V-280 Valor makes flying debut | Japanese cabinet approves $2 billion Ageis Ashore plan, missiles and radar to cost extra | IAF receives first AH-64E
- Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft flew for the first time on December 18, at a Bell facility in Amarillo, Texas. Monday’s test saw the helicopter perform a low hover for up to 20 minutes, and follows a series of ground trials conducted since the the completion of the prototype build in September. The Valor prototype has been developed as one of two different demonstrator aircraft—the other being the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter—as part of the US Army’s Joint Multi-Role demonstrator program, and will pave the way for informing and shaping the design of a Future Vertical Lift helicopter fleet expected to hit the skies in the 2030s. The Defiant, which has experienced manufacturing issues with the complex rotor blades that make up the helicopter’s coaxial design, is expected to fly in the fist half of 2018.
- The Pentagon has awarded Huntington Ingalls a $63 million modified contract for emergency repair and restoration on the US Navy’s USS Fitzgerald. Under the terms of the agreement, Huntington will provide for the initial collision ripout phase of an availability which will include a combination of maintenance, modernization, and collision repair on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer—which suffered severe damage following a collision with a cargo ship in June, claiming the lives of seven US sailors. Work on the contract will occur in Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to be completed by September 2018.
- BAE Systems will design and build bomber armament tester (BAT) systems that will help test the effectiveness of the weapons systems of the US bomber fleets, following the award of a $64 million US Air Force (USAF) contract. The BAT system will test the operational readiness of the bomb ejector racks, rotary launchers, and pylon assemblies on board B-1B, B-2A, and B-52H aircraft. A total of 90 BAT systems will be delivered to the USAF in three increments over the next nine years, with work to be performed primarily at BAE Systems’ facilities in San Diego, California, and Fort Worth, Texas.
Middle East & Africa
- A Saudi royal family member has confirmed that the kingdom’s air defense systems downed another ballistic missile fired by Houthi forces in Yemen on Tuesday. No injuries have been reported from the attack, but a spokesman for the Houthi movement said that the missile targeted the royal court at al-Yamama palace, where a meeting of Saudi leaders was under way. “Coalition forces confirm intercepting an Iranian-Houthi missile targeting (the) south of Riyadh. There are no reported casualties at this time,” the government-run Center for International Communication wrote on its Twitter account. The attack follows the November 4 intercept of a missile fired on Riyadh’s King Khaled Airport airport.
- Having recently returned from sea trails, the British Royal Navy’s $4.2 billion HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will undergo repairs for a leak found on the vessel, caused by a shaft seal issue. British tabloid the Sun reported that the leak was letting in 200 litres of water every hour and the fix would cost millions of pounds. However, a defence source said the navy was aware the ship had an issue when it was handed over by manufacturers and the Sun said the builders would have to foot the repair bill. BAE Systems—who built the vessel as part of a consortium including Babcock, and the UK division of France’s Thales—said it was “normal practice for a volume of work and defect resolution to continue following vessel acceptance,” adding that the fix will be “completed prior to the nation’s flagship re-commencing her programme at sea in 2018.” BAE said the work would be carried out early next year and the issue would take just a couple of days to fix with no need for it to be taken into a dry dock.
- Indonesia has received the first of eight ordered AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters, with the rotorcraft touching down in Semarang on the island of Java in a USAF C-17A Globemaster III airlifter on Monday. The $1.42 billion sale also includes associated equipment and spares that included the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 Longbow Fire Control Radar and 140 Lockheed Martin AGM-114R3 anti-tank missiles, and will help Jakarta “defend its borders, conduct counterterrorism and counter-piracy operations, and control the free flow of shipping through the strategic Straits of Malacca,” according to the 2012 foreign military sales (FMS) request. The Apache’s manufacturer Boeing is also continuing to market its CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter to Indonesia, with meetings conducted last week between Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and Boeing Defence and Space’s regional director and vice president for Indonesia and Malaysia, Yeong Tae Pak over future defense procurement cooperation. As well as discussing an offset program that will boost Indonesia’s domestic defense industry,Pak extolled the virtues of the Chinook as a multi-mission platform capable of roles ranging from special forces support to disaster relief.
- An indigenously developed munition—the P-250 general purpose bomb—has undergone a successful live-fire test by the Indonesian Air Force. The Jakarta Post reports that four bombs were dropped on designated targets from two Su-30MKs at the Pandanwangi air weapon range (AWR) in Lumajang regency, East Java, on Friday. Weighing 250 kilograms, the P-250 is a joint development effort between the Air Force’s research and development agency—Dislitbang—and local weapon manufacturer Sari Bahari, and is integrated with the Sukhoi’s computerized system so that whenthey were dropped from a height level of 2,000 meters, they would fall precisely on the targeted points.
- The Japanese cabinet has approved a procurement plan for two Aegis Ashore batteries, to be tasked with intercepting potential ballistic missiles over its airspace. Initial funding for the project will be ring-fenced in the next defense budget beginning in April, but no decision has been made on the radar, or the overall cost, or schedule, of the deployment, according to the MoD. The batteries—without missiles—are expected to cost $2 billion, with SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missiles costing approximately $30 million each. The inclusion of the US’s new Spy-6 radar—due to be in operation on US vessels by 2022—also needs to be negotiated, but is likely to prove a costly proposition for Japan as outlays on new equipment squeeze its military budget.
- First flight of Bell’s V-280 Valor:
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