Lockheed Martin won a $348.2 million contract modification for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Under the modification, Lockheed will produce non-recurring, special tooling and special test equipment for the F-35 jets. The F-35 Lightning is a supersonic, multi-role fighter jet that represents a quantum leap in air-dominance capability, offering enhanced lethality and survivability in hostile, anti-access airspace environments. It is being used by the defense forces of the United States and 11 other nations, chiefly owing to its advanced stealth, integrated avionics, sensor fusion, superior logistics support and powerful integrated sensors capabilities. Last month, the Pentagon completed a $34 billion “handshake agreement” with Lockheed for Lot 12 of the F-35, with options for Lots 13 and 14. Defense Department acquisition chief Ellen Lord at the time said the deal attained about a 15% average reduction across the F-35’s variants from Lot 11 to Lot 14. The new contract modification is for the US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-US Department of Defense partners, and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work is expected to be completed August 2022.
The US Navy awarded Sikorsky two contracts with a combined worth of $28.8 for production aircraft and non-recurring work to support low rate initial production of the CH-53K. One non-recurring contract is worth $21.7 million and the other $7.1 million. Each contract brings the CH-53 King Stallion closer to production. Developed for the US Marine Corps, the King Stallion is the only sea-based, long-range, heavy-lift helicopter. It can carry up to 27,000 lbs (12,200 kg) over 110 natural miles (204 km), more than tripling the load of Sikorsky’s CH-53E helicopter. Sikorsky promotes the CH-53K for expeditionary heavy-lift transport of armored vehicles, equipment, and personnel to support distributed operations inland from a sea-based center of operations, as well as support for special operations forces, humanitarian missions and combat search-and-rescue. The delivery order worth 21.7 million includes a data transfer unit and a defensive electronic countermeasure system replacement program to replace existing subsystems within the CH-53K production aircraft. Tasks include investigation, systems engineering support, risk analysis, integration development, weight impact and publication updates. Work on the contract is expected to be completed in January 2021. The other contract supports low-rate initial production of the CH-53K, including non-recurring engineering, development, tooling, manufacturing, qualification, reporting and delivery of the nose, main, intermediate and tail gearbox gears. Work will take place in Stratford, Connecticut, and is expected to be completed in October 2020.
Frequentis Defense won an $8.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for the MD-5A Unmanned Carrier Aviation Mission Control System, which will support the MQ-25 Stingray drone. The deal provides non-recurring engineering and logistics for the design, development, test, manufacture and repair of the system. The integrated computer system will transport voice communications from carrier-based air vehicle operators to local audio switches, local radio terminals and remote radio terminals. The MQ-25 is the Defense Department’s first aircraft carrier-based unmanned air vehicle. Frequentis will perform work in Columbia, Maryland, and is expected to be finished by March 2021.
Middle East & Africa
The United Arab Emirates denies ownership of advanced munitions that were apparently captured in Libya by forces fighting for the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on July 2 saying it “affirms the United Arab Emirates’ commitment to the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 on sanctions and arms embargo, denying the ownership of weapons found in Libya, and re-iterating the UAE’s commitment to fully co-operate with UN experts”. The munitions were apparently found when GNA Forces captured Gharyan, a town south of Tripoli, from the rival Libyan National Army (LNA) faction in a rapid advance on June 26. The discovered weapons included a number of Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The British Defense Ministry will decide in early 2021 on how many of the British Army’s Challenger 2 tanks will be upgraded, local reports say. On Monday, BAE Systems and German company Rheinmetall launched a joint venture to capitalize on strategic combat vehicle programs, while also providing support to the British Army’s in-service bridging and armored vehicle fleets. The Challenger 2 tank, built by BAE Systems in the 1990s, served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. Upgrades are being sought to keep the tank battle-ready for the next twenty years, as part of the Ministry of Defense’s decision to extend the tank’s life until 2035.
New Zealand’s government has announced plans to procure high-mobility utility light vehicles and “protected vehicle mediums”. Defense Minister Ron Mark announced on June 11, that the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules has been selected as the preferred option to replace the New Zealand Defense Force’s venerable fleet of legacy C-130H Hercules airlifters. The next procured aircraft is expected to fill the Future Tactical Air Mobility capability role for the NZDF, a requirement spelled out in the Defense Capability Plan as the highest priority. The minister also said that $12.5 million have been allocated to procure the utility light vehicles and to undertake trials and risk reduction work in support of other related procurements under the Protected Mobility program.
According to local reports, the Indian Air Force has lost 44 aircraft and helicopters since 2014-15 in crashes, in which 46 personnel were killed. The service lost 26 fighter jets, six helicopters, nine trainer aircraft and three transport planes. A total of 12 pilots, seven aircrew and 27 service personnel were killed in the crashes. Just last month, an An-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed in Arunachal Pradesh, in which all 13 personnel on board the plane were killed.
Watch: Tension : America’s Own “Starscream” F-15 Is Deploying to Counter Middle East