Navy to Spend $4M on iRobot | Russia to Deliver on Heavy Lift Helos to Algeria | Chinese Invest $779M in Defense Aerospace
- Lockheed Martin is reportedly developing an optionally-manned, high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to replace the company’s U-2 and Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk. The new design intends to combine the best features of both aircraft, including stealth capabilities, while the DoD has hedged its bets by keeping both platforms in operation, pushing back the U-2’s retirement to 2019 and investing in new radar systems for the aircraft. Lockheed Martin has also demonstrated how the U-2 can be integrated with Air Force Open Mission Systems payloads, including the ability to communicate with fifth-generation aircraft. The U-2 fleet will reportedly remain in a safe flying condition until 2045.
- Argentina is formally retiring its fleet of Mirage fighters, which will leave active service in November. The Argentinian Air Force has been looking for a new fighter fleet for a while now, with reports in July indicating that the South American country may be in negotiations to buy second-hand Israeli Kfir Block 60 fighters.
- Newport News Shipyard will lay down the hull of the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) on Saturday, following the awarding of $4.3 billion in contracts in June to accelerate construction of the second Ford-class carrier. The ceremony will mark the official start of the ship’s construction, with first work on the hull having begun in 2011.
- The Navy is buying small, tracked robots designed to act in a first-responder/special operations capacity. The 110 iRobot First Look robots were ordered through a $4 million contract announced on Wednesday. The company saw a significant number of orders during the Afghanistan campaign, through its counter-IED robot product range, including to the UK and Germany, as well as the US through the MTRS program.
- The Mexican Navy will reportedly begin serial production of indigenously-developed unmanned aerial vehicles next year. Developed as the Mexican Navy Tactical Air Reconnaissance Autonomous Patrol System (SPARTAAM) program, with each system comprising three UAVs and a ground station, this announcement builds on news from September 2012 when the Mexican Navy announced that it had completed indigenous development of the UAV system. The Mexican Navy has been looking to bolster its intelligence-gathering capabilities over recent months, including the acquisition of manned aircraft in September last year.
Middle East North Africa
- Russia intends to deliver another pair of Mil Mi-26T2 heavy lift helicopters to Algeria later this year, with another two following in early 2016, according to Russian media reports. The first two helicopters were delivered to the North African country in July, with reports indicating that a second contract – covering eight further helicopters of the type – is likely to complete deliveries by the end of 2017, bringing the total of heavy lift helicopters operated by Algeria to 14. The Mi-26T2 re-entered series production in May, with Algeria also reported to be ordering attack helicopters from Russia.
- The Polish Armaments Inspectorate is looking to procure an automated command system for the country’s Special Forces, using specialist IT software to build a more rapid communications capability. The Inspectorate has released a request for information to industry, with a deadline of mid-October. The proposed system reportedly requires an ability to integrate feeds from UAVs and a wide variety of sensors, as well as the capacity to provide specialist applications interfaces, including for tactical air controllers. The Polish Armed Forces are looking to build in automated command systems as part of the country’s strategic plan [p. 20] out to 2030.
- The South African Air Force (SAAF) is reportedly buying Seeker UAVs from domestic firm Denel Dynamics. The Seeker 400 is an unarmed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone capable of being equipped with a variety of sensor payloads, including synthetic aperture radar.
- China is shoring up its defense aerospace industry through investment in Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group. The investors – five Aviation Industry Corporation of China group companies, with AVIC Capitol Co. being the largest – are investing $779.9 million into the two companies. The two recipients produce some of China’s most important aircraft, including the J-10 and J-11 multirole fighters and J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters.
- The future HMAS Adelaide, the Royal Australian Navy’s second Canberra-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessel, has begun final sea trials ahead of an anticipated commissioning into service next year. The ten days of trials will take place just south of Sydney, with the RAN’s first LHD, the HMAS Canberra, commissioned in November last year. The second LHD was launched in July 2012. The joint construction of the two vessels by Navantia and BAE Systems follows a $2.8 billion contract announced in October 2007.
- The Philippines has received a batch of new helicopters as the country pursues a rotary-wing modernization program. The helicopters include eight Bell 412EPs through Canada and two AgustaWestland AW-109E through Italy. The country previously received four of the latter in January, with the country having signed for thirteen AW-109s through two contracts with the Anglo-Italian manufacturer.
- An iRobot promo vid for the Navy’s new bots:
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