The Super Hornets get a new stinger | MQ-9 Reaper gets a SAR upgrade | The Bradleys keep on rolling
- The Navy is awarding an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to Boeing. The $1.5 billion contract provides for the production of configuration sets and associated services in support of the life cycle upgrades of F/A-18A/B, C/D, E/F and EA-18G aircraft in support of the Navy and foreign military sales customers. The different versions of Super Hornets fighter aircraft are the backbone of naval aviation. They fulfill strike roles and can conduct tactical refueling sorties. Additionally, the EA-18G Growler has new electronics, and mounts special electronic warfare pods on the aircraft’s underwing instead of its 20mm canon. Boeing’s upgrade program is based on the Super Hornet Roadmap centered around 3 areas: doubling down on electronic advances, trying to improve flight performance in strike or air superiority roles, and improving the design’s radar signature. This contract combines purchases for the Navy ($1,18 billion) and various FMS customers ($333.8 million). Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri and China Lake, California, and is expected to be completed in June 2023.
- The US Army is tapping BAE Systems Land & Armaments in support of its Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs). The $347 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract sees for the production of up to 473 Bradley M2A4 and M7A4 vehicles, and for the procurement of authorized stockage list spares, and additional packages for legacy component repair. Introduced in the 1980s during the Reagan defense build-up, the Bradleys were a departure from the usual mold of lightly armed Armored Personnel Carriers. During Desert Storm the vehicles combination of firepower, mobility, and protection made them a valuable asset. The Bradleys’ high level of protection against anti-tank rockets has proven to be a significant plus, and operational readiness has reportedly exceeded 94%, during urban and cross-country missions that have covered more than 8 million miles. Work will be performed in York, Pennsylvania, with an estimated completion date of June 2019.
- The Air Force is contracting General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems in support of its MQ-9 Reaper platform. The contract modification provides for the product ionization of the Lynx Block 20A synthetic aperture radar (SAR) configuration and is valued at $22 million. The new Lynx SAR is set to replace the current configuration of the system on the future MQ-9 Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft. The Reaper packs the same surveillance gear as the famous Predator but is more of a hunter-killer design. The Lynx radar is designed to meet the onboard challenges of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft systems environment, the it consumes minimal Size, Weight, and Power (SWAP) while delivering precision air-to-surface targeting accuracy and superb wide-area search capabilities. Lynx includes two spotlight and two stripmap SAR modes. Spotlight mode produces high-resolution imagery on a defined point. Stripmap mode mosaics multiple spot SAR images together to form one large image. Work will be performed in Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by June 2020.
Middle East & Africa
- The Israeli defense manufacturer BlueBird Aero Systems is currently promoting the newly developed cargo variant of its ThunderB UAV. The compact UAV is designed to offer long endurance and extended range capabilities similar to those offered by larger unmanned aircraft weighing 440 lb. The ThunderB is a high-wing UAV integrating a V-shaped tail and housing a gimballed payload unit in the forward section of its fuselage. The UAV lacks a landing gear as it is recovered using a parachute system. The old variant was able to carry up to 7.7 lb. of payload and was designed for ISTAR, SAR and commercial missions. According to Jane’s, the new variant can carry a cargo payload of up to 8.8 lb. in two capsules that can be fitted under the platform’s wings Once transported to its destination, the cargo is then dropped using an electro-mechanical mechanism, landing with a high degree of accuracy at the intended drop site. The cargo capsules can also be fitted with a parachute to prevent the payload from being damaged.
- South African defense contractor Milkor will soon unveil its prototypes of the MN Centurion high-speed interceptor craft and MA 380 unmanned aerial system (UAS). The MN Centurion high-speed interceptor craft is a 39 ft. stepped hull, hydrofoil-assisted catamaran design with lightweight composite structure and a reduced radar signature. Designed and configured for multi-role operations, it is ideally suited for long endurance missions. The command and control bridge houses world class communications and surveillance equipment, along with its reduced radar signature hull, giving this craft the advantage for surveillance patrol, counter-piracy, and asset protection missions. The vessel can also be configured to operate as an unmanned surface vehicle (USV). The MA 380 has a low wing T-tail design with low-drag, low wing loading and retractable landing gear. It is equipped with optical imagery equipment providing real-time high definition, infrared and multispectral video data. The MA 380 has a big wingspan of 39 ft. A MALE platform, it has a maximum range of 1.242 miles and can reach a maximum speed of 136 mph/h. It features a maximum payload capacity of 176 lb. Both systems are expected to be shown at the Africa Aerospace and Defense Expo in September 2018.
- The assembly of a F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is currently underway at Leonardo’s facility in Cameri, Italy. The fighter aircraft are destined for the Netherlands Air Force. The Netherlands is planning to assemble most of its F-35s at the line at Cameri in northern Italy, where Italian Air Force and Navy F-35s are already being assembled. Italy and the Netherlands are both Tier 2 partners in the multi-billion JSF program. The Italian Navy’s ITS Cavour aircraft carrier is expected to need at least 22 F-35Bs to replace its AV-8 Harrier fighters. The aircraft currently assembled in Cameri is the ninth of the Netherlands’ order of 37 F-35As. Italy is currently due to purchase 60 F-35 As and 30 F-35Bs.
- Serbia’s Yugoimport company has recently unveiled the X-01 Strsljen VTOL UAV. The X-01 Strsljen is being developed by Serbian firm EDePro and is being marketed by Yugoimport. According to Airforce-Technology, the airframe of the Strsljen rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is built using carbon fiber, lightweight steel and aluminum materials. The rotorcraft takes-off vertically using a two-blade main rotor with a teetering head. The tubular skid landing gear is attached to the helicopter’s fuselage structure to facilitate safe landing even on hard surfaces. An integrated autopilot system is installed to provide stabilization and control for the helicopter in all axes. It will provide the UAV with the ability to fly in fully autonomous mode from take-off to landing. The unmanned helicopter is equipped with weapon pylons under the fuselage to carry air-to-surface weapons such as Spider anti-tank missiles and 12.7mm heavy machine gun.
- The Philippine Navy is set to conduct its first test fire of its Spike-ER surface-to-surface missile. The missiles are being fitted onto the Navy’s small MPACs (multi-purpose assault crafts). The Spike infantry system consists of a missile in its cannister, a tripod, a Command Launch Unit that contains the optics and firing system, and a battery. It can go from “off” to firing in less than 30 seconds, as the operator lays the cross hairs on the aim point using either the 10x day sight, or the clip-on thermal imaging night sight. The extended-range (8km) version, Spike-ER, also has a larger warhead. It is designed for mounting on light combat vehicles but can also be removed from a tripod. A bi-directional fiber-optic datalink provides Spike-ER with a fire and steer mode. The Philippine Navy’s Spike-ER missiles with its launchers and tracking systems were delivered to the Philippines from Israel last April.
- An Israeli F-16 drops the newly developed Rampage missile
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