* SpaceX has been cleared by the Air Force for national security-related launches, injecting competition into a previous United Launch Alliance monopoly on private DoD launches. This is part of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain’s efforts to end US reliance on the Russia-manufactured RD-180 rocket for space launches. However, the Pentagon has previously urged Congress to allow ULA to continue using the Russian rockets in order to “ensure access to space”.
* The Air Force has also successfully test-fired a Minuteman III ICBM from Vandenberg AFB, with the launch initiated and controlled from a U.S. Strategic Command Airborne Command Post E-6B Sentry AWACS aircraft operating the Airborne Launch Control System.
* The Pentagon is currently determining what should be included in the F-35‘s Block 4 configuration, ahead of a review later this year. Weapons that could feature in Block 4 include the Small Diameter Bomb II and the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile, as well as potentially the B61-12 standoff nuclear bomb.
* Young and Rubicam Inc. was awarded an $84.4 million contract Wednesday for advertising services in support of Navy recruitment, with one base year and four option years. The total value of the potential five-year contract would be $457.5 million.
* Also on Wednesday, Electric Boat Corp. was handed a $46.4 million contract for planning efforts needed to conduct maintenance, upgrades and modernization on USS Montpelier (SSN 765) while it is in dry dock.
* The Brazilian Navy has received the first of a dozen A-4 Skyhawks modernized by Embraer in order to extend their service life to 2025. Originally manufactured by McDonnell-Douglas, the upgraded jets have received new communications, weapons, power and navigation systems, as well as other new components.
* The United Kingdom won’t make a decision on whether to procure a British or US-manufactured strike package to equip its F-35 fleet until 2018. The choice is between the Small Diameter Bomb II – manufactured by Raytheon in the US – or an offering from home team MBDA to fulfill the Selective Precision Effects At Range 3 (SPEAR 3) requirement.
* Airbus has reappointed its CEO Maria Amparo Moraleda Martinez, who will be in charge of the European defense giant until 2019. The shareholder vote was win by a narrow margin, with Martinez taking 40% of the vote. The French, German and Spanish governments own shares in the firm; 11% for Germany and France and Spain 4.1%.
* India’s Defense Ministry has cleared a $3 billion deal for 15 CH-47F Chinook and 22 AH-64D Apache helicopters, with the acquisition now under a Finance Ministry review before a contract is signed. The country’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) effectively cleared the procurement in August last year, following the demise of the Light Utility Helicopter program.
* India and Germany have agreed to strengthen their defense relationship, with the German Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen currently in New Delhi plugging the Indians for a potential sale of Eurofighters and submarines. This is not the first time the Eurofighter has been pushed by European politicians, with British Prime Minister David Cameron recently reiterating that a potential deal with India is still on the table.
* The view from a Eurofighter‘s cockpit…