.
* The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter has flown for the first time, eleven months behind schedule. The new helicopter is intended to replace the Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, with the new design boasting three times the lift capability of the older model. The first CH-53K, known as Engineering Development Model-1 (EMD-1) will be joined by an additional three aircraft to undergo 2,000 flight hours of testing.
* Embraer’s KC-390 transport aircraft has resumed flight testing following an eight-month break, forced on the program by a falling Brazilian Real and slow payments to the company by the Brazilian Defense Ministry. The aircraft’s schedule has been pushed back, with the company signing an agreement in late July to extend the KC-390’s entry into service from late 2016 to 2018.
* A Danish F-16 crashed into the North Sea on Tuesday, with the pilot safely ejecting. The cause of the crash is currently being attributed to fault landing gear. The country is pursuing an acquisition program for a new fighter fleet to replace its aging F-16s, with a decision on a winning bid due by the end of this year. With Saab opting to withdraw from the competition, the Danes are mulling whether to choose the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing Super Hornet or Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
* Russia’s new air surveillance patrol aircraft could be based on the civilian Ilyushin Il-114 airliner, with the Russian Air Force and border force’s requirements potentially leading resurrection of the turboprop design. The outdated but homegrown design has been revitalized by Russia’s government, with President Putin personally signing off on the restarted production. In a similar vein to other civilian aircraft modified for military ISR missions (such as the US’ King Air 350ERs), the Russian aircraft will likely be fitted with radar and other sensors.
* The island state of Malta has signed a contract for a third King Air B200 maritime patrol aircraft to supplement the two already in service. The new aircraft, funded through the European Union’s Internal Security Fund 2014-2020, is scheduled for delivery in 2017 and will come equipped with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and a support service package.
* The United Kingdom and France look set to award missile house MBDA a development contract for the next generation of anti-ship cruise missile, known as the Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon and Futur Missile Antinavire/Futur Missile de Croisière respectively. The new design will likely replace the AGM/RGM-84 Harpoon, MM40 Exocet and Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles currently in service with the two countries. A contract is slated for the second half of 2016, subject to confirmation in the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review due for release later this year, with a technology demonstrator anticipated to make an appearance in 2019.
* Taiwan’s AH-64E Apache fleet is reportedly rusting in the country’s tropical climate. The helicopters are now mostly grounded, with manufacturer Boeing investigating oxidation in the rear gearbox responsible for taking out nine of the 29 Apaches in service. A lack of spare parts has also grounded a further twelve, with the country’s Ministry of National Defense notifying the US of the issue in March.
* India will reportedly purchase 154 PAK FA fifth-generation fighters, with an Indian delegation set to travel to Moscow later this year to sign a production contract thought to value approximately $35 billion. Prospects for the jointly-developed fighter appeared to be dim earlier this year, with the two sides thought to have agreed on technical specifications back in January. The Indian Air Force originally projected an acquisition of around 220 of the fighters, with Russia committed to a contract for only a dozen of the fighters.
* The untethered JLENS aerostat floating over Pennsylvania: