* Defense contractor Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has completed the second flight test of their self funded jet-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Unmanned Tactical Aerial Platform (UTAP-22). The test was done in conjunction with an AV-8B Harrier jet, and aimed at testing the rocket’s collaborative airborne capabilities. Kratos is developing the UTAP-22 as a high performance jet designed to survive and deliver payloads in hostile environments.
* Canada’s search-and-rescue procurement program has a new contender as Brazilian firm Embraer is to offer a bid for their KC-390. Embraer will likely face competition from Airbus’s C-295, and Alenia’s C-275 when bids are officially submitted in January. While Airbus and Alenia have been courting the Canadian government for a number of years, the KC-390 is said to have an advantage in terms of speed and range, although it is not expected to enter into service until 2018. Canada’s procurement competition will see companies submit bids based on how many they think will be needed to fulfill the country’s search-and-rescue needs as opposed to being given a fixed figure for tender.
Middle East North Africa
* Israel may potentially increase their orders of F-35 fighters as it holds the option to purchase 17 more, enough for two squadrons. They have already purchased 33 of the F-35A variant which allows for conventional take off capabilities, while the F-35B allows for operations in more austere bases and a range of air-capable ships near frontline combat zones. It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways on major bases. The Defense Ministry hopes that the addition will increase Israel’s offensive capabilities and qualitative edge amid regional threats.
* Turkey may look at purchasing an interim stop-gap missile defense system after deciding to develop their own indigenously. A 2013 deal with China to help develop the system, said to be worth $3.44 billion, was ditched recently as Turkey decided to go ahead with plans to increase its indigenously produced weapons manufacturing. Recent developments in regards to growing tensions with Russia over action in Syria have caused Turkey to look for an off the shelf solution in the meantime. While earlier options for Ankara included the Russian developed S-400 system, that bridge looks well and truly burned, with a more likely defense system looking to come from US or European manufacturers.
* Prosecutors in Greece have brought fresh corruption charges against a businessman and a former high-ranking Greek Defense Ministry official over the purchase of 12 Ah-64 attack helicopters in 2003. Both men are being charged with breach of faith over the contract which amounted to $650 million. Several other former ministry officials are also under investigation. The charges come amid Greece’s attempts to cut down on state corruption and clientism which many blame for the cause of the severity of its economic crash in 2008.
* BAE Systems has announced that they have completed the third and final series of flight tests of the Taranis Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV). Its development comes as the UK aims to keep indigenous UAV/UCAV construction capabilities. The test, according to BAE group managing director of programs and support, Nigel Whitehead, “met all test objectives”. The development of the Taranis is part of an Anglo-French contract agreement which aims at developing a joint UCAV, combined with the development of the French Dassault nEUROn, for a joint European UCAV.
* The UK government may nationalize the nuclear submarine arm of Rolls-Royce as concerns grow that the company may be subject to a takeover bid by a foreign company. The news comes as Rolls-Royce has reported its fifth profit warning in 20 months and the company struggles to come to grips with its finances. While it’s not usually the Conservative Party’s style to nationalize, the company is integral to the development of the powering of the Trident nuclear deterrent system. Other alternatives may see a partial or full merger with BAE Systems, although this has already been mooted. Either way, David Cameron will be impatient to keep the firm within British control to protect UK interests and the security of the Trident program.
* Singapore is apparently in no rush to order some F-35s after Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen visited the Luke Air Force Base, Arizona on December 13. The minister was there for a demonstration of the fighters capabilities, and to see the Singapore Air Force’s (SAF) F-15s compete in training exercises. While speaking highly of the progress of the F-35’s development, he failed to commit to any future purchase of the aircraft for the SAF. Hen’s comments come at a time when several countries linked to the program are either renewing commitment to the F-35 program (Norway), or hesitating over costs and performance (Australia, Canada). Perhaps Minister Hen just wants to be wooed a little more.
* Singapore’s Ng Eng Hen taking a spin in the SAF F-15 to observe war games at Barry M. Goldwater Range complex in Arizona: