* Aerojet Rocketdyne has begun a series of hot-fire tests with the company’s oxygen rich pre-burner engine for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator (HBTD) program. The HBTD program aims to provide reusable space flights through the use of a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid kerosene, hoping to fulfil the requirements laid out in the Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology.
* On Tuesday, Lockheed Martin was handed a $69.7 million contract to upgrade two Japanese Defense Force Atago-class Aegis-equipped ships through a Foreign Military Sale. The JDF is reportedly planning on building an additional pair of Atago-class ships, with Lockheed Martin having previously been awarded a contract in support of the class.
* Rockwell Collins was also awarded a $24.8 million IDIQ contract to supply the Navy and Australia with aircraft direction finders, radio tuner panels and high frequency radio shipsets for the P-8A Poseidon, with the contract slated for completion in 2020.
* Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey, which manufactures the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems, is appealing EU sanctions imposed on the company as a result of Russia’s support to separatists forces in Ukraine. The firm has been banned from selling defense and dual-use technologies to European countries, as well as seeing its assets frozen in western Europe. The company has been on the EU sanctions list since July 2014, as well as the US Treasury’s Special Designated Nationals list.
* Separately, Russian media is reporting that the Russo-Iranian deal for S-300 air defense systems is yet to be finalized, following the signing a decree in April nominally opening the way for the potential sale. With a history of back-peddling and curtailed deals, the future of this latest deal may not be as final as the Russian Foreign Ministry makes out to be.
* Georgia has unveiled a new unmanned attack helicopter, produced by the government’s State Military Scientific-Technical Center. The armed helicopter has a reported range of 280km and appears to be armed with two M134 mini-guns and eight ground attack missiles.
* Germany’s Rheinmetall has signed an agreement with state-owned Kazakhstan Engineering to form a joint venture. Kazakhstan is pursuing an ambitious defense modernization program, with support from Israel, Russia and China bolstered by oil and gas reserves.
* Italy’s 2015 defense budget was released on Tuesday, with a substantial EUR4.9 billion ($5.3 billion) set aside for procurement expenditure. The F-35 has been allocated $634 million, with Italy a Tier Two nation in the multinational program.
* With India having begun sea trials of the INS Sindhukirti, a recently refitted and modernized diesel-electric submarine, questions have been raised over the extended time (nine years) taken to refit the sub. This lethargic refit has been blamed by the shipyard responsible – Hindustan Shipyard Ltd – on Russian experts deliberately delaying the boat’s overhaul, including insistence on sourcing components from Russia, delaying several processes significantly. The original program called for the refit to take three years. The Soviet-manufactured Sindhukirti has reportedly been fitted with Klub-S missiles – also recently supplied to Vietnam – and new sonar, as well as other new components.
* India is to review its SU-30MKI fleet following the loss of one aircraft earlier this month. The high-level safety audit is a response to not only this latest crash, but the loss of six SU-30MKIs since the Indian Air Force received the first batch in 2002, a high attrition rate for a fighter which comprises roughly a third of the IAF’s fast jet force.
* The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has declared their fleet of Wedgetail AWACS operational, achieving Full Operational Capability (FOC) in light of operations over Iraq. Following a $2 billion December 2000 procurement contract, the fleet of six Boeing E-7A aircraft achieved Initial Operating Capability in November 2012, following setbacks from 2006 onwards in a much-criticised procurement program.
* Separately, the RAAF has demonstrated a satellite data link-enabled video stream between a C-17A and an IAI Heron UAV 2,000km away. The fleet of C-17As was recently equipped with SATCOM and imagery equipment as part of the Australian Defence Force’s Plan Jericho upgrade program.
* A RAAF video showing the use of the E-7A Wedgetail over Iraq: