* The USAF and Army have tasked Raytheon with adapting their Coyote UAV into a suicide drone to take out quadcopters. The program will see the UAV given features in order to operate as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) asset, as well as being fitted with a counter unmanned air system (C-UAS) capability in order to defend itself against small quad-copter UAVs by using a kinetic payload. Completion of the C-UAS is expected by the end of the year. Coyotes currently form the backbone the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program.
* Costs associated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program could drop, according to Lockheed Martin’s CEO Marillyn Hewson. Hewson met with US President-elect Donald Trump for a second meeting last week, later telling reporters that her company is “close to a deal” to bring down the cost of the F-35 program. In addition to the fighter’s costs, Hewson committed the firm to increasing jobs at their Fort Worth, Texas, facility by 1,800.
* Ethical conflicts at Pratt & Whitney have resulted in the ousting of the head of the company’s F135 engine program alongside nine other employees. The dismissals come after the completion of an internal audit which uncovered an ethics issue linked to a visit by South Korean military officials several years ago. During the trip, the Korean delegation paid a visit to the company’s West Palm Beach facility in Florida, and Pratt & Whitney paid for a rental van to fetch them there. While certainly not the most outrageous form of graft in the industry’s history, causing no violation of US export control or anti-bribery laws, the engine company deemed the move as a breach of their strict ethics laws, amounting to “inappropriate entertainment.”
* An ex-USAF WC-130H Hercules aircraft has been offered to the government of Niger under the Pentagon’s Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. Currently collecting dust at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the plane was offered to Niger in November 2015, but this offer has yet to be accepted. The WC-130H was used in weather reconnaissance and aerial sampling, and has been modified to penetrate hurricanes and typhoons to collect meteorological data that make advanced warnings of such storms possible. In a separate EDA transfer, Washington is sending a C-130 wing set to Niger, although it is unknown if the set would be used on the offered WC-130H, or an older C-130H first delivered in Niger in 1979.
* Leonardo will develop the replacement for the Italian Army’s A129 gunship, following the awarding of contracts by the Italian National Armaments Directorate of the Italian Defense Ministry. Under the contract, Leonardo will design and produce one prototype of the new exploration and escort helicopter (NEES) as well as three production examples. Rome could buy as many as 48 NEES as part of the replacement program. The company has also consolidated their UK operations under a single entity, Leonardo MW Ltd, comprised of AgustaWestland Ltd, Selex ES Ltd, Finmeccanica UK Ltd, and DRS Technologies UK Ltd.
* The Slovakian government has received a number of offers to buy or lease fighter planes that will replace their aging MiG-29s. Those offered include Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen fighter, currently operated by neighboring Czech Republic. Last December, both governments signed a “Joint Sky” agreement, aimed at collaborating on joint airspace defense, and if Bratislava selects the Gripen, both countries could potentially share maintenance and pilot training.
* EUROSAM has officially welcomed Italy’s participation in the development of their Aster 30 Block 1 NT program. A consortium led by MBDA and Thales, EUROSAM’s B1NT program is an effort supported by the French and Italian defense ministries to develop new technology for the Aster missile in addition to modernizing SAMP/T systems currently in service. Currently used to counter ballistic missile threats, improvements made to the Aster 30 Block 1 NT will allow operators to extend this capability to more complex threats and will also deal with the emerging threat of Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.
* Pakistan is hoping that a Donald Trump presidency may restart a plan to procure F-16 jets through a foreign military financial aid scheme. US Congress downed the plan last year following concerns by some lawmakers over Islamabad’s allegiances in regards to counter-terrorism operations in the region. It was decided that if Pakistan wanted the F-16s, they would have to pay for them out of their own pocket.
Aster 30 Block 1 NT: