The cost of converting the UK’s fleet of 25 AW101 Merlin Mk3 transport helicopters for future use as Mk4s by the Royal Marines Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) will be £330 million ($545 million). British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the amount during a visit to AgustaWestland’s Yeovil factory, where much of the work will be done. He also announced that the Anglo-Italian company is receiving a five-year follow-on integrated operational support (IOS) contract worth £430 million ($710 million) for the British Army’s Apache AH.1 fleet.
News and issues relating to the defense aerospace business, with emphasis on current/in-use, in-development and prospective programs for manned military aircraft, unmanned combat aircraft vehicles (UCAVs), military aircraft engines, avionics, missiles, bombs, guidance systems and ground-based air-defense systems.
A U.S. Congressional panel has agreed to the Pentagon’s plan to quickly deliver six Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to Iraq. They will be delivered in the summer, and will be leased from the U.S. Army to allow training to begin with Iraqi army aviation. The helicopters are AH-64Ds upgraded to a partial AH-64E configuration. The notification to Congress was lodged on January 23, and was followed by another four days later covering the $4.8 billion purchase of 24 new-build AH-64E Apache Guardians to be delivered over a three-year period.
The UK Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) is taking a leading role in a forum that aims to harmonize requirements within Europe for military airworthiness. The move would help the aerospace industry design future pan-European products. But although the forum is basing the requirements framework on European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations, there is no intention to create a pan-European regulatory agency for military aircraft, according to Air Vice-Marshal Martin Clark, the MAA’s technical director. “Regulation will remain a national responsibility,” he told AIN.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) recently reported on a second flying demonstration of an MQ-9 Reaper in the electronic warfare (EW) role. The UAV flew with the Northrop Grumman Pandora EW system inside special pods designed by GA-ASI. The combination flew from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., last April and again in October during a Marine Corps exercise.
Singapore’s intention to upgrade its fleet of about 60 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighters was indicated by a recent notification to Congress by the Pentagon. But no choice has yet been made between rival upgrade systems integrators BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin. According to the notification, the upgrade will cost Singapore an estimated $2.43 billion, although this total also includes three new weapons.
F-35 test pilots will begin flying this year with a third-generation helmet mounted display system (HMDS) that incorporates modifications to the earlier-generation display system, which the Pentagon has identified as an F-35 program risk.
Dassault Aviation received a development contract from the French Ministry of Defense for a further upgrade of the Rafale combat aircraft. Designated “F3 R”, the upgrade consists mainly of integration of the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM; the laser-homing version of the Sagem AASM air-ground weapon; and the new Thales PDL-NG laser designator pod. There will also be some improvements to the Rafale’s avionics and defensive systems.
The UK Royal Navy (RN) deployed its first maritime UAS this week, when an Insitu Scan Eagle system was added to RFA Cardigan Bay, which is supporting the EU anti-piracy patrols off Somalia.
The Army also plans to upgrade analog UH-60L models to the same capability of M models rather than purchase all M models. Last summer, it formed the new UH-60L Digital Product Directorate to lead the effort.
Photos have appeared on Chinese websites of an Ilyushin Il-76 testbed fitted with a large high-bypass ratio turbofan under the port inner pylon.