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USAF Launches Final GPS IIF | Italian Made F-35A First to Complete Transatlantic Xing | S. Korea to Talk THAAD System With US

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Americas * The final block of the USAF’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite has been launched, finally paving the way for the start of the next generation’s long overdue GPS III. The GPS IIF-12 satellite will join dozens of other satellites launched over the last 27 years as part of the GPS Block II program. News of the launch follows days after Lockheed Martin was awarded a $94 million contract modification, providing contingency operations for GPS III satellites, ahead of the USAF’s Next Generation Operational Control System (
Americas

* The final block of the USAF’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite has been launched, finally paving the way for the start of the next generation’s long overdue GPS III. The GPS IIF-12 satellite will join dozens of other satellites launched over the last 27 years as part of the GPS Block II program. News of the launch follows days after Lockheed Martin was awarded a $94 million contract modification, providing contingency operations for GPS III satellites, ahead of the USAF’s Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) program being put in place. With no announced schedule to have GPS III satellites launched in the near future, air force officials have said the GPS IIF-12 is expected to bridge gaps and improve on existing capabilities. Back in December, Air Force Space Commander Gen. John Hyten called the OCX program “a disaster” after reports of cyber-security concerns, ballooning costs and constant delays.

* Testing of the Q-53 Counterfire Target Acquisition Radar System in June 2015 has shown the radar is having difficulty detecting volley-fired mortars. While the second initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) found the system effective against single-fired rockets, artillery, and mortar munitions, it was unable to handle the detection of more than one munition fired at the same time, according to Michael Gilmore’s annual Operational Test & Evaluation report. The radar also struggled to identify the difference between a mortar, a rocket, and artillery. The Army, however, has stated that the radars have been working well in operational environments, and plans are to increase performance in high clutter environments with development and integration of software upgrades in 2019, with more testing planned for 240 mm and 122 mm munitions not assessed in previous tests.

Middle East North Africa

* Turkish officials have announced the maiden flight of its Anka medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV. The UAV has been in development by Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) since 2013 and is their first indigenous design in aerospace. The drone took part in a four-hour exploration and observation flight over Turkey’s eastern Elazig province. The choice of flying over Turkey’s east is said to be strategic, as the Turkish military takes on the forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PPK) in the eastern and southeastern border regions. Violence restarted in July after the break down of peace talks, and most recently has seen Turkish military operations around the Kurdish majority town of Cizre.

Europe

* Polish media outlets have fueled rumors that the government has seemingly scrapped the $3 billion to purchase 50 Caracel EC725 from Airbus. Rzeczpospolita daily reported that the government’s right-wing Euro-sceptic Law & Justice (PiS) party would only buy a handful of EC725s. Instead, they would look towards buying the bulk of the new procurement from the preferred choice of either Black Hawks from Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky or AugustaWestland’s AW149. Both Sikorsky and AugustaWestland have Polish subsidiaries capable of manufacturing their subsequent helicopters. Airbus Helicopters have denied the claims, however, stating “The only true information is that talks with the Economy Ministry continue and that we are ready to support our Polish partners”.

* The first Italian-made, flown and supported F-35A has become the first in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to complete a transatlantic crossing. The AL-1 took off from Portugal’s Azores islands and reached Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland seven hours later after flying 2,000nm. The fighter was flown by former Panavia Tornado pilot, Maj Gianmarco who has accumulated over 80 hours of flight time in the aircraft since graduating to fly the F-35A type in November. Refueling of the jet also took place supported by an Italian crew manning a KC-767 tanker with Gianmarco noting a 100% success rate on all occasions.

Asia Pacific

* Following some initial reservations over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, South Korea is to begin talks with the US over installing the system. Fears held by some in Seoul that a THAAD system on the Korean peninsula would anger China seem to have been alleviated by Sunday’s rocket launch by North Korea. The rocket was apparently launched to send a satellite into orbit and follows last month’s nuclear test which has garnered condemnation from the international community. This combination of testing has increased fears of Pyongyang’s development of inter-continental ballistic missile technology. Any THAAD system would be paid for by the US, with one battery costing around $1.3 billion.

* China’s $2 billion deal with Russia to purchase 24 of the latest Su-35 Super-Flankers have apparently been bought to compare with their own J-11. The Carnegie Moscow Center says the purchase, which will help the Chinese drive for more power in the Taiwan Strait, will also be looked at to assess the progress and development of J-11. China’s J-11 fighter program has hit some problems affecting potential exports. It is likely the Su-35 will act as a guide, showing the Russian approach to problem solving in stealth technology, making it easier to further enhance the capabilities of Chinese aviation. While fears of reverse engineering and theft of intellectual property by China was a potential roadblock to the deal, it’s believed the sale will improve exports to foreign markets with Indonesia expected to be the next buyer.

* Another milestone was made last Friday for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter. The Indian jet successfully test fired a Derby Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) for the first time in a non-intercept mode, as part of a series of weapons trials needed to gain Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The trials will also see the Close Combat Missile (CCM) Python-5 missile tested. The Tejas’ weapons system will also include Paveway and Griffin Laser Guided Bombs (LBGs), the Russian made R-73 missile and Gsh-23 gun.

Today’s Video

* The AL-1 arrival at NAS Patuxent River Naval Air Station:

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