* The final Zumwalt-class destroyer undergoing construction by General Dynamics Bath Ironworks – the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002) – is facing the chop by an independent team of Pentagon cost assessors, with the third-in-class vessel already under construction. Estimated to cost $3.5 billion, the destroyer was originally supposed to be the third of 32 destroyers, with numbers revised down to first eight then three ships. Cancelling the third ship would effectively cancel the most cost-efficient of the three, as the line becomes more streamlined through each iteration of construction.
* The Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) is likely to be kitted out with equipment capable of turning the aircraft into both an intelligence-collection hub and a battlefield management asset, according to a report by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. The dean, a leading doctrinal thinker named Lt Gen (Ret.) David Deptula, has also advocated an increase in the number of next-generation bombers from the 80 to 100 planned to 174. The modularity envisioned as a core characteristic of the aircraft design will likely expand the capabilities of the design to include other more exotic elements, such as microwave or laser-based weapons. A contract for the LRS-B is expected soon, after a schedule slippage earlier this year. Northrop Grumman is competing against a Boeing/Lockheed Martin team for the program, which could value between $50 to $80 billion, with upgrade work likely to expand the workshare available for industry to compete for over the bomber’s lifespan.
* BAE Systems’ Taranis stealth UAV will reportedly undergo final flight tests by the end of the year, including a simulated release of weapons. The UAV, jointly funded by the UK’s Ministry of Defence and industry partners, completed flight tests last year and is being touted as the basis for the next generation of RAF unmanned systems. Previous testing took place in Woomera, Australia, with MoD officials declining to release where the next round of tests will take place.
* Guided firings of the Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) have been successfully completed as part of the Eurofighter’s Phase 2 Enhancements upgrade package. The MBDA-developed missile was tested by BAE Systems and industry partners as part of a NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency contract awarded in June 2013 for the integration of the Meteor with the Eurofighter, set for completion by 2016. Previous tests in December last year tested the operation of the missile itself, while this latest is reported to have been assessing the interaction between the missile, aircraft and radar system to hit an aerial target. Other weapons are scheduled for testing ahead of a planned introduction of the P2E package in 2017, including the Storm Shadow cruise missile, with this expected to see firings in coming weeks.
* The Euroradar consortium’s Captor-E radar, an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar designed for the Eurofighter Typhoon, is approaching flight tests, according to reports Monday. The tests will begin on a UK instrumented production aircraft, with flights also taking place on a German aircraft. A NETMA $1.23 billion contract to complete development of and integrate the radar system was signed in November 2014, with the Captor-E scheduled to fit Tranche 2 and 3 Typhoons.
* Lockheed Martin has bagged a contract to integrate its Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) onto Polish F-16s, signing a Foreign Military Sales contract with the US Air Force on Monday. The contract covers an initial batch of 40 missiles, estimated to value approximately $500 million, including test and training missiles, aircraft upgrades and support services, according to a FMS request in September 2014. Poland’s fleet of 48 F-16C/D Block 52s are to receive the missiles as part of an expanding arsenal of Polish strike weapons, with the country being the third international JASSM customer following Australia and Finland.
Middle East North Africa
* With Egypt appearing to lead the pack of prospective buyers for the two French state-owned Mistral LHDs, the Russian government has reportedly indicated that if the North African state were to acquire the two ships then the sensitive Russian equipment installed on them could remain in place, after stating earlier this month that this equipment would be removed. The same reportedly goes for India, with both countries established markets for Russian military hardware. With reports indicating that Saudi Arabia may finance the acquisition of the vessels for Egypt, in order to leverage the country’s navy as a regional proxy, the Egyptians have recently purchased a number of French naval vessels, including a FREMM frigate and Gowind corvettes.
Asia & Pacific
* The Australian Army has taken delivery of a seventh CH-47F Chinook helicopter ahead of schedule, with this the final Chinook ordered through a $513.5 million contract with the US Army Security Assistance Command in 2010, along with simulators and spares. The Australian government first requested the helicopters in April 2009. The Australian CH-47Fs are US-configured models, which allowed Australia to take advantage of volume pricing when the $370 million manufacturing order was placed with Boeing in January 2012. The helicopters will operate from Queensland-based 5th Aviation Regiment, 16th Aviation Brigade, with Boeing’s Australian subsidiary set to provide maintenance support for the seven aircraft. A housing facility for the new Chinooks is also under construction, with this slated for completion by mid-2017.
* The Australian Defence Ministry announced on Monday that it has awarded funding to seven organisations through its Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program. The innovative concepts include low profile body armor, unmanned surface vehicles, mobile medical x-ray units and aircrew simulator centrifuges.
* Lockheed Martin’s next-generation U-2 intelligence aircraft, the optionally-manned TR-X: