SOCOM ‘Spooky’ aircraft modified for SOPGM integration | Morocco requests M1 Abrams tank enhancements | Taiwan: hoping for the F-16V
The US Navy is allocating more funding towards studying and improving the F-35’s operational capability. Lockheed Martin is receiving a $18.5 million modification to a previously awarded IDIQ contract. The extra money covers program-related and logistical work and analysis of the F-35’s ability to accomplish its mission requirements set by the US military and other partnering nations and foreign buyers. Included in the analysis is a study looking into cost and weight reductions and simulations of the aircraft’s performance with modelling and simulation activities. Work will be performed at Lockheed’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed in December 2019.
IAP Worldwide Services is being contracted to ensure the operational readiness of the US Air Force’s fleet of E-6B Mercury aircraft. Priced at $76.8 million, the modified contract exercises the third option year for logistics support services on the “survivable airborne communication system” airplanes. The E-6B Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) aircraft are 707-300 derivatives designed to support the Navy’s SSBN ballistic missile submarine force and overall strategic forces. The contract enables IAP Worldwide to maintain and support the Mercury and covers the provision of support equipment, aircraft weapon system parts, associated support sites, and supporting organizations. Work is expected to be completed in November 2019 with 70% of the work performed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and 10% each done at facilities in Patuxent River, Maryland; Bellevue, Nebraska; and Fairfield, California.
Sierra Nevada Corp is receiving a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to support US SOCOM’s fleet of heavy gunships. Awarded by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the contract provides for the procurement of standoff precision guided munitions modified cargo doors and sensor conversion units at a cost of $30.8 million. This contract supports the service’s fleet of AC-130 aircraft that will soon be equipped with Dynetics’ GBU-69/B Small Glide Munitions (SGMs) Stand-Off Precision Guided Munition (SOPGM). The AC-130U Spooky is a highly modified C-130, its primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Work will be performed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is expected to be completed by December 2024.
Radiance Technologies is being tapped to provide the US Army with high energy laser lethality research, assessment and support. The contract with an estimated completion date of November 15, 2023 is valued at $28.2 million. US services currently have multiple directed energy weapons-related programs running, some of which show promise. A number of US Army programs are reportedly showing promise during concept demonstrations and their potential relevance in addressing a number of current and emerging threats to US ground forces. In the past Radiance has worked on the Army’s High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck, or HELMTT, which is a 50 kilowatts class laser system integrated in a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. HELMTT is meant to provide a weapons system to Soldiers that requires less logistics support than a kinetic weapons system, and is less costly to operate. Work will be performed at the company’s facility in Huntsville, Alabama. Department of Defense FY 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $724,000 are being obligated.
Middle East & Africa
The Moroccan government is requesting the purchase of 162 Abrams tank enhancement kits from the US. The potential deal is priced at $1.3 billion and is currently pending approval by Congress. Already approved by the State Department the Foreign Military Sales package will procure enhancements to variants such as the M1A1 Abrams situational awareness (baseline version), the M1A2M with commander’s independent thermal viewer, or the M1A1 US Marine Corps version equipped with slew to cue. The deal further procures 324 M240 Machine Guns, 1035 M865 Training SABOT Rounds and 1610 M831Al HEAT Rounds. Additional items to be acquired include 162 export single channel ground and airborne radio systems (SINCGARS), 162 RT-1702 receiver transmitters, 162 M250 smoke grenade launchers, and special armor, as well as other related elements of logistics and program support. Prime contractor will be General Dynamics, with work to be performed at Anniston Army Depot, Alabama. The DSCA notice states that the enhancements will contribute to the modernization of Morocco’s tank fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats.
Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet reports, that Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has found a solution to finalising a defense order with Pakistan. The order sees for the delivery of 30 T129 ATAK helicopters to Pakistan. This $1.5 billion deal was stalled due to the US DoD refusing to issue the Turkish company with an export license. This forced TAI to look for a replacement of the US and British-made LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshaft engines. Turkey and Pakistan have now agreed to acquiring a replacement variant for the engines. According to Hurriyet producers in France and Poland are being considered as potential suppliers, provided that the new engine shows adequate performance in high-altitude and bad weather conditions during upcoming tests.
Science and Engineering Services is being tapped to modernize four SH-60F Seahawk helicopters for the Spanish Navy. The Foreign Military Sale is priced at $25 million and provides for aircraft refurbishment, modification and delivery. The SH-60F is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission helicopter and part of the Sikorsky S-70 family. The variant is designed to conduct ASW and SAR missions and is extensively used for logistics, transporting personnel, mail, and supplies between ships. The helicopter can also fulfil a ‘Plane Guard’ mission, which is a rescue mission that is airborne any time the host Aircraft Carrier is launching or recovering aircraft. The Spanish Navy currently has 12 Seahawks in its inventory. Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $6 million are being obligated. Work will be performed at the company’s factory in Huntsville, Alabama. The SeaHawks will be back in Spain by March 2021.
Taiwan’s air force is hoping that the US approves its requested purchase for new F-16V fighter jets. The air force sees the F-16V as a platform that would increase the country’s air defense capabilities, while also being a cheaper alternative to the costly F-35. Defense Minister Yan Defa minded that the service must evaluate the platform based on its combat strength and supplement capability to the other three aircraft types in service, he also reassured that any proposed platform that meets the operational requirements will be taken into consideration. Taiwan’s main fighter platforms are the F-16, AIDC F-CK-1 known as Indigenous Defense Fighter and the Mirage 2000, all of which are about 20 years old. Past requests for the purchase of 66 F-16C/D fighters were rejected by the US government. As an alternative the US proposed the delivery of F-16Vs which have a comparable performance to the C/D variants. Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping told the South China Morning Post that ‘the US had considered selling the production lines of its discontinued F-16 and F-18 fighter jets to India, and it was possible it may also sell the F-16 production line to Taiwan’.
Watch: F-15E Strike Eagle Cockpit Vid • Exercise Point Blank (2018)