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9 February

US Army calls halt to keystone FARA programme

Sikorsky’s FARA Competitive Prototype, RAIDER X, is seen at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The US army will end development of the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) after the conclusion of prototyping at the end of FY24 to make available resources for investment in a range of other rotorcraft airframes.

This comes as part of a sweeping adjustment to the US Army aviation portfolio, following “a sober assessment of the modern battlefield,” according to a release from the US Army on 8 February 2024.

“Sensors and weapons mounted on a variety of unmanned systems and in space are more ubiquitous, further reaching, and more inexpensive than ever before,” said Chief of Staff of the Army, General Randy George, as part of the announcement that investment will be refocused on uncrewed capabilities.

The FARA programme, which aimed to replace the Kiowa helicopter, began in 2018 as part of a $1.9bn programme.

In March 2020 this was narrowed down to prototypes, coming from Bell Helicopter Textron and Sikorsky Aircraft, and $735m funding was allocated between 2020 and 2023, with aircraft production expected to begin in 2024. 

30 January

US confirms supply of Freedom-class LCSs to Hellenic Navy

In a recent letter to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was inclined to expand the two nation’s security partnership with the supply of additional platforms and defence items, most notably four Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

The Greek Government is eager to modernise the Hellenic Armed Forces, to which the US is a leading supporter. The capabilities of the Hellenic Navy are a priority for the Greek Government given it is a country situated on Nato’s southern flank comprising thousands of islands.

Currently, the Navy operates four La Combattante III-class corvettes acquired in 1977-78, as well as four Meko-200HN-class frigates procured in the early 1990s. Other light combat vessels include the service’s nine Elli-class frigates purchased from as early as 1981.

Besides the confirmed LCS induction, Greece signed a deal with France in 2021 for the acquisition of Belharra-class frigates, due to cost $2.4bn (€2.2bn) over the course of 2023-33. 

6 February

Lockheed Martin secures massive Dutch missile deal

In a move set to bolster defence capabilities for the Netherlands, Lockheed Martin has clinched a contract worth nearly a billion dollars for the supply of advanced missile systems, signalling a strategic alliance in enhancing Nato security.

The deal, comprising 120 AGM-158B/B-2 JASSM-ER All-Up-Rounds, was confirmed by the US State Department’s recent approval of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) valued at $908m (€844m). The JASSM-ER missiles will be used on the Netherlands Air Force’s multirole aircraft, F-35As and F-16A/Bs.

The deal is one of a number of recent exports of the JASSM-ER, with a $104m FMS agreed with Japan in August 2023.

According to GlobalData’s “The Netherlands Defense Market 2023-2028” report, the Netherlands acquired 20 of F-35A stealth fighters between 2019 and 2021 and 24 of the F-16A/B in 1979 and 1992, both from Lockheed Martin.

The Netherlands also recently confirmed a $150m deal for 386 Hellfire missiles for use on its AH-64 Apache helicopters.

9 February

Safran and Nexter integrate sights on the evolving Leclerc tank

In an effort to keep the Leclerc main battle tank (MBT) up to date, the French Ministry of Defence has contracted domestic industry organisations to come together to digitise the thirty-year-old platform.

France’s Directorate Gerneral of Armaments (DGA) notified Nexter – a government-owned weapons producer and subsidiary of the holding company KNDS – and Safran – a Paris-based aerospace equipment manufacturer – of the contract.

Namely, the two companies will work together to develop and integrate an ‘observation’ function to the remodeled Leclerc XLR using Safran’s PASEO sight.

The Leclerc is a 57-tonne tracked MBT built by Nexter (previously known as Giat Industries at the time of development). It can fire arrow, explosive, and canister ammunition in stationary or mobile modes.

The MBT is currently operational with the French Army and the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates. A 120mm, 52-calibre smoothbore gun is fitted with a thermal sleeve and muzzle reference system.

7 February

Indra supplies EW detection systems for Saudi Avante 2200 corvettes

The Spanish defence systems supplier Indra will furnish the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy’s (RSAN) five Avante 2200 class corvettes with an EW detection and identification system.

US prime Lockheed Martin, which is also involved in the development of the Saudi ships, signed a contract accepting Indra as a supplier to the programme.

The Avante 2200 combatant corvette is designed and built by Spanish shipbuilder Navantia. The vessel is primarily used for surveillance and protection of exclusive economic zones.

It is also suited for anti-surface warfare, EW, maritime protection, intelligence gathering, search and rescue, humanitarian aid, marine pollution control, and combating smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Construction of the corvettes originally began at the San Fernando shipyard in Cádiz, Spain, in January 2019. Deliveries are due to be completed in 2024.

The Avante 2200 corvettes for the RSAN have a length of 118 metres, and reach a maximum speed of 27 knots.