* Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings is reportedly considering raising its unsolicited bid price for the United Launch Alliance joint venture, despite a very public rejection of its first $2 billion bid, made earlier this month, by both Lockheed Martin and Boeing. A further setback for the company occurred last week when ULA signed an agreement with Orbital ATK as the company’s exclusive provider of solid fuel boosters, side-lining Aerojet Rocketdyne in the process.
* An LA Times report has found serious short-comings in the JLENS cruise missile defense system, with the Army reportedly trying to kill off the program in 2010. The report details how lobbying kept the $2.7 billion program alive despite operational deficiencies, including software issues preventing integration with the NORAD air defense network; it is unclear whether the two aerostats operating on the East Coast as part of a three-year evaluation – launched in December 2014 and August respectively – are currently linked to this network.
* A fully-configured KC-46A tanker completed its first flight on Friday, a month later than scheduled owing to the chemical mix-up in early August. The program is a year behind schedule, the first flight is a rare positive sign for a program hit by cost spikes and schedule delays, with Boeing scheduled to deliver 18 aircraft in August 2017.
* Raytheon has been awarded a $264.8 million contract for improvement works to the AIM-9X air-to-air missile, with these destined for the Air Force, Navy and six Foreign Military Sales customers. The Block II missile recently entered full rate production, with Friday’s contract announcement intended to assist in bringing up some Block I stockpiles up to the Block II standard, including new components and software upgrades.
* Also on Friday the company received a $227.1 million contract for the production of 447 AIM-9X missiles, with these headed for the Navy, Air Force and four Foreign Military Sales customers. The contract also covers the delivery of 129 training missiles, with these scheduled for delivery to multiple governments, including Switzerland, Morocco, Israel and Oman.
* Northrop Grumman has been selected by the Army to develop the Airborne Reconnaissance Low-Enhanced (ARL-E) long-range radar system, an Active Elecontrically-Scanned Array (AESA) system intended to form part of an Army modernization program to improve their manned intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. The Army is planning to replace nine de Havilland Canada Dash 7 aircraft with nine Bombardier Dash-8s, in addition to new sensor payloads such as wide-area surveillance and hyperspectral imaging sensors to provide a new low-profile airborne ISR capability.
* Spain has selected the General Dynamics Piranha 5 8×8 armored vehicle as a base platform for the Ministry of Defense’s infantry fighting vehicle design. With an initial order covering 300 vehicles, valued at $1.7 billion, the design beat four others in a MoD competition. A branch of General Dynamics was awarded a $99 million research and development contract by the MoD in August to develop the vehicle design.
* Russia has pushed back the PAK FA/T-50 fifth-generation fighter’s operating schedule, with the aircraft now slated to enter service in 2017, a year later than previously announced. TASS recently reported that the fighter will come equipped with the mach 3.5 X-58USHK missile, mounted internally to reduce the aircraft’s radar cross-section.
* General Atomics has unveiled a new capability for its MQ-9B Guardian maritime UAV, presenting a sonobuoy capability along with other modifications to the Royal Navy in a bid to market the Guardian as an unmanned maritime patrol aircraft to supplement the likely procurement of a manned maritime patrol aircraft. Calls from industry for the UK’s Defence Ministry to run a competition for its future maritime patrol aircraft are growing louder, with Northrop Grumman thought to be considering an offer of their RQ-4C Triton as another unmanned option in addition to the Guardian.
Asia & Pacific
* South Korea’s $6.9 billion KF-X program has hit a major speed bump with refusal by the US government to approve the transfer of four core technologies from F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin to the country’s defense procurement agency, with the South Korean government now confirming that Washington refused the transfer back in April. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) will now have to look elsewhere to acquire these technologies, which include an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, EO targeting pod, RF jammer and IR search and track system. Lockheed Martin promised to transfer 25 technologies to the country when it signed a Foreign Military Sales contract for 40 F-35s in September, with the homegrown fighter project seemingly now in jeopardy.
* Afghan pilots flying the country’s recently-operational MD-530 helicopters have expressed criticism of the Cayuse Warrior aircraft, citing a lack of range and jamming of the twin .50 cal machine guns installed through a contract last October. The mountains bordering the helicopters’ Kabul operating base are posing a challenge for the small helicopters, with the thin air reducing lift, limiting effective range and placing Taliban operating areas out of reach.
* Textron Marine & Land Systems will supply the Afghan government with 55 Mobile Strike Force vehicles, a 4×4 protected vehicle supplied to the country since November 2011. The company was awarded a $56.2 million Foreign Military Sales contract on Friday to supply the vehicles, coming soon after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction penned a letter to the commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, earlier this month.
* The KC-46A Pegasus‘ first flight: