ULA Nixes Aerojet Rocketdyne Offer | Pentagon Office Critical of Marines F-35 Tests in Leaked Memo | UK’s MoD Signs $462M Contract for ASRAAM Missiles
- A leaked memo has uncovered serious concerns over the Marine Corps’ operational testing of F-35B aircraft aboard USS Wasp (LHD-1) in May, undermining the aircraft’s Initial Operating Capability in July. The memo, penned by the director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, cites a poor availability rate, a lack of realistic operational challenges and an absence of key mission systems. The first has been noted before, with this new memo as critical of how the tests were designed and supported as the aircraft themselves, including the discovery that the Wasp required software upgrades to communicate effectively with the F-35Bs.
- The first KC-46A tanker is expected to fly on 25 September, following a year-long delay. The trouble-hit tanker has become a headache for Boeing, which has been absorbing increasing development costs through a firm-fixed contract signed in February 2011 which capped Air Force costs at $4.9 billion. The most recent setback resulted from an accident involving the insertion of chemicals into the aircraft’s refuelling system in early August, pushing the tanker’s schedule back by a month. The first KC-46A is scheduled to demonstrate mid-air refuelling in early 2016, with a milestone C decision and subsequent low-rate initial production production contracts anticipated for April.
- The Missile Defense Agency opened the procurement process for the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA back in July, according to reports Wednesday. Raytheon revealed at DSEI that the MDA awarded an $87 million long-lead materials procurement contract to the company, with a follow-on for additional materials expected early next year. The opening contract provides for the materials necessary to produce 17 of the exo-atmospheric missiles, designed to hit and kill ballistic missiles; these are slated for testing and will also equip an Aegis Ashore facility in Poland. Flight testing with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense 5.1 system is also expected to take place in late 2016, following a rescheduling in September 2011. A cooperative US-Japanese program, the Block IIA is slated to value approximately $20-24 million per missile and is 7.5″ larger than the 13.5″ Block I variants.
- Boeing has rejected an unsolicited bid from Aerojet Rocketdyne to buy the United Launch Alliance joint venture, of which Boeing owns a 50% share along with Lockheed Martin. The $2 billion offer was also reportedly rejected by Lockheed Martin, owner of the remaining 50%. The engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne also announced on Wednesday that development of the AR-1 rocket engine, intended to replace the Russian RD-180 rockets currently used, could be delayed without sufficient US government funding, with the engine currently scheduled for certification in 2019, the same year as use of the RD-180 by the Air Force comes to an end.
- Sikorsky was handed a $22.6 million Foreign Military Sales contract modification to produce two UH-60M helicopters for the Mexican Navy, following a DSCA request in March for three of the helicopters. The original request application was for five Blackhawks, with a host of other intelligence, mission planning and communications systems as well as spares. In December 2014 the company was similarly awarded a $56.4 million modification to produce five UH-60Ms for Mexico, following two orders in September 2014 for 8 and 18 UH-60Ms, worth $93.2 million and $203.6 million respectively. The four orders are all scheduled to deliver the helicopters in May and June 2016.
- The United Kingdom has awarded a contract to Raytheon’s UK subsidiary for the development of a penetrating warhead for the Paveway IV guided bomb. Intended to equip the Royal Air Force’s fleet of Eurofighters, the new munition is scheduled to enter service in 2019 and replace the current penetration capability provided by the RAF’s Tornado GR4s and Paveway III bombs. The new warheads will fit existing stockpiles, with BAE Systems handling the integration work. Raytheon UK has stated that the new warhead will likely equip the RAF’s F-35Bs and could do the same with Reaper UAVs.
- The UK’s Ministry of Defence also signed an eight-year, $462 million contract with MBDA for upgraded ASRAAM missiles. The AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile found export customers in India last year, with Australia also ordering the missile for use on the RAAF’s F/A-18 fighters. The UK first welcomed the missile into service in January 2002, after a nine-month dispute over acceptance.
- Slovakia has become the first customer for Saab’s Carl Gustav M4 recoilless rifle, the company announced on Wednesday. The anti-tank weapon has also been acquired by two other undisclosed countries for evaluation, with it first unveiled in September 2014. Capable of launching programmable ammunition, including anti-personnel, anti-structure and illumination rounds, the system reportedly weighs around 7kg (15.4lb).
Middle East North Africa
- The Saudis are reportedly set to choose Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Ship for the country’s Arabian Gulf-based frigate modernisation program, with a deal thought to be announced by the end of the year. The company is one of two teams constructing LCS for the US Navy. The Saudis have previously requested the ability for their LCS vessels to launch Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) air defense missiles but are thought to have dropped previous plans to procure the Aegis combat system owing to cost.
Asia & Pacific
- Malaysia is buying STARstreak air defense missiles and ForceSHIELD integrated air defense systems, with Ministers from the United Kingdom and Malaysia signing official support for the deal at DSEI. The signing gives the official nod to a deal reported in July between Thales UK and Malaysian partner Global Komited. The deal, valuing over $154 million, includes radar control systems, mobile weapons systems and communications systems.
- The Royal Thai Army has also placed a multi-million dollar order for STARstreak missiles, following an original order in November 2012. Aside from Thailand and now Malaysa, Indonesia is another regional customer for the STARstreak, ordering the system in January 2014.
- North Korea is reportedly planning to launch a new satellite, a possible indicator of advancements in ballistic missile technology, potentially indicating an increase in range or payload. The North has also restarted its nuclear reactor, a worry for international security as the country looks to miniaturize nuclear weapons sufficiently to equip a missile. The North’s claim that this has been achieved is doubtful, however plans to launch a satellite are likely a cover for testing of a potential delivery system.
- India has successfully tested the indigenously-developed second generation Amogha-1 anti-tank missile, the first missile designed and tested by the Bharat Dynamics Ltd company. The two missiles reportedly struck targets at ranges of 2.6km and 2.8km, with the company planning to offer the missiles to the Indian Army after qualification and certification.
- Interception testing of the Standard Missile-3 Block IA in November 2014:
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