* A Request for Information market survey is expected to be released on Wednesday for the re-competition of the Navy’s Next Generation Information Enterprise Network (NGEN). With Hewlett-Packard winning the $3.45 billion IDIQ contract in June 2013, consisting of one base year followed by four options years, the re-compete appears to be coming early, particularly as a second RFI is expected in November or December. Whether this is a result of dissatisfaction with HP, or a pre-emption to the difficulties in selecting a winner next time around, is hard to say. The NGEN provides network services for the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), the upcoming RFI set for release on FedBizOpps.gov
* The Air Force could deploy F-35As as soon as they reach Initial Operating Capability (IOC), according to the head of the aircraft’s Integration Program Office. With the Air Force scheduled to operate a squadron of operational F-35s by the beginning of August 2016, the three missions likely to be tasked to these 12 to 14 aircraft are close air support, interception of enemy aircraft and suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). The first of these is becoming increasingly controversial, given the Joint Strike Fighter’s fist fight with the combat-proven A-10, while SEAD is closer to the original mission set intended for the F-35.
* However, the Air Force first needs to rectify its current poor availability rate before IOC and deployment of its F-35s can take place. The Automated Logistics Information System (ALIS) is proving to be a problem for the Air Force and will likely be the most significant obstacle ahead of achieving IOC next year. Despite recent software upgrades, the ALIS system is proving to be a sticking point, with an accelerated production schedule likely to place increasing logistical demands on both the supply base and Air Force.
* The Air Force has, however, struck a deal with Northrop Grumman to improve maintenance arrangements for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The contract modification will see the company overhaul the aircraft every nine years rather than the previous seven, in addition to reducing the time taken to complete these overhauls, reportedly saving over $900 million over the fleet’s lifespan. The contracting for availability arrangement with Northrop Grumman dates back to January 2007, with a revision to the $2.7 billion Flexible Acquisition and Sustainment Team (FAST) program contract, originally signed in 1999, which shifted the contract to more performance-based terms.
* Cost estimates for upgrades to the RQ-4 Global Hawk could be half of the $4 billion previously slated, according to an Air Force official. The requirement for a new Electro-Optical system and wide-angle camera could reduce the figure down; however, this appears to be achieved through the cutting of non-essential upgrades, including a sense and avoid sensor, which were included in the original figure. With the Air Force arguing to retain only one of its two current high-altitude ISR aircraft (the other being the Cold War-era U-2), the reduced cost estimate could bring the Global Hawk into direct competition with a set of upgrades proposed by Lockheed Martin for the U-2, known as the TR-X.
* The Royal Navy’s fleet of Mk2 Merlin anti-submarine helicopters has achieved Full Operating Capability (FOC), with 24 of 30 helicopters now delivered. A part of the $1.2 billion Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme, the upgrading of the 30 helicopters follows a GBP750 million contract with prime contractor Lockheed Martin, with the first five helicopters delivered back in July 2013 after work began in 2010.
* Poland is buying more missiles for its Grom MANPADS, with the air defense systems equipping both infantry units and mounted on vehicles. Domestic firm Mesko was handed the contract for 180 missiles by the Armaments Inspectorate, with Lithuania deciding last year to purchase the Grom missile for its air defense requirements. Peru is also an export customer, along with Georgia, Indonesia and Japan. Interestingly, the MANPADS have also been turning up in the hands of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine; possibly sent by Moscow to the east of the country after being captured from Georgian forces during the Russian incursion into Georgia in August 2008.
* BAE Systems has been handed a GBP100 million ($154 million) contract extension to support the Eurofighter Typhoon’s Radar and Defensive Aids Sub System (RDSS), the system designed to protect the aircraft against missile and other threats. The RDSS comprises several systems, including missile warning indicators, chaff and flare dispensers and Electronic Counter-Measure pods. Kuwait recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 28 of the aircraft, following discussions earlier this year with the Italian government.
* The company has also been selected as preferred bidder to supply the Maritime Indirect Fire System for the Royal Navy’s future Type 26 Global Combat Ship fleet. The company’s bid consists of the Mk45 Mod 4 gun, automated ammunition handling system and gun fire control system, as well as ammunition. BAE Systems is also the prime contractor on a $1.3 billion one-year demonstration contract, with the Ministry of Defence awarding $265 million in long-lead product contracts for the ships in August.
* Airbus is urging the UK’s Defence Ministry to fast-track a replacement for the Skynet 5 communications satellites currently leased from the company. With internal wrangling within the MoD over specifications for the Skynet 6 constellation holding up progress, Airbus Defence’s boss has reportedly stated that a contract needs to be in place by 2018. The four satellites currently used by the British Armed Forces are the result of a multi-billion pound Private Finance Initiative (PFI) signed in 2003, with the contract set to conclude in 2022. One of the four Skynet 5 satellites was repositioned above the Asia-Pacific region in March to offer spare bandwidth to allied nations.
Asia & Pacific
* Russia’s Rostec conglomerate is looking to sell military hardware to Thailand in exchange for commodities such as rubber and rice. The company’s subsidiaries are currently fulfilling a contract to supply Thailand with Mi-17 transport helicopters, as well as Superjet 100 aircraft. Russia and Thailand are boosting bilateral trade ties, with the Russian Trade Minister stating in July that the country would be prepared to sell over $160 million-worth of weaponry in exchange for 80,000 tons of rubber. A Thai military delegation was also recently in Russia to attend an arms fair.
* The Mk45 Mod 4: