* Northrop Grumman has announced that their E-2D Hawkeye aircraft is to carry out its first aerial refueling by the end of 2016. The air-to-air refueling modification is currently being integrated at the company’s newly-renovated St. Augustine, Florida facility. The new capability will be integrated into new-build aircraft, and retrofitted on delivered E-2Ds to increase the time the type can operate on station. The US Navy has so far acquired 22 of the aircraft, and it is believed that the first 31 delivered will then be retrofitted with the capability. All new-builds after that are expected to have the system prior to their roll out.
* Commander of the United States Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the new Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) should be deployed as quickly as possible. The AGM-158C is scheduled to be put on B-1B bombers starting in September 2018, and on Navy F/A-18E/F fighters fighters the following year. The missile is part of $8.1 billion in funding allotted to improve US naval and underwater combat technologies for fiscal year 2017. Harris’s comments come as both the Chinese and Russians continue improvements to their own ballistic missile and nuclear submarine capabilities, and growing tensions in the Pacific region.
Middle East North Africa
* Saudi Arabia is to start flight testing of its new military transport aircraft next year. The AN-132 has been jointly developed with Ukraine as a modernized version of the Ukrainian AN-32, with modern engines and electronics that would make it more fuel-efficient and able to take off and land in various environments. The deal will see 80 of the planes produced, partially in the Ukraine, but will also see the the transfer of technology and manufacture in the Gulf kingdom. The Saudi organization involved in the development, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) will own 50% of the intellectual property of the new aircraft.
* C-17 transport aircraft used by the UAE military are to be fitted with infrared countermeasure systems in a program that could cost up to $225 million. The provision of AN/AAQ-24(V)N Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) equipment, and logistics support was approved by the US State Department as a Foreign Military Sale. Eight C-17s will receive a LAIRCM system which includes three Guardian Laser Transmitter Assemblies (GLTA), six Ultra-Violet Missile Warning System (UVMWS) Sensors AN/AAR-54, and one LAIRCM System Processor Replacement (LSPR).
* Iraq is to receive a $350 million five-year sustainment package for its KA-350 fleet after the sale was approved by the US Congress. The six King Air aircraft were purchased from manufacturer Beechcraft in 2007 with five possessing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The latest package will include provision of operational and intermediate depot level maintenance, spare parts, component repair, publication updates, maintenance training, and logistics. The majority of the aircraft have been used in supporting Iraqi military operations against Al-Qaeda affiliates and Islamic State militants in the country.
* Romania has placed an order for two Lockheed Martin TPS-77 radars which will incorporate Lockheed’s new Digital Array Row Transceivers (DART)technology. The addition of the DART to the sensors will allow for greater energy efficiency and performance. The Lockheed radars also include Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology, which enables high-power amplifiers to consume less power, increase reliability, lower life-cycle costs and extend the radar’s lifespan. GaN has been included in Lockheed radars for over six years. Delivery will be received in the second quarter of 2017.
* Following a 2015 filled with delays, fines and threats of lawsuits, Airbus aims to double deliveries of their A400M transport aircraft in 2016. Having only completed 11 deliveries last year, the company’s chief executive Tom Enders has vowed a target of “20-plus” deliveries in 2016. Stable revenues in Airbus’ defense and space division has helped the company, which is trying to realign their delivery and upgrade schedule to make up for delays. But upgrades regarding the aircraft’s military capabilities remain a challenge.
* Lockheed Martin’s executive vice-president of aeronautics Orlando Carvalho recently discussed key Asia-Pacific fighter production programs. These included the ongoing development of the Nagoya-based final assembly and checkout line (FACO) which will produce 38 of Japan’s 42 F-35 fighters. The plant follows closely that of the F-35 production facility opened in Cameri, Italy. Further business included the joint development of South Korea’s KF-X program which had met a number of speed bumps last year, and the potential of an F-16 production plant to be opened in India. While Carvalho indicated the company has interest in building such a plant, talks are still very much at a government-to-government level and could still be a long way off.
* Presentation on the Saudi and Ukrainian AN-132: