USS Little Rock littorally stuck in the ice | Senior UK officer warns of spending cuts, Russian threats | Russia and Myanmar agree Su-30SME fighter deal
- BAE Systems announced Monday, the receipt of a $46.8 million US Navy contract modification to upgrade four additional Mk 45 naval guns to the Mod 4 configuration for the service. The order adds to an original ten gun contract, with the modification bringing the total contract value to more than $176.6 million. BAE’s Mod 4 configuration increases the firepower and range of the weapon system, while decreasing its overall weight, as well as featuring a fully digitized control system that provides for better computing power through a touch-screen user interface. Work on the conversions will occur in Louisville, Ky., with support from the company’s supplier base, and a scheduled completion time set for 2021. Mk 45 guns are installed on the Navy’s Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
- The US Navy’s latest Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS), USS Little Rock, has found itself caught in the ice in Montreal, Canada. Recent cold fronts from the Arctic has caused record cold temperatures throughout December and January, with ice forming faster than normal in the Seaway. Little Rock, which was commissioned in Buffalo, New York on December 16, with significant snowfall already falling, and the plan was to then transit the Seaway to reach the Atlantic Ocean, before continuing on to Mayport, Florida. Now, its is likely the vessel will be stuck in Montreal until the ice thaws in March, with the crew to continue to focus on training, readiness and certifications.
Middle East-North Africa
- A US State Department statement through its Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), has approved the continuation of missile system support services for Saudi Arabia’s Patriot air defense system. Valued at an estimated $500 million, the package contains continued participation, technical assistance, and support in the Patriot Legacy Field Surveillance Program (FSP); the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) FSP; and the Patriot Engineering Services Program (ESP). Also included are Patriot and HAWK Missile System spare parts and repair and return management services and component repairs, and other related elements of logistics and program support. Once approved by Congress, principal contractors that will work on the deal are Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland for the FSP and Raytheon of Andover, Massachusetts for the ESP.
- The Greek Army is set to acquire as many as 70 Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters through an Excess Defense Articles (EDA) transfer from the US government. Athens has allocated $54 million through its council for foreign affairs and defense for the package, which covers training of crew and maintenance personnel, 36 fully equipped helicopters—armed with AGM-114K Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, Hydra-70 70mm unguided rockets and .50cal machine guns—, plus a further 24 restored to a state that just facilitates training. The remaining 10 airframes will becannibalized for spare parts. Greece is the third US partner nation to introduce former US Army Kiowa’s, with deliveries of 16 units to Croatia commencing in 2016, while Tunisia is in the process of fielding 24 models.
- General Sir Nick Carter, a senior British Army officer, warned the government Monday that a decrease in defense spending would seriously hamper its effectiveness in countering military threats. The speech, which was pre-approved by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and given at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, highlighted the growing threat of Russian military aggression, who Carter said was building an increasingly aggressive expeditionary force and already boasted an “eye-watering quantity of capability” that the UK would struggle to match in the event of armed conflict. This is the first time a serving officer has made just a plea in public. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Teresa May and French President Emanuel Macron reaffirmed their commitment to the continued strengthening of defense cooperation, announcing a range of measures at a summit at Sandhurst last week. Included were a French commitment to increase its support for the NATO Forward Presence battle group in Estonia—a British initiative—while London will deploy helicopters to Mali to provide logistical support for French troops operating a counterterrorism mission.
- Russian daily Kommersant reports that the Russian Defense Ministry has reached an agreement with Myanmar for the sale of six Su-30SME fighter aircraft. While many details of the sale—including a financial package to help cover the purchase—have yet to be decided, the order is valued at $400 million with deliveries to commence in 2019. The sale has been noted as an important order for manufacturer Rosoboronexport’s Irkutsk plant, as it needs to keep its production line open till early 2020s before the MS-21 airliner starts production. Myanmar, which had its first election since 1990—which itself was the first since 1960—in 2015, still falls under significant influence of the previous ruling armed forces. The military-drafted constitution guarantees that unelected military representatives take up 25 percent of seats in Myanmar’s parliament, have a veto over constitutional change, and certain important ministries such as defence, home affairs and border security are selected by the head of the army rather than the president. Russia, along with China have repeatedly used their veto in UN Security Council resolutions and statements condemning the Myanmar army, which since August 2017, have been conducting military operations in the western province of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh, with evidence mounting of ethnic cleansing against the region’s Rohingya people—a Muslim-majority ethnic group in a Buddhist-majority nation whom the army have long persecuted and denied citizenship.
- Delivery of Singapore’s first A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) from Airbus will take place later this year ahead of the air force’s 50th anniversary in September. According to a government statement, the aircraft will make its first public appearance at a parade on September 1, the service’s foundation day, and further details on the aircraft’s arrival will be announced closer to the event. Six A330s have been ordered by Singapore and will come in the MRTT Enhanced configuration, which features a package of aerodynamic improvements, structural modifications and avionics updates over the previous baseline military variant. The aircraft will replace its existing midair refueling fleet of four Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers.
- India plans to test an extended-range variant of its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile by the end of this year. New Delhi has already tested a 400km variant of the missile, but since joining the Missile Technology Control Regime in June 2016, have been working on producing a variant with a range of 800km. Coming in land-, naval-, and air-launched variants, India successfully tested the missile from a configured Su-30 fighter for the first time against a target in the Bay of Bengal in November 2017.
- Littorally stuck. USS Little Rock to spend the winter in Montreal:
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