* The F-35 could be getting new engines by the mid-2020s, with the potential for either an upgraded version of the Pratt & Whitney F135 design currently in use or a new engine from a competitor. Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, head of the Joint Program Office, made the announcement at last week’s Air Force Association conference. The USAF is currently in the early stages of funding their Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) competition, with both P&W and General Electric Aviation securing contracts worth $1.01 billion to research if its possible to “demonstrate 25 percent improved fuel efficiency, 10 percent increased thrust, and significantly improved thermal management.”
* E-8C JSTARS aircraft grounded due to maintenance concerns are back flying again. Issues surrounding a radar mishap had resulted in four E-8Cs undergoing a USAF launched independent investigation following their delivery from depot maintenance at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana. One aircraft experienced water damage to the Northrop APY-7 radar after the glassfibre canoe did not properly drain water.
* If you missed/managed to avoid what was a rather strange first US presidential debate, candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sparred on national security, ISIS, supporting Gulf and Asian allies (should they pay more?), cyber warfare, and aging military hardware. Choice highlights include Trump asserting that Clinton’s website is handing out tips to ISIS, that our troops are utilizing “B-52s old enough that your father or grandfather could be flying them,” and suggesting that China should go into North Korea.
Middle East &North Africa
* US officials have hinted that Gulf allies may arm Syrian anti-government militants with more shoulder-fired weapons following the collapse of the latest ceasefire and reports of bunker busting bombs being used by Russian warplanes on civilian and aid targets. Until now, Washington has so far prevented significant numbers of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) being supplied to the militants, instead favoring training and sending infantry weapons. The supply of MANPADS could help negate Russian and Syrian air power in cities such as Aleppo, as seen by their use by the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
* Kenya and Jordan are to cooperate on counter-terrorism training with the Gulf state to help train Kenyan Air Force pilots. The announcement was made during King Abdallah II Ibn Hussein’s one-day visit to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, which focused largely on security and CT issues. Alongside the meetings, King Abdullah and Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, both dressed in military fatigues, watched joint military exercises, with the president tweeting “Our cooperation is underpinned by our common interests. Together we must fight against emerging security threats.”
* Hypersonic weapons being researched by Russia’s Tactical Missiles Corp. should be capable of hitting targets by the early 2020s. The group is collaborating with scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Advanced Research Foundation under the Military-Industrial Commission and hope to produce a missile capable of reaching Mach 5 (3,800 mph). Moscow’s hypersonic development lags behind that of the US, who are currently looking to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.
* The UK government is to prosecute ejection seat maker Martin Baker in relation to the death of a Red Arrows display team pilot in 2011. The pilot, Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, died after the MK10 ejector seat parachute failed to deploy. While the company has failed to comment on the legal action, it represents a second setback for the company following safety issues with the US-16E ejection seat it is supplying for the entire F-35 program. It was suggested during the summer that the USAF consider an alternative ejection seat supplier for the next-generation fighter.
* Following a series of protests, head shavings, and eggings, South Korean and US military officials are to announce an alternative site for the controversial deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system this week. Originally destined for the southeastern county of Seongju, three alternative sites neighboring Seongju include a golf course owned by chaebol (conglomerate) Lotte Group in Chojeon-myeon, Mt. Yeomsok in Geumsu-myeon and Mt. Kkachi in Suryun-myeon. The decision to allow THAAD on the Korean peninsula comes amid North Korea’s steaming ahead with ballistic missile and nuclear tests over the last year.
Pakistan Air Force jets landing and taking off from highways near Lahore: