13 October 2020

US advances with three weaponry sales to Taiwan

The US administration is reportedly advancing with the sale of three advanced weaponry packages to Taiwan.

According to a Reuters report, the heads of Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees were informed that the US State Department has approved the possible weapons sales. The two committees have the right to assess or block potential weapon sales before the sales are formally notified to the US Congress.

Sources told the news agency that the notifications were for Lockheed Martin-made truck-based rocket launcher, Boeing’s long-range air-to-ground missiles called SLAM-ER and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that will allow the aircraft to send imagery and data to ground stations in real time.

The US State Department is also expected to soon approve the sale of other armaments such as aerial drones, land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and underwater mines.

A US State Department spokesperson told Reuters: “As a matter of policy, the US does not confirm or comment on proposed defence sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”

If confirmed, the move is likely to face a strong response from China, which considers Taiwan as one of its provinces and opposes any military support to the island. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian already said that the US should suspend weaponry sales to Taiwan.

13 October 2020

BAE Systems’ PHASA-35 aircraft completes critical endurance trials

BAE Systems has announced that its Persistent High-Altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA-35) completed critical endurance trials, following its maiden flight in February that paved the way for future persistent surveillance technology.

During the critical endurance trials, the aircraft was operated in difficult stratospheric conditions in a simulated environment for 72 hours.

The trials were carried out along with BAE Systems, Prismatic and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

The critical ‘soak’ tests showcased that the aircraft worked effectively as a fully integrated system with the communications sensor payload by Dstl.

A series of ground-based tests was also carried out in a hangar at Prismatic’s facility near Farnborough, UK.

The tests allowed the team to practice different operations required in flight, such as the transition from daytime to nighttime.

BAE Systems Air chief operating officer Ian Muldowney said: “PHASA-35 is a great example of how we’ve brought together the best in British expertise and partnered to drive technological innovation and deliver critical capability. This latest success, only eight months after PHASA-35’s maiden flight, further demonstrates how UK industry and our partners are accelerating pace to deliver the UK’s vision for innovation, a Future Combat Air System and information advantage.”

In the next few months, BAE Systems plans to carry out further flight trials.

After the conclusion of the flight trials programme, the aircraft is expected to commence initial operations within 12 months.

12 October 2020

US approves $14.7bn sale of F/A-18E/F and EA-18G to Finland

The US State Department has approved a possible foreign military sale of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft to Finland. The sale, worth an estimated $14.7bn, also includes weapons and related equipment.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency has also notified Congress about the sale.

Finland has requested 50 F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft, eight F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, 14 EA-18G Growler aircraft, and 166 F414-GE-400 engines, of which 144 are installed and  the remaining 22 are spares, as well as 500 GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II all-up round.

Also included in the sale are 12 GBU-53/B SDB II guided test vehicles, 12 GBU-53/B SDB II captive carry reliability trainers, 150 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder tactical missiles and 32 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder captive air training missiles.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement: “This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a trusted partner, which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe.

“It is vital to the US national interest to assist Finland in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defence capability.”

Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Company, Raytheon Missile Systems Company, General Electric and Lockheed Martin will serve as principal contractors. For the implementation of the sale, six additional US contractor representatives will be assigned to Finland to support the delivery of the aircraft. They will offer support management, inventory control, and equipment familiarisation.

12 October 2020

Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group starts maritime security and stability operations

The US Navy's Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group has commenced maritime security and stability operations in the Indian Ocean.

The group includes aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97).

It carries out routine operations in the Indo-Pacific region to support the commitments of the US to its regional allies and partners. The operations represent the second part of the 2020 deployment under which the strike group sailed in the Indian Ocean.

USS Ronald Reagan commanding officer Captain Fred Goldhammer said: “Our flexible presence is a key element in helping assure our regional allies and partners that the United States remains committed to ensuring freedom of the seas. From the international dateline to the Indian Ocean, and everywhere in between, on board Ronald Reagan we seek to preserve peace through strength and remain ready to answer the call.”

The ships and aircraft of the strike group will oversee the warfighting readiness through air defence, anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike, and force protection exercises.

In August this year, US Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group conducted integrated operations with Murasame-class destroyer JS Ikazuchi (DD 107) of Japan in the Philippine Sea. This move is part of the current shared commitments to achieve regional stability through cooperation.

12 October 2020

North Korea displays new ICBMs in military parade

North Korea has displayed previously unseen intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at a military parade in the capital of Pyongyang

The ‘massive’ missile was carried by an 11-axle truck and would be one of the largest road-mobile ICBMs globally if it becomes operational, analysts told Reuters.

The night-time military parade was held to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party.

The reclusive nation often uses military parades to unveil new missiles and other weaponry.

AT the event, Hwasong-15, the longest-range missile ever tested by the country and, reportedly, a submarine-launched ballistic missile were also displayed.

According to experts, the larger missile could be designed to carry multiple independent reentry vehicles that will enable it to attack several targets minimising interception risks.

However, it is not confirmed if the missile displayed in the parade is a prototype or a conceptual model.

Former US intelligence officer for North Korea Markus Garlauskas told the news agency that the new ICBM is displayed to eliminate doubts about North Korea’s capability to strike the continental US.

This is the first time that North Korea displayed a ballistic missile since the beginning of denuclearisation talks between the US and North Korea.

8 October 2020

Warrior production contract “could add £1bn to the UK economy”: KPMG 

A KPMG report commissioned by Lockheed Martin has found that a production contract for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) could add up to £1bn to the UK economy.

The £1bn in gross value added to the UK economy is based on an expected production contract covering the upgrade of 275 vehicles between 2021 and 2029. At this time, the exact number of vehicles set to be upgraded has yet to be confirmed as Warrior CSP is still under a development contract.

Under the Warrior CSP programme, Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), originally built in the 1980s, will receive a new turret based on the CTA International CT40 cannon as well as other upgrades to the vehicles electronics systems.

Lockheed Martin has said around 80% of the Warrior CSP solution is sourced from British companies in its current state. Once awarded, production and integration of the new turret will be completed at Lockheed Martin’s site in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

The KPMG report adds that a production contract for the vehicles could deliver 100 annual full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs and up to 2,000 annual FTE jobs through the supply chain and direct employment at the peak of production.

An executive summary of the report seen by Army Technology states that, based on an expected contract award in the last quarter of 2021, resultant vehicle deliveries would likely take place between 2023 and 2028.

The MOD told Lockheed Martin in August 2020 that it intends to upgrade up to 290 Warrior AFVs. Lockheed Martin was originally awarded a development contract for Warrior CSP in 2011. Under this timeline, it would have been 12 years from development contract to delivery of the first Warrior CSP vehicles.

KPMG found that a production contract would generate £278.9m in direct GVA, £484.3m in indirect GVA from the supply chain and £280.4m in GVA created through Lockheed Martin employees spending Warrior CSP-related wages.

Lockheed Martin Ampthill vice president and managing director Lee Fellows said:  The economic impacts of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme have been significant to the UK economy and a production contract will bring greater prosperity impacts to the UK.”

Warrior CSP is designed to extend the in-service life of the Warrior armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) beyond 2040.