* MQ-4C Triton UAVs will replace EP-3E signals reconnaissance aircraft operated by the US Navy. Speaking on the announcement, NAVAIR’s Triton program manager Sean Burke said that approval to kick-start an 18-month process to install a signals intelligence payload on the Triton was given back in August. It’s expected that MQ-4Cs with low- and high-band signals receivers are expected to reach initial operational capability in 2021.
* Bechtel Plant Machinery will deliver nuclear propulsion components in a $303 million US Navy contract. The components provide nuclear propulsion capabilities to power a variety of Navy vessels, including submarines and aircraft carriers, by drawing power from a small nuclear power plant installed on the vessel. Bechtel received $205 million in Fiscal 2016 shipbuilding and Fiscal 2017 procurement funding at the time of the award.
Middle East & North Africa
* Having just retired their fleet of F-16A/B fighters, the Israeli Air Force is looking to sell them to interested second-hand buyers. As many as 40 of the warplanes will be available to buy, having being rigorously combat tested during their 36 years of service. However, upgraded C and D variants of the fighter will still play an important part in the IAF’s fighting fleet, even as the latest F-35I Joint Strike Fighters are delivered to the service.
* US-backed Syrian militias may receive shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, as Moscow and Damascus call such a move a “hostile act.” There has been much talk, but little action, of supplying MANPADS to the various militias fighting in Syria, as unopposed Russian air power has helped regime forces gain ground in rebel strongholds such as Aleppo. Now the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), formed primarily of the Kurdish YPG, may receive such weapons. While the YPG has mainly stayed out of conflict with government forces, focusing instead on the Islamic State (who do not have warplanes), an SDF spokesperson said the procurements would protect their forces from potential future enemies, possibly indicating preparations for a potential conflict with Bashar al-Assad.
* Lockheed Martin has been awarded a contract modification by the US DoD to provide PAC-3 missiles to Qatar. Valued at $29.5 million, the foreign military sale includes Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles and a missile segment enhancement task order for a planned flight test. Work is expected to be completed by September 2021.
* A deal is in the works between Belarus and China to form a joint venture for the production of UAVs in Europe’s last dictatorship. An official with the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus claimed that contracts are expected to be signed in the first quarter of 2017, bringing production to a joint Sino-Belorussian business park. Once signed, the agreement will join a number of recent bilateral agreements between the two government in various fields.
* 40 CV90 infantry fighting vehicles operated by the Swedish Army will be fitted with 120mm mortar systems. BAE Hägglunds, a local subsidiary of defense giant, will install the systems in a $68 million contract, with deliveries to take place in early 2019. Sweden owns approximately 500 CV90s, over half of which are currently being slated for modification and upgrade by BAE.
* Engineers at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are to commence a new round of spin testing for their HJT-36 subsonic intermediate jet trainer in order to validate their redesigned vertical tail. Earlier designs of the tail and testing had performed poorly, including a 2011 crash, and resulted in the potential mothballing of the project. However, consultancy provided by BAE Systems since 2014 has seemed to put the trainer back on track for now.
Ten years of Fire Scout flight: