The Air Force will monitor the weather with microwaves | MBDA starts MICA-NG development | Italy slows down its F-35 acquisition program
Ball Aerospace & Technologies is receiving extra funding to advance work on the Weather System Follow-on Microwave (WSF-M) program. Awarded by the Air Force the $255 million contract modification allows for the development and fabrication Weather System Follow-on Microwave Space Vehicle 1. The WSF-M space vehicle will provide orbital monitoring of weather and environmental conditions in support of military operations. It uses a passive microwave radiometer to measure the strength of electromagnetic radiation and is useful for weather and temperature mapping. Work will be performed in Boulder, Colorado and is expected to be completed by January 2023.
Raytheon is being tapped to continue work on its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA. The awarded contract modification is priced at $74.8 million and provides for the procurement of more Guidance Electronics Units (GEU). The SM-3 Block IIA is the co-operative US-Japanese program. It adds the larger diameter, a more maneuverable “high-divert” kill vehicle, plus another sensor/ discrimination upgrade to help deal with harder targets, countermeasures, and decoys. The Block IIA model is capable of engaging ballistic missiles as they begin their descent in low space at long ranges. This order is part of a 2016 SM-3 Block IIA contract that sees for Raytheon to continue efforts for qualification, test and integration of the enhanced GEU capability to the missile. The total contract value is now $1.1 billion. Work will be performed at Raytheon’s facility in Tucson, Arizona and is scheduled for completion by September 30, 2020.
Colt’s Manufacturing Company is being contracted to maintain the US Army’s inventory of M4 and M4A1 rifles. The contract is valued at $88.6 million and funded through FY2019 and FY2020 operations and maintenance funds. The M4 offers a collapsible buttstock, flat-top upper receiver assembly, a U-shaped handle-rear sight assembly that could be removed, and assortment of mounting rails for easy customization with a variety of sight, flashlight, grenade launchers, shotgun attachments and so forth. It’s the successor to the M-16 with which it shares a 85% commonality. The M4A1 is the special operations version of the M4 that’s been in use for more than a decade. It features a heavier barrel and a full-auto trigger. Work will be performed at Colt’s factory in West Hartford, Connecticut. The contract is set to run through September 25, 2020.
Middle East & Africa
The Saudi Arabian Navy can expect delivery of its first new corvette in October 2021. According to Jane’s, Vicente Fernández Guerrero, the president of Spain’s state holding group SEPI, told members of parliament that the delivery timetable of the vessels has been finalised, with the remaining four corvettes to be handed over in four-month intervals. Saudi Arabia signed a $2 billion contract with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia on July 12, 2018. The new corvettes are based on Navantia’s Avante 2200 Combatant design and will feature some Saudi specific configurations like vertical launchers for the ESSM, Harpoon missiles, Rheinmetall CIWS and a Leonardo Super Rapid Naval gun. The vessel has a displacement of 2,200 tons with a length of 98.90 meters and a maximum speed of 25 knots. It was designed for low intensity missions such as patrol in the economic exclusive zone (EEZ), safeguard of sea lanes of communication, intelligence gathering, environment protection, drugs smuggling prevention, humanitarian relief and search and rescue operations.
The French Defense Procurement Agency DGA is giving MBDA the go-ahead to commence development of the MICA-NG missile. This next-generation air-to-air missile will arm the current and future versions of the Rafale combat aircraft. The MICA NG will replace the existing MICA. The MICA will be gradually withdrawn from service between 2018 and 2030. The MICA NG will be available in two versions, infrared and electromagnetic. MBDA’s development program includes an extensive redesign of the current missile variant, while harnessing the same aerodynamics, mass and centre of gravity. The next-generation missile will be fit to counter future threat with educed infrared and electromagnetic signatures, UAVs and small aircraft, as well as the threats normally countered by air-to-air missiles. The missile will be fitted with a new double-pulse rocket motor, giving it greater range and more energy. MBDA CEO Antoine Bouvier said at the program launch, “we are proud of the work completed with the DGA to achieve maximum technical and financial optimisation. The fact that we have reached this stage is thanks to the vision that we were able to share with our French customer to address its operational challenges, as well as our own long-term commercial challenges.”
The Italian government will slow-down its F-35 acquisitions in accordance with its recently published defense spending review. The Tier 2 partner will be buying six or seven JSFs in the next five years instead of the previously planned 10 aircraft. The decision on the slowdown keeps with Italian policy on the F-35 set out by Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta after she took office in June. Italy will maintain spending on the program, with $874 million to be spend in 2019 and another $887 million earmarked for 2020. Italy has made significant investments in JSF development, and the country hosts a European Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) production line in Cameri, near Milan. The country is currently due to purchase 60 F-35 As and 30 F-35Bs.
France’s sole nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is back at sea and will be deployed to the Indian Ocean in early February. The Charles de Gaulle recently completed its mid-life upgrade and prepares for its first activity in 18 months. During the $1.8 billion upgrade program the carrier underwent traditional maintenance operations such as scheduled checks of installations, refueling of nuclear fuel and so forth. Beyond that the carrier received an overhauled combat system and new optimised aviation systems for the Rafale. Faced with the “profound change in the naval strategic panorama”, including the expansionist aims of Beijing in the South China Sea, France considers the aircraft carrier of incomparable “tactical and political value”, said Admiral Christophe Prazuck, Chief of Staff of the French Navy.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) seems to have an updated version of its J-10 fighter aircraft. The J-10 Thrust Vectoring Control, or TVC, is equipped with a hinged thrust-vectoring nozzle that allows it to control the direction of its exhaust. This capability gives it improved maneuverability and low-speed handling. The J-10 TVC is the only Chinese aircraft that uses this technology. Internationally TVC is found on Russian Su-35s and the US F-22 Raptor. The J-10 is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role fighter developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) and 611 Institute for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The high-performance J-10 aircraft has been designed as an air superiority fighter with air-to-surface capability and is powered by China’s domestically-produced WS-10B3 turbofan engine. Experts have noted that Chinese development of a reliable domestic jet engine would also be a major step in shoring up what some observers see as the long-term political risk of an over-reliance on Russian military hardware.
Watch: Rheinmetall Active Defence System (ADS)