* The Pentagon has denied United Launch Alliance a waiver that would have allowed the company to continue using Russian RD-180 rockets. SpaceX was unhappy that the company’s competitor for defense and intelligence satellite launch services requested the waiver, with ULA previously threatening to withdraw from future competition with SpaceX if the waiver was denied. SpaceX was cleared for national security launches in May, with Congress passing the 2015 defense authorization law in December 2014 to curtail the use of the RD-180 by ULA, resulting in protests from some within the Pentagon earlier this year.
* The KC-46A Pegasus tanker has deployed its refuelling systems for the first time, including its boom, hose and drogue systems. The tanker performed its first flight in September, following a delay in August. Boeing is working towards an initial operating capability – which will see 18 KC-46A and support available for operations – by August 2017.
* The Navy has completed testing of the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). The two aircraft used in the trials carried out ‘high risk’, heavy launches, involving simulated weapons loads and low airspeeds. These trials build on previous testing (in November 2014) of the F-35C’s ability to land and take off from carriers. When the F-35Cs landed aboard the carrier in early October the trials were also slated to test the JPALS landing assistance system, with no word yet as to whether this was achieved. A third round of at-sea testing is scheduled for summer 2016, with the F-35C developmental testing now approximately 80% complete.
* Russia is reportedly [Russian] planning to develop a high-speed drone based on the Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-143 reconnaissance drone. The Tupolev-based ‘Zenica’ air-launched UAV is intended to reach speeds of 800kph, with parallel research projects known as Hunter-U and Hunter-Y; the former another high-speed drone, likely aircraft-launched, with the latter a ground-launched “flying wing” design.
* The Polish Armaments Inspectorate is looking to procure missiles for the country’s fleet of MiG-29s. Acquisition of forty R27A1 air-to-air missiles, also known by NATO as the AA-10 Alamo, is planned by the Inspectorate, with the competition also open to Ukrainian companies such as Artem JSC which also produce the Soviet-era missile.
Middle East North Africa
* Egypt is showing interest in the Airbus A400M, according to two Spanish press reports [Spanish]. With potential deals falling through with South Africa and Chile (which opted for the Embraer KC-390), the North African country would be the first export customer after Malaysia joined the program in 2005, as well as the first customer following the crash of one A400M in May. Egypt operates 24 C295 transports, also manufactured by Airbus.
* Iran has tested a new long-range ballistic missile on Saturday, with the Fars news agency announcing the launch on Sunday. Referred to as the ‘Emad’ (‘Pillar’), the missile is thought to be potentially capable of striking at ranges of approximately 1,700km. The test may have breached the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed in July with the P5+1, in addition to a UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR 2235) barring the country from developing missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
* Sri Lankan Air Force officials are due to arrive in Islamabad in November to discuss a possible acquisition of JF-17 fighters, according to Pakistani press reports. Sri Lanka played down reports in June that the country was the first export customer for the JF-17, stating that a decision has yet to be made on a possible procurement of the fighter.
* Afghanistan will sign a contract for Mil Mi-35 attack helicopters, according to Russian press reports [Russian] citing the country’s envoy to Afghanistan. The commercial contract is to be signed later this month, with the number of helicopters included in the deal not yet known. Pakistan recently opted to buy the Mi-35M from Russia, with Azerbaijan, Brazil and Egypt also operating the type.
* Japan’s Defense Ministry will decide on whether to proceed with the country’s indigenous fighter program by FY2018, with the country expected to field the first of 42 F-35s by the spring of 2018. The indigenous fighter would likely revolve principally around air superiority as a complement to the F-35’s stealthy strike capabilities. A starting point for the program could be the ATD-X Shinshin fighter prototype, currently four years in development by Mitsubishi; the jet now slated for flight tests later this year, following a software glitch in January scrapping its maiden flight.
* Footage of the Iranian ballistic missile test over the weekend: