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Sea Sparrow Block 2 incoming! | Bahrain set to receive 3,200 bomb bodies | Saab’s Gripen is flying high

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Americas * Lockheed Martin is being tapped by the US Army Contracting Command in support of the GMLR system. The $20 million contract modification provides for the development and qualification of a modular rocket pod and launch tubes for the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System. The multiple launch rocket system is a high-mobility automatic system […]

* Lockheed Martin is being tapped by the US Army Contracting Command in support of the GMLR system. The $20 million contract modification provides for the development and qualification of a modular rocket pod and launch tubes for the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System. The multiple launch rocket system is a high-mobility automatic system based on an M270 weapons platform. MLRS fires surface-to-surface rockets and the army tactical missile system. The MLRS launcher unit comprises an M270 launcher loaded with 12 rockets, packaged in two six-rocket pods. The launcher, which is mounted on a stretched Bradley chassis, is a highly automated self-loading and self-aiming system. It contains a fire control computer that integrates the vehicle and rocket-launching operations. Lockheed Martin developed a new extended-range guided MLRS (GMLRS), which has a range of more than 70km. The GMLRS rocket has a GPS, an inertial guidance package and small canards on the rocket nose, that guide it accurately over the target area, delivering its 500-pound unitary warhead to hit the target in a final dive. Work will be performed in Camden, Arizona and is expected to be completed by October 2019.

* The Naval Seas Systems Command is contracting Raytheon Missile Systems in support of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) system. The firm-fixed-price contract is valued at $77 million and provides for the engineering, test equipment, material and management necessary to transition the ESSM Block 2 engineering. The ESSM program is an international cooperative effort to design, develop, test and procure ESSM missiles which provide enhanced ship self-defense. The RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is used to protect ships from attacking missiles and aircraft, it is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. The biggest goal for Block 2 is to give the missile an active seeker option that allows independent guidance. That would make the ESSM much more effective against saturation attacks, though ESSM would also retain the ability to home in on reflected radiation from the ship’s much larger and more powerful radar. ESSM Block 2’s active guidance will be especially helpful to land-based air defense systems, which are constantly under threat from enemy missiles, rockets, etc. Air defense systems can foil some radar-killing missiles by intermittently shutting off their radars. They can also use transmitted results from other search radars, while depending on their own active seeker missiles to handle target tracking once they get close. Work is expected to be completed by December 2020 and will be performed at multiple locations, including Tucson, Arizona; Hengelo, Netherlands and Ottobrunn, Germany.

* Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems is being awarded a $15.6 million contract in support of the Navy’s AN/SQQ-89A(V)15 Surface Ship Undersea Warfare System. The modification provides for incremental funding in support of the continued development, integration and production of the system. The Surface Ship Undersea Warfare combat system has the capabilities to search, detect, classify, localize and track undersea contacts and to engage and evade submarines, mine-like small objects and torpedo threats. The AN/SQQ-89A(V)15 has been service for over 25 years and is installed on all of the Navy’s CG-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers and DDG-51 Arleigh-Burke Class destroyers. It uses active and passive sonar and provides multi-sensor track correlation, target track management control. Additionally, it forwards data to the ship’s weapons and decision-support systems. Work will be primarily performed in Lemont Furnace, Pennsylvania and Syracuse, New York, and is expected to be completed by May 2019.

Middle East & Africa

* The Defense Security Cooperation Agency is awaiting Congress’ approval for the delivery of General Purpose and Penetrator Warhead bomb bodies to the Kingdom of Bahrain. The proposed purchase is valued at $45 million and provides for two versions of the MK-82 bomb body and bodies for MK-83, MK-84 and BLU-109 bomb types. The US considers Bahrain, a major non-NATO ally, an important partner in the Mideast. The purchase of these munitions will bolster the Royal Bahraini Air Force’s ability to conduct and sustain air operations with its F-16 combat aircraft. Defense News reports, that there is a history of controversy over those aircraft, which were cleared last September as part of a nearly $4 billion in weapons package for Bahrain. The Obama administration had paused the sale of those fighters due to human rights concerns over how they could be used. Bahrain will use these munitions to deter regional threats, strengthen its homeland defense and execute counter-terrorism operations, according to the announcement. Bahrain is set to become the first country in the region to operate Lockheed’s F-16 Block 70 aircraft.


* The Royal Air Force’s $622 million Military Flying Training System program has recently achieved a major milestone. The first student pilots to fly the Grob G120TP Prefect commenced training on the type last month at a RAF base in Lincolnshire. The UK had taken delivery of the aircraft in November 2017. The RAF’s Military Flying Training System program will see 38 aircraft across three different types handed over by the end of 2018 to replace Britain’s aging stock of trainers. The planes are provided by Affinity, a joint venture between KBR and Elbit Systems. The G-120TPs is replacing the Tutor t1 and will be used to teach basic aviation principles and handling skills as well as provide an introduction to basic navigation, night flying and instrument-only flying. Grob’s 120TP is an extreme evolution of a line of two-seat sporting and aerobatic aircraft that began with the Grob G 115, first flown in 1985 and including the G 115E, ordered in quantity for UK service as the Tutor. First flown in 2010, the 120TP employs a composite airframe and turboprop power, plus digital avionics and a glass cockpit.

* The Swedish defense contractor Saab is expecting more purchases of its Gripen fighter jet after the smooth progress with the Gripen E/F development program for Brazil has heightened interest in the Swedish-designed fighter among numerous other potential customer nations. The JAS-39 Gripen is an excellent lightweight fighter by all accounts, with attractive flyaway costs and performance. Its canard design allows for quick “slew and point” maneuvers, allowing it to take advantage of the modern trend toward helmet-mounted displays, and air-air missiles with much wider boresight targeting cones. The Gripen has one other asset that is often overlooked: very attractive lifetime operational costs. Swiss evaluations reportedly rated the Gripen at roughly half the O&M costs expected for its twin-engine Rafale and Eurofighter counterparts. Prospective buyers for the C/D-version include Botswana, which has shown interest in the type as a replacement for its Northrop F-5s. Despite a recent setback in Europe when Croatia opted to acquire secondhand Lockheed Martin F-16s refurbished in Israel, Bulgaria and Slovakia remain firm targets for Gripen deals via the Swedish government. Indonesia the Philippines are also seen as opportunities. The air forces of the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Sweden and Thailand currently operate the Gripen C/D, while Brazil and Sweden will introduce the E/F from late 2019.


* China continues to build up its military bases in the South China Sea. In a media release, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said several bombers of various types, including the improved Xian H-6K, carried out landing and take offs at an island airfield following simulated strikes on targets at sea. The H-6K is an upgraded variant of the H-6, which is itself originally a Chinese-built version of the 1950s-era Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 Badger. The H-6K has been re-engined with Chinese-built versions of the Russian D-30KP low-bypass turbofans and improved avionics that include a new indigenously-developed radar and is used primarily as a cruise missile carrier in PLAAF service, utilizing the KD-20 or KD-63 cruise missiles on six wing hardpoints. China is also said to be developing a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile for the H-6K. China’s increased influence and strategic foothold in the South China Sea is a major curb to the US pivot towards the Pacific and adds more complications to the geo-politics of the region.

Today’s Video

* Russia’s ‘Sputnik’ reports that a MiG-31 caught fire in Permsky Krai.

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