* The US Army is contracting Oshkosh Defense for technical support. The $13.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract provides for a number of support activities on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle family of vehicles. The Oshkosh M-ATV has an empty “curb weight” of 25,000 pounds, and a Gross Vehicle Weight of 32,500 pounds, including the M-ATV objective maximum of 4,000 pounds of payload. The core of the vehicle is the US Marines’ MTVR medium truck chassis, and its TAK-4 suspension, giving it a 70% off-road mobility profile. M-ATV’s Super Multi-Hit Armor Technology (SMART) armor is used in theater by NATO and has since been augmented by “Underbody Improvement Kits” to improve mine protection. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of July, 2021.
* Raytheon Missile Systems is being tapped by the Navy to enter the next phase of the Joint Standoff Weapon Extended Range (JSOW-ER) Phase 3a development. The $10.6 million contract modification provides for flight test demonstrations and a number of necessary hardware and software modifications to the existing JSOW AGM-154C-1. The new missile belongs to Raytheon’s family of low-cost, air-to-ground weapons that employ an integrated GPS/INS system for flight guidance, which can be augmented by IIR seekers that can lock on to specific targets. The AGM-154C-1 adds a moving target capability via improved IIR seekers, better seeker algorithms, and a 2-way Link-16 data link. That combination allows the missile to be used as a secondary weapon against enemy ships, with some capability against certain moving land targets. Work will be performed at the company’s location in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be completed in July 2019.
* The US Army is continuing to boost its heavy-lift capabilities. Boeing is being awarded with a firm-fixed-price contract valued at $181.2 million. The deal provides for the procurement of up to 156 Block I configured CH-47F Chinook helicopters. The CH-47F builds the backbone of the US Army Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program, it’s the latest variant of the helicopter platform that was introduced in 1962. The CH-47F has 4,868 shaft horsepower from each of its engines, increasing fuel efficiency and enhancing lift performance by approximately 3,900 pounds. The new engines will enable the CH-47F to reach speeds in excess of 175 mph and transport up to 21,016 pounds. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion expected by December 2022.
Middle East & Africa
* The Israel Defense Force is aiming to launch an upgraded version of its combat-proven Merkava Main Battle Tank by 2020. The Merkava Mk.4 has been in service with the IDF since 2004. The tank is capable of carrying eight infantry soldiers, a command group or three litter patients in addition to the tank crew of commander, loader, gunner and driver. The tank is capable of firing on the move at moving targets and has demonstrated high hit probability in firing against attack helicopters using conventional anti-tank munitions. The upgraded Barak version will be equipped with a Battle Computer and Smart Helmets and is the Army’s way of putting it on par with the Air Force and Navy. The tanks will be optimized for facing asymmetric threats, such as guerrilla ambushes. The tank will include a battle computer that will process data received from sensors mounted on it, give the soldiers a real-time picture of the situation and even propose a plan of action for dealing with it. The computer will also identify enemy forces and aim the tank gun automatically. Tank commanders will have a special helmet that will enable them to see what’s happening throughout the tank and also receive all the data processed by the tank’s computer. The networked tank will be able to coordinate and communicate with naval and airborne forces.
* NATO is using simulators to train international teams of aviators. The Spartan Alliance training exercise included more than 80 service members, civilians and contractors from the US Air Force in Europe, the Italian Air Force and NATO. The exercise is a large command and control weapon system, air and ground simulator training exercise with virtual and constructive aircraft. The frequently held virtual flight-training exercise links 22 simulators set up in two different countries. Pilots flying Tornado fighter jets from simulators at Ghedi Air Base in Italy flew side by side with virtual Eurofighters piloted from simulators at Gioia del Colle Air Base, while T-346 jet trainers, flown from simulators at Lecce Air Base, posed as enemy aircraft in the virtual Italy created for the exercise. Other involved platforms include MQ-9Bs, C-130Js, F-18s, F-15s and A-10s. The Italian Air Force plans introduce fourth- and fifth-generation assets to the exercise by 2023.
* Czech defense contractor Aero Vodchody wants to pitch its newly launched F/A-259 Striker aircraft to the US Air Force’s OA-X experiment program. The F/A-259 Striker is a light multirole combat aircraft developed jointly by Aero Vodochody and IAI on the basis of the L-159 ALCA advanced trainer. It can be used for close air support, counter-insurgency and border patrolling missions and boosts interception capabilities. The aircraft is able to operate from unpaved runways and has seven hard points for any combination of fuel, weapons, or mission equipment, allowing smart weapons integration and standoff weapon capabilities. As an optional upgrade, the F/A-259 can be equipped by EASA radar and helmet mounted display. Another optional upgrade is air-to-air refueling, increasing the aircraft’s range and endurance. The US OA-X experiment program recently took a major hit after an A-29 Super Tucano crashed resulting in the death of a pilot.
* Russia is significantly enhancing its naval strike capabilities. Russian state-media reports that the Russian Navy is now in the possession of three newly-built combat ships, two support vessels and an upgraded Bastion coastal defense missile system. This acquisition is complemented by the delivery of 49 Kalibr cruise missiles. The newly built vessels include the Project 18280 medium reconnaissance ship Ivan Khurs and the Project 21631 missile corvette Vyshny Volochyok. The communication vessel of Project 18280 is the biggest Russian ship of the class. The vessel can carry a light antiaircraft set of four pedestal-mounted KPVT 14.5mm machineguns and six portable Igla 9K38 launchers with a set of 32 antiaircraft guided 9M39 missiles. The Project 21631 corvette is armed with the Kalibr missile system containing missiles in the 3S14 vertical launcher with eight launch tubes. The Kalibr system can attack both seaborne and land-based targets. The Project 21631 corvette has the A-190 100mm gun, the AK-630-2 Duet small-caliber antiaircraft artillery system and 3M-47 Gibka launchers. The ships will likely be used to strengthen Russia’s Black Sea Fleet strategically located at Crimea.
* UK firm Meggitt is set to contribute towards South Korea’s KF-X fighter program. The company will supply Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with its fire detection and bleed air leak detection systems. Meggitt has already won a number of multi-million contracts in support of the program, including the production of the KF-Xs nose and main wheels, carbon brakes, brake control system; and for the design, development and supply of standby flight displays, engine displays, and heading sensors for the fighter jet. Meggitt’s fire detection system uses a pneumatic detector that senses a rise in average temperature across the whole overheat sensor. KAI is scheduled to complete its critical design reviews by 2019 and then roll-out the firs KF-X prototype by 2021.
* Watch: Russia posts more video footage of its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.