* Lockheed Martin has been given an additional order to provide an undisclosed number of production lots 7 and 8 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors, one-shot weapons and related support services to the Missile Defense Agency. The $528.5 million contract modification sees an extra $144.6 million added to a pre-existing contract and will be completed by September 30 2019. The THAAD system protects the US and allied customers from short, medium and intermediate ballistic missile threats, and is operated and developed under the umbrella of the Missile Defense Agency.
* More Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) look to be on their way to the Middle East. Boeing has won a $357.9 million contract to produce Lots 4-8 of the DSU-38 A/B Precision Laser Guided Sets (PLGSs) for the US Navy, US Air Force and foreign military sales to UAE, Belgium, Turkey, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. When the PLGS are combined with the KMU-572 guidance set, air forces are able to cheaply convert unguided munitions into smart munitions as part of the JDAM system. Work is scheduled to be completed by December 2021.
Middle East North Africa
* Turkish company Otokar has been awarded a $52 million contract to provide COBRA II tactical wheeled armored vehicles to the Turkish security forces. Delivery of the vehicles is expected to be completed by the first half of 2017, although it is unspecified how many have been ordered. The COBRA is in service with fifteen countries worldwide, and has been utilized in counter-insurgency operations such as by Nigeria against Boko Haram, and by Turkish forces in Turkey as well as Afghanistan and Northern Iraq.
* Russia’s state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) believes it will commence manufacturing aircraft carriers from 2019, according to the company’s president, Alexey Rakmanov. USC is currently undergoing modernization works of their technological capabilities, and if completed on time, will be able to commence building the vessels required to transport and launch helicopters and aircraft. The only Russian aircraft carrier in service is the Soviet era Admiral Kuznetsov and is expected to be in service until 2030 after mid life refits over the last few years. The announcement comes alongside projected 2015 income for the company at between $4.48-4.5 billion, and as much as $212.34 million in net profits. In 2014, the US Department of Treasury added USC to the Financial Sanctions List as a result of Russia’s involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
* Zambian airmen have completed their conversion to the Hongdu L-15 advanced jet trainer. The news comes as the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) published photos of the pilots and maintenance crew completing their training. It is believed that the Zambian Air Force (ZAF) have ordered six of the L-15 aircraft, and this order follows a number of other recent Chinese made military procurements. Zambia has also ordered 16 K-8 Karatoum jet trainers and seven Z-9 light attack helicopters, showing a continued growing preference for Chinese made hardware.
* After bungling November’s submarine launched KN-11 ballistic missile test, North Korea is focusing their energies on developing their KN-06 surface-to-air missile system. A South Korean official told the Yonhap news agencies that the system has also been set in place to defend the eastern coast of the hermit kingdom from potential attacks directed from either Seoul or the US. The system, which has a similar appearance to the Russian produced S-300 and Chinese made HQ-9 systems, has an operational range of approximately 100km. While the successful testing of future developments of the KN-06 system remains to be seen, Pyongyang no doubt will be hoping it won’t shoot another dud.
* While praising the abilities of the home made JF-17 Thunder fighter, Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal, Sohail Aman has said that they are in negotiations with the US government to procure some of the latest F-16s. The announcement was made as the 16th JF-17 aircraft was unveiled and handed over to the Pakistan Air Force. Manufactured locally in cooperation with China, the JF-17 has been lauded as being able to compete with the best of other lightweight multi-role aircraft, and has been marketed heavily by Pakistan at recent air shows. While production for export seems to be on the increase, one wonders exactly why Islamabad is looking to purchase foreign made fighters ahead of locally produced ones, as well as planning to retire older aircraft simultaneously.
* The US Air Force has hailed a new era for the Afghan Air Force when the first class of A-29 Super Tucano combat-ready attack pilots graduated training this December. The eight pilots graduated after eleven months of training, and will be the first of 30 Afghan troops trained by the 81st Fighter Squadron over the next three years. Despite the short term of training, the graduates will see service almost immediately as Afghanistan’s current light air support aircraft, the Mi-35 attack helicopter, reaches the end of its service life in January 2016. The ceremony comes at a time when US participation in combat in the country becomes an ever increasing advisory capacity as the Afghan Armed Forces tackle security threats on the ground and in the air.
* Russian MiG-29K doing a ski-jump take-off :