* US President Donald Trump took the opportunity to suggest a further F/A-18 Super Hornet order while attending a ceremony for Boeing’s inaugural 787-10 Dreamliner in South Carolina. While Trump has made no clear indication or commitment to the numbers that would be ordered, he said “we are looking seriously at a big order. The problem is that [Boeing CEO] Dennis [Muilenberg] is a very tough negotiator, but I think we may get there.” Trump also had kind words for the aging, Boeing-made, Air Force One. “That plane, as beautiful as it looks is 30 years old. What can look so beautiful at 30? An aeroplane,” he said.
* The Paramount Group is to begin production of the Mwari reconnaissance and strike aircraft this April. Based on the firm’s Advanced, High Performance, Reconnaissance, Light Aircraft (AHRLAC), up to 24 base aircraft will be made per year at their new facility at Wonderboom Airport, with the Mwari military aircraft and customized mission systems being integrated in a separate facility. The Mwari has been developed as part of a partnership with Boeing, which is developing their own integrated mission system that supports intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light strike capabilities. Mwari will also be showcased at this week’s IDEX defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Middle East & North Africa
* The Israeli Air Force is to change their procedures related to asymmetric flight toward landing, following the crash of an F-16I fighter last October. One pilot was killed and the second crew member injured following a crash during landing after a mission against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The new procedure will require pilots to drop unused weapons into the sea in order to stabilize their aircraft before landing.
* A Houthi rebel boat which attacked a Saudi Arabian frigate off the coast of Yemen in January was unmanned. Initially believed to have been a suicide mission, a US Navy official has revealed that the attack was instead carried out by an unmanned, remote-controlled craft filled with explosives. Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet and head of US Naval Forces Central Command said that the boat was likely to have been either supplied by Iran, or at least have had Iranian production help. In the last year, US and coalition partners have intercepted four weapons shipments destined for the Houthis.
* Representatives from Rheinmetall and Raytheon have signed an agreement to cooperate on future defense projects. The memorandum of understanding signed outlines that the pact will facilitate deepened ties on missile defense systems and rocket-based solutions and the firms will also work closely on combat vehicles, weapons, ammunition, cyber defense and simulations. Popular products made by the German firm include several types of armored vehicles, various caliber gun systems, and air-defense gun systems.
* Northrop Grumman and the British RAF have successfully demonstrated communication system interoperability between an F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon jets. The test was carried out during an MoD-funded two week trial, called Babel Fish III, and saw a Lockheed Martin F-35B communicate with a Typhoon fighter by translating its Multifunction Advanced Data Link messages into a Link 16 format. It was the first time a non-U.S. 5th- and 4th-generation aircraft shared MADL-delivered data. Northrop claimed that the test integrated its Freedom 550 technology into the F-35’s Airborne Gateway, which translates information from various sources to enhance situational awareness and interoperability.
* The state-owned manufacturer Russian Helicopters has said that they will commence deliveries of the KA-226T helicopter to the Indian military next year. 60 units will be delivered in Russia while a further 140 will be manufactured and assembled in India under an agreement signed last October. Russia expects sales of the advanced medium multirole Mi-171A2 to increase by at least 15% in 2017 with interest received from China, as well as from the Iranian oil and gas sector.
* Sri Lankan media reports that Pakistan has offered an F-7 fighter for free in return for each JF-17 that Sri Lanka purchases from Islamabad. The report claims that in its efforts to push a deal for the fighter, Pakistan has hired a Singapore-based consultancy group to assist with the lobbying, and that attempts have been made to pay kickbacks to Sri Lankan defense ministry officials as well as high-ranking military personnel.
* More on the upcoming production of the Ahrlac/Mwari: