Spirit AeroSystems Shows Off Bell Heli Fuselage | Gen Atomics to Open Training Facility for UAVs | Egyptians Broker Deal to Buy French Mistrals
- The fuselage of the Bell Helicopters V-280 tiltrotor demonstrator aircraft was unveiled by manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems on Tuesday. Assembled by the company’s rapid prototyping facility, the fuselage will be combined with the V-280 wing, engines and tails. The V-280 Valor design will compete with Sikorsky/Boeing’s SB-1 Defiant design from September 2017 in a two-year evaluation period for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. Both are part-funded through the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, part of FVL, with contracts awarded last year.
- Delivery of the first Ford-class carrier to the Navy will be delayed owing to the need for additional testing before sea trials can begin. The Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will now be delivered in May 2016, six to eight weeks after the scheduled March 2016 delivery date. With the carrier currently 93% complete, the cost of the test will be absorbed below the $12.9 billion cost cap mandated by Congress. The ship’s schedule took a hit in August when Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall ordered the Navy to conduct full-scale shock tests on the Ford, rather than the second carrier in class, the Kennedy. That decision will likely push back the carrier’s Initial Operating Capability by several months.
- General Atomics – manufacturer of Predator and Reaper UAVs – will open a training facility for international customers of its unmanned aircraft, according to a company press release. The new ‘RPA Training Academy’ facility on Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota will ultimately aim to train up to 60 flight crews a year, using a US government-approved training scheme.
- Egyptian and French leaders have negotiated a deal for the two Mistral LHDs owned by the French state following a deal with Moscow in August. The Egyptians are also reported to be in talks over acquiring two more Gowind corvettes, to supplement the four ordered in 2014. However, reports [French] indicated that there was a brief sticking point over the price of the two Mistrals. Reports from August indicated that Saudi Arabia [French] may be financing the Egyptians, with Malaysia also previously indicating interest in the Mistrals.
- As France celebrates offloading the two vessels, French personnel began on Wednesday to remove sensitive Russian equipment [Russian] installed on the LHDs, joined by Russian experts to assist in the removal/prevent any unwanted prying into the systems. The systems are thought to collectively value around EUR50 million and include combat information systems, missile fire controls, helicopter landing modules and artillery systems.
- An Italian Eurofighter test aircraft has conducted live-fire testing of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile in the UK as part of the Phase 2 Enhancements (P2E) upgrade package planned for the multinational fighter. With the Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) tested successfully earlier this month, the Storm Shadow’s integration with the Eurofighter began last year, with the first Storm Shadow drop from a Eurofighter aircraft in November. Full integration of the missile is expected by the end of this year, with the P2E package slated for completion by the end of 2017.
Middle East North Africa
- Oshkosh Defense has been handed a $47 million modification to add an additional 184 medium tactical vehicles to a $4.7 billion Foreign Military Sales order in 2009, with the new vehicles headed for Iraq. The vehicles are scheduled for delivery by February 2017.
- An undisclosed African state has signed a contract for two Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan transport aircraft, joining Chad and Morocco as operators on the continent. The C-27J has seen significant export success, with sales to countries as diverse as Peru, Bulgaria and Australia. A gunship version of the Spartan is also in development, known as the C-27J Praetorian.
Asia & Pacific
- South Korea is planning to equip its fleet of KF-16 fighters with SPICE-2000 guided bombs, manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Industries. The country has been looking to modernize its fleet, including radar and armament upgrades, with the new bomb kits allowing the country’s air force to modify unguided 2000lb bombs with a dual CCD-IIR sensor and tail fins, creating a guided stand-off weapon.
- The Republic of Korea Air Force is also reportedly planning a request to the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff for an additional two E-737 AWACS aircraft to help police the country’s Air Defense Identification Zone. The RoKAF previously requested an additional two aircraft in October 2014, following China’s establishment of a similar ADIZ, which included some Korean territory. South Korea operates four E-737 Peace Eye aircraft, with these ordered in November 2006 through a $1.59 billion deal with Boeing.
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