Workers strike at Leonardo’s F-35 FACO | Aero Vodochody team with IAI to export L-159 | Berlin receives different visions for Tornado replacement
- The US Army has contracted AeroVironment to provide upgraded hardware and parts for the Switchblade precision strike munition. Valued at $44.6 million, the agreement will task the firm, based out of Simi Valley, California, with providing Block10C inert training vehicles and Block10C all up rounds, multi pack launchers and modular battery payloads to the service, with a scheduled completion date set for September 19, 2019. AeroVironment first rolled out its Block 10C upgrades—which give soldiers more stable and secure encrypted communications—on the Switchblade tactical missile system after the Army awarded the company a $22.8 million contract in September 2016. Capable of being stored and carried in a soldier’s backpack, the system has a strike range of more than six miles with a flight endurance of around 15 minutes, and can strike targets beyond line of sight, meaning the munition can maneuver on targets beyond covered positions or around mountain ridges.
Middle East & Africa
- Chasing fresh exports after its sale of four L-159 aircraft to the government of Senegal earlier this month, the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody will team with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) to improve and market the light attack and trainer aircraft. According to the technical and marketing cooperation agreement announced Tuesday, the team will integrate new avionics and other solutions on the L-159 platform as well as jointly market the aircraft. They will also integrate IAI’s virtual training solutions as part of the L-39NG training system. Financial details were not disclosed.
- Workers at the Leonardo-run F-35 assembly facility in Italy have gone on strike Tuesday, April 24, in protest against their working conditions. Reasons posed by the 600 members of staff for the one-day work stoppage was due to the fact that many were currently hired by Leonardo through agency contracts instead of as full time employees, and had previously imposed a ban on working overtime last weekend prior to the escalation. In response, Leonardo said full time staff positions will be offered from this year and put the number of agency staff at 520. Located at Cameri Air Base, the final assembly and checking out (FACO) facility is owned by the Italian government and operated by state defense firm Leonardo in partnership with Lockheed Martin. Cameri has delivered nine F-35As to the Italian Air Force.
- Portugal has decided to cancel plans to upgrade its fleet of five C-130H transport aircraft through a foreign military sale from the United States. Approximately 29 million euro ($36 million) had been budgeted by the defense ministry in June 2016 for the upgrades, and the sale had already received approval by the US State department—although the Pentagon is known to approve some FMS packages ahead of official approval by the customer’s government. Instead, the aircraft will receive upgrades worth up to 19 million euro with the support of the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) project, while a further 2.8 million euro will be set aside for maintenance. Portugal plans to replace the Hercules aircraft with up to six new KC-390 tanker-transports from Brazilian air-framer Embraer, a program Lisbon has been involved in the development and production of though its state-owned aerospace company, OGMA, investing some 30 million euro into the program between 2012-2015.
- The German Defense Ministry has received bids from Airbus and the US government to replace its fleet of 90 ageing Tornado fighter aircraft. Airbus, pitching the Eurofighter Typhoon on behalf of the Eurofighter consortium, said its platform could start replacing the Tornado mission by 2025, and as Germany already operates a fleet of 130 Eurofighters, Berlin would benefit from a streamlining of maintenance costs. However, US officials, legally required to represent the interests of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, say the Eurofighter would need to be certified to carry a nuclear bomb—a process that could take until 2030 or longer, and might force Germany to extend the life of some Tornado jets at great cost. While Airbus assured that the Eurofighter would be certified by 2035, it did say that if Germany was to purchase an existing nuclear-capable aircraft such as Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the decision would essentially kill plans by France and Germany to develop a new European fighter.
- In addition to Lockheed Martin’s rumored offer to build them a fifth-generation hybrid stealth fighter, the Japanese government may restart the flight test program of the X-2—its stealth technology demonstrator aircraft. The possibility was mentioned by an anonymous official speaking to Flight Global, who said that while nothing was certain about the future of the X-2, “We may do more testing.” Originally designed ATD-X, the X-2 formed part of Tokyo’s efforts to jump start its industrial base and explore technologies necessary for stealthy fifth- or sixth-generation aircraft. An technology demonstrator aircraft is currently based at Gifu Airbase after completing a run of 34 test flights. 50 had been originally planned. While the official declined to comment on an earlier story from Reuters that Lockheed Martin wants to offer a hybrid of its F-22 and F-35 for the long-term Japanese requirement, they did say that a number of proposals are being weighed, noting that Japan and Great Britain also have a joint study to look at “potential opportunities for the future fighter program.”
- Kongsberg has secured a $153 million export order for its Naval Strike Missile (NSM). The missiles will arm the six new Littoral Combat Ships being built for the Malaysian government, with contracts signed for the NSM at the recent Defence Services Asia 2018 (DSA 2018) in Kuala Lumpur. Based on Naval Group’s Gowind Class design, the vessel will have the NSM deck mounted and integrated to the SETIS combat management system provided by the Naval Group. Designed for use by the Norwegian Navy in the anti-ship and land-attack role, a Joint Strike Missile (JSM) is currently in development that will be integrated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
- Rheinmetall Group has received an order to deliver its Skyshield air defense system to an undisclosed Asia Pacific nation, the company has said. Skyshield is a short range, ground-based air defense that consists of two 35 mm revolver cannons that can sustain a rate of fire of 1,000 rounds per minute—and also includes a fire control system with sensor unit, and two surface-to-air missile modules for a total of 16 missiles. Valued at $122 million, Rheinmetall say work on the contract has already begun, but that delivery will occur over the next three years.
- DefenseWeb coverage at DSA 2018| Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile:
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