USAF spends $3.6b on LAIRCM support | MBDA’s SeaVenom service entry delayed | Wan Chien fails requirement test
The US Air Force is allocating a large amount of money in maintaining its AH-64E Apache’s LAIRCM countermeasure system. Northrop Grumman is being awarded with a $3.6 billion IDIQ contract supporting the service’s Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures (LAIRCM) equipment. This contract covers the delivery of LAIRCM line replaceable units and support equipment, and provides for logistics services; systems and sustaining engineering efforts and other activities. LAIRCM is a is a laser-based countermeasures system that can defend a wide range of aircraft from an infrared missile attack by automatically detecting a missile launch, determining if it is a threat, and activating a high-intensity system of pulsed lasers to track and defeat the threat by confusing its guidance head. The US Army used LAIRCM to protect its Apache gunships while operating against ISIS targets in Northern Iraq and Syria. This contract includes numerous sales to US allies as part of the Foreign Military Sales program. Work will be performed at the company’s facility in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and is expected to be completed by December 2025.
The US Army is pouring $700 million into its Mobile Protected Firepower acquisition program. BAE Systems and General Dynamics will each deliver 6 prototype vehicles by February 2020. The US Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program will provide the service with a new combat vehicle platform that allows US troops to disrupt, breach and break through enemy lines and defensive fortifications. The platform is required to be effective against hard targets such as bunkers, heavy machine gun nests and armored vehicles. UPI suggest that the MPF prototype offered by General Dynamics will be quite similar to the Ajax, developed for the UK; whereas BAE’s prototype could be a version of its M8 Buford Armored Gun System. The acquisition is part of the US Army’s 2015 combat vehicle modernization strategy, which will eventually see for the delivery of 504 vehicles. BAE is receiving $375 million, with work to be performed at its Sterling Heights, Michigan factory. General Dynamics is receiving $335 million, also working at Sterling Heights. The aggressive acquisition schedule wants the first prototypes tested within the next 16 months and expects the first vehicles to be fielded in 2025
Boeing and Embraer are forming a joint-venture on Embraer’s KC-390 multimission aircraft. The two companies announced that they will jointly “promote and develop new markets” for the KC-390. Embraer will have 51% stake in the joint venture, with Boeing owing the rest. This agreement is extending the companies partnership, with Boeing having gained a 80% stake in the Brazilian company’s commercial business in July 2018. A deal which cost Boeing $4.2 billion. The deal is pending approval by the Brazilian government – which holds a “golden share” – Embraer’s shareholders and regulatory agencies.
Middle East & Africa
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is increasing its stocks of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSMs). Raytheon is being awarded with a cost-only contract that provides for the delivery of ESSMs and spares at a cost of $24.7 million. The ESSM is designed to protect navy ships from incoming missiles and aircraft. The RIM-162 Block 1 features a semi-active radar that is guided by reflected radiation from the ship’s radar. The missile is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. The order includes Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $23.8 million. Work will be performed in Raufoss, Norway; Mississauga, Canada; Richmond, Australia. Performance is expected to run through December 2021. The ESSM will equip Saudi Arabia’s new Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships.
The UK Royal Navy’s new Sea Venom/ANL missile faces a year-long delay. The missile is being developed under a $630 million contract issued by the UK and French governments. The missile will fulfil the UK’s Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) requirement and will meet France’s national Anti Navire Léger requirement. The Sea Venom will eventually equip the Royal Navy’s Wildcat HMA2 helicopter and the French Navy’s Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger (HIL—Joint Light Helicopter) respectively. The delay means that the Royal Navy’s Wildcats will have to operate without their main anti-ship armament, ultimately limiting their ability to provide British ships – such as the HMS Queen Elizabeth – with an extended anti-ship capability until late 2021. The Sea Venom is a lightweight, subsonic sea-skimming missile guided by an IIR seeker. The missile is designed to counter a wide range of threats such as fast-moving patrol boats, corvettes and coastal targets.
Taiwan’s Wan Chien stand-off cruise missile still doesn’t meet Republic of Korea Air Force requirements. The RoCAF conducted a number of missile tests with its F-CK-1 Ching Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters earlier this year. During the tests the Wan Chien successfully completed a low-altitude drop, but repeatedly failed to correctly deploy when dropped at high-altitude. When launched at high-altitude the Wan Chien shows an unstable flight profile. This is caused by either a hardware or software error affecting the correct unfolding of the missile’s pop-out wings, leading to a turbulent air intake, delaying ignition of its engine. The Wan Chien can be compared to the US’s AGM-154 JSOW and is currently operational in small numbers. The RoCAF plans to hold a new series of trials sometime next year, pending a comprehensive examination of the missile’s software and hardware. The missile flies to a 150 mile range and allows Taiwan to strike targets on China’s southern-coast.
It is yet unclear when Indonesia will receive its first Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, due to an outstanding contract. Russia’s IRKUT defense contractor cannot start jet production until Jakarta signs a purchasing contract with Moscow. Russia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Lyudmila Georgievna Vorobieva expects to finalise the contract soon, however considering Indonesia’s recent financial troubles it is yet to be seen how soon. Indonesia’s Su-35 acquisition was finalised in February 2018 and sees for the delivery of 11 fighter jets at a cost of $1.14 billion. The Flanker E aircraft will replace the Asian-nation’s ageing fleet of F-5 Tiger IIs, some of which have been in service for almost four decades. The Su-35 is Russia’s most advanced fighter aircraft, which can compete with America’s upgraded ‘teen series’, the JAS-39, the Rafale and the Eurofighter.
Watch: First Phalanx of Three is being fitted on the UK Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth