* California-based ViaSat Inc. was awarded a contract with a potential value of $478.6 million on Thursday for Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) terminals. These will give commanders the ability to communicate by voice, video and data links to forces via a line-of-sight, jam-resistant channel across ground, air and naval assets.
* Also on Thursday the Air Force signed a contract with Raytheon to procure Griffin missiles, with the deal worth $12 million. The Griffin is a precision miniature munition that utilizes parts from other Raytheon-manufactured missiles – such as the Javelin ATGM and the AIM-9X AAM – to keep costs down. The missile is currently used as part of roll-on armed kits for US C-130 transport aircraft.
* The Navy’s plans for disposing of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65), following the carrier’s inactivation in 2012, are coming under increasing scrutiny. A Congressman – Rep. Derek Kilmer – is pushing the Navy to articulate a definitive plan for the disposal, particularly as the potential work plan for his Puget Sound workforce, where US nuclear vessels have previously been recycled, has become increasingly unclear as the Navy mulls the idea of opening the disposal up for industry competition.
* Russia is reportedly planning on acquiring at least 50 new Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers in a move which would triple the country’s supersonic nuclear-capable aircraft fleet. A major upgrade program on its 16 in service Blackjacks is also reportedly set for completion ahead of schedule, with the aircraft set for delivery in 2019 – a year earlier than planned.
* France’s tender for miniature unmanned aerial vehicles is expected to garner attention from two Israeli manufacturers – BlueBird and Aeronautics Defense Systems – among several others. The requirement for thirty-five new systems is currently in the initial pre-qualification process, with a RFI expected in coming weeks. BlueBird produces the SpyLite UAS whilst Aeronautics Defense Systems produces the Orbiter Mini UAS, both of which could be offered to fulfill the French requirement.
* Airbus is preparing to deliver the first of its H145M helicopters to the German Army, with two set for delivery by the end of 2015. The Germans have ordered fifteen of the helicopters, with the Royal Thai Navy also set to see deliveries from next year onwards, following the H145M successfully receiving its European Aviation Safety Agency certification.
* General Dynamics European Land Systems has awarded a $88 million subcontract to Rolls Royce to supply diesel engines for the British Army’s Scout Specialist Vehicle. GD was awarded a $5.3 billion contract in September last year to produce 589 vehicles, with the program passing a critical design review in February.
* North Korea has reportedly deployed a new generation of fast Very Slender Vessels, following reports last year which cited 2013 satellite images of the boats then under development. The new low-profile, radar-evading vessels are thought to be capable of achieving speeds of up to 60mph. Seven of the ships are thought to be in service, with these stationed on the western side of the Korean Peninsula.
* The US has handed over a second batch of 4 UH-60M Black Hawks to Taiwan, part of a $3.1 billion 2010 Foreign Military Sale for 60 of the helicopters. The first batch of 4 was delivered last December, with Mexico having also recently requested the UH-60M. The Taiwanese delivery is set to take place in ten batches, scheduled to finish in 2019.
* Britain’s BAE Systems has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for Hawk Mk132 maintenance upgrade and development, as well as the maintenance of the Indian Air Force’s legacy Jaguar fleet, which faced problems earlier this year with upgrades to its engine.
* The USS Enterprise arriving at Newport News Shipyard for inactivation in 2013: