* A USMC plan to equip their AN/TWQ-1 Avenger low-altitude air defense units with a 30-kilowatt laser weapon is progressing well. The Office of Naval Research is spearheading the Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-The-Move concept demonstrator program – which is able to start phase 3 testing. Once the development program is completed around 2022, it will enter as a program of record for the Marines and likely reside alongside the Stinger missile system as a ground unit self-protection system – giving those units a much-needed upgrade after operating with the Stinger for decades.
* Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $357 million contract for Advanced Electronic Guidance and Instrumentation System (AEGIS) in-service combat systems for several nations. The contract will see the company provide computer program maintenance, annual inspection and regular overhaul execution support, in-country support, and staging. Replacement of legacy cathode ray tube character readout devices for Japan, logistics depot support for Norway unique line replaceable unit, and AEGIS implementation studies for future Foreign Military Sales (FMS) AEGIS shipbuilding programs to fulfill AEGIS lifetime support requirements of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Republic of Korea Navy, Spanish Armada, Royal Australian Navy, and Royal Norwegian Navy. Completion is expected for November 2019.
* The US Office of Naval Research is to commence testing its swarming UAV concept at sea next month. Referred to as the Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST), the system consists of thirty Coyote unmanned aircraft systems all launched rapidly and flown together. The swarming technology allows the drones to relate to each other spatially and fly their swarm formations with minimal human direction or intervention, which Mastroianni noted is key for practical and efficient unmanned technology that decreases the warfighter’s burden.
Middle East North Africa
* Contracts have been signed between Qatar and Pakistan, confirming the former’s purchase of the PAC Super Mushshak basic trainer. The sale was concluded three months after Pakistan displayed the aircraft, along with the JF-17, at a demonstration at the Qatar Air Show. A Pakistan Air Force spokesperson commented that a number of other nations were also interested in Pakistani aircraft, however failed to mention anyone by name.
* Airbus is in consultations with the German Ministry of Defense over a study into the replacement of the Panavia Tornado fighter-bomber. According to Alberto Gutierrez, Airbus Group’s head of Eurofighter and combat aircraft program, the company will not be able to offer a new fighter built from scratch and any proposal will involve having components recycled from the Eurofighter. The Tornado would not be replaced until the 2030s.
* Work is being carried out on integrating the Russian Zagon-2 depth charge on the Mi-14 anti-submarine helicopter. The Zagon-2 antisubmarine corrected air bomb is designed to engage submarines on the sea surface, under periscope and deep down. At 1.5 meters long, the munition was originally designed to be carried by the Ka-28 but can also be dropped by the Il-38 and Tu-148 aircraft.
* India has issued a Letter of Request (LoR) to the US government over the potential purchase of 22 General Atomics Guardians, a maritime patrol variant of the MQ-9 Predator B. A letter of acceptance from the US will follow later in the year which will trigger the commencement of price negotiations over the UAVs with a final contract to be signed sometime in 2017-18. It is unclear, however, whether the Indian Navy will acquire the non-weaponized Guardian variant – featuring intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities – the weaponized one, or both.
* Leondardo Helicopters is in talks with the Japanese government over the potential sale of a further 12 AW101 helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports. Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets, and business development, said the company was “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Japanese.
* The Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST):