The hypersonics are coming with $928 million USAF contract | DARPA’s Gremlins program enters Phase III | Is PAC’s JF-17 Malaysia’s fighter solution?
- Lockheed Martin landed Wednesday, April 18, a $928 million US Air Force contract for the delivery of an undefined number of hypersonic conventional strike weapons. According to the Pentagon statement, Lockheed’s work includes the design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning, and aircraft integration support of all the elements of a hypersonic, conventional, air-launched, stand-off weapon. Work will take place in Huntsville, Alabama, with no contract completion date given. “We are excited to get to work on the hypersonic conventional strike weapon program,” John Snyder, Lockheed Martin vice president of Air Force Strategic Programs, said in an emailed statement quoted by CNBC. Hypersonic missiles are capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 5 or higher, which is at least five times faster than the speed of sound, or about one mile per second. Meanwhile, commercial airliners fly subsonically at just below Mach 1 while modern fighter jets can travel supersonically at Mach 2 or Mach 3.
- Raytheon has received an award for the design, testing, and deployment of the Barracuda mine neutralization system—a platform that aims to move mines deeper into the ocean in order to safely detonate and eliminate them. Valued at $83.3 million, the contract awarded by the US Naval Sea Systems Command defines the Baracuda as “an expendable, autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle intended to identify and neutralize bottom, near surface and drifting sea mines,” with the aim that it “will field a shallow water capability and be an expendable modular neutralizer consisting of a kill mechanism, propulsion, sensors, and communications buoy that enables wireless communication to the deployment platform.” The contract contains options that could take the contract’s value in excess of $362.7 million. Work will take place primarily at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, but also DeLeon Springs, Florida, and is expected to be completed by November 2022.
- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has granted Dynetics Inc a $32.4 contract for Phase III of the Gremlins program. Work to be carried out in the contract includes the research, development, and demonstration of safe and reliable aerial launch and recovery of multiple unmanned air vehicles, with traceability to an objective system capable of employing and recovering diverse distributed payloads in volley quantities. Work on the contract will occur in multiple locations across the United States and is expected to be complete in January 2020. The Gremlins program looks to develop low-cost, reusable unmanned air systems that can be deployed from a C-130 transport plane. According to Dynetics, Phase III will demonstrate the ability to launch multiple Gremlins air vehicles and safely recover them onto a C-130 aircraft by the end of 2019.
Middle East & Africa
- Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement this week that it expects delivery of a further six T-50IQ advanced jet trainer aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) by the end of the year. So far, Baghdad has received 12 T-50s in two batches since contracts were signed for a total of 24 aircraft in 2013. The news comes following the recent visit of Iraq’s ambassador to South Korea, Haider Shayya al-Barak, to KAI’s South Korean headquarters, where he received updates on the program.
- Growing diplomatic tensions between Greece and Turkey has entered a new realm of pettiness after two Turkish fighters harassed a Chinook helicopter ferrying the Greek Prime Minister. The incident, which took place near the islet of Ro onTuesday afternoon saw the F-16s, flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet, ask the Greek helicopter pilot, which at that moment was at 1,500 feet, to provide flight details, according to defense sources. In response, the Hellenic Air Force (HAL) immediately scrambled two fighters and the Turkish formation then retreated. The incident comes just a week after a HAF pilot died after his Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet crashed near the island of Skyros—he had been returning from intercepting two Turkish Air Force F-16 fighters that had intruded into Greek airspace. While the crash does not appear to be due to the Turkish mission, it made the situation in the region more tense.
- Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin’s helicopter subsidiary, revealed on Wednesday its industrialization plan for competing in the German Air Force “Schwerer Transporthubschrauber” (STH) Program, or effort to buy new heavy-lift helicopters. Offering its CH-53K King Stallion, Sikorsky has already teamed up with German defense giant Rheinmetall Group—who will take care of in-service support if Berlin chooses the King Stallion—and the Sikorsky CH-53K team plans to host German companies in an industry chalet during the ILA Berlin Airshow April 25-29, where it will showcase plans for the long-term sustainment of the CH-53K by German aerospace industry. Companies expected alongside Rheinmetall include MTU, ZF Luftfahrttechnik GmbH, Autoflug, HYDRO Systems KG, Rockwell Collins Germany, Jenoptik, Hensoldt, Liebherr, and Rohde & Schwarz. Germany is looking to replace its legacy fleet of CH-53G, some of which have been in service since the mid-1960s, with a new capability. Facing off against the CH-53K is Boeing’s CH-47F Chinook.
- BAE Systems has signed a maintenance support contract with Milrem LCM for Estonia’s fleet of CV9035 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs). Milrem, an Estonian firm owned by the Finnish Patria Group, specialises in combat vehicle life-cycle management and will provide maintenance and repair services for CV9035 vehicles from its facilities in Estonia. BAE Systems is also teaming with Milrem to pursue an opportunity to modernize CV90 Support Vehicles under a program for the Estonian Center for Defense Investment later this year. The program will likely cover the maintenance, repair, and rebuild of an additional 37 CV90 MkI vehicles procured from Norway. Estonia is one of seven European nations that operate variants of the CV90. Its first batch of IFVs arrived in Estonia in October 2016, followed by a second shipment in December 2017.
- Speaking to Jane’s on the sidelines of this year’s Defence Services Asia (DSA) expo being held in Kuala Lumpur, an official from the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) has revealed that preliminary talks have kicked off that may see the JF-17 fighter sold to Malaysia. While stressing that no serious talks have started yet, the anonymous official said that PAC was will to form collaborative partnerships with local industry in Malaysia through which technologies could be transferred to facilitate either localised component manufacturing or maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Rumours had surfaced that Malaysia was interested in the JF-17 in 2015, but these had been previously downplayed by its defense ministry. This time, if talks were to mature to a further stage, the JF-17 may offer a cost effective solution to the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s requirement for a twin-engine multirole combat aircraft. The RMAF program, which was announced more than a decade ago, has been hindered largely due to a lack of funds.
- The impact of hypersonic weapons:
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