April’s top stories: France-Qatar Rafale deal, US-Australia sale of AIM-120D missiles

Qatar and France conclude Rafale deal worth €6.7bn, US approves $1.22bn sale of advanced AIM-120D missiles to Australia, and Japan beefs up aerial defence against Chinese intrusions. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from April 2016.


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Qatar and France conclude Rafale deal worth €6.7bn

The Qatar Ministry of Defence reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with France's Dassault Aviation to acquire Rafale multirole fighter aircraft, at an estimated cost of €6.7bn.

The move marks the conclusion of the much awaited contract that will see the company provide 24 Rafale aircraft, associated training and support services to the Middle Eastern nation.

Additionally, the contract covers provision for the supply of an undisclosed number of MBDA missiles.

US approves $1.22bn sale of advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles to Australia

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The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a potential $1.22bn foreign military sale (FMS) of AIM-120D advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and associated equipment, training, and logistics support to Australia.

Under the deal, the Government of Australia has requested major defence equipment (MDE) comprising of 450 AIM-120D missiles, 34 AIM-120D air vehicles, six instrumented test vehicles and ten spare AIM-120 Guidance Sections.

Additionally, the contract will cover non-MDE items including containers and weapon system support equipment.

Japan jet sorties against Chinese intrusions doubled from January to March

The Japan Ministry of Defence reportedly revealed that the number of sorties to intercept Chinese military aircraft has more than doubled in the first quarter of this year.

Japanese fighter jets were deployed nearly 571 times to interrupt Chinese intrusions in fiscal 2015, media sources reported.

The number of scrambles by Japanese aircraft was up 23% during the year ending 31 March, when compared to the previous year.

USAF deploys two F-22 Raptors and one KC-135 Stratotanker to Romania

The US Air Force (USAF) deployed two F-22 Raptors and one KC-135 Stratotanker to Romania in a bid to closely monitor Russian activities in the Black Sea.

The USAF has deployed F-22s and nearly 20 supporting airmen from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB), Florida and KC-135 from the 916th Air Refueling Wing deployed from Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina to Romania's Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base (AB).

The deployment of F-22 aircrafts is partially funded by the European Reassurance Initiative, which provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe.

Lockheed Martin to supply additional JASSM to USAF

The US Air Force (USAF) awarded a $116.8m contract to Lockheed Martin for the production of the joint air-to-surface standoff missile (JASSM) and its extended range (ER) version.

The contract represents an additional option included in the Lot 14 contract awarded in December 2015.

Under the terms of the new contract, the company will supply 100 JASSM-ER missiles, bringing the total number of JASSM and JASSM-ER missiles delivered or under contract with the USAF to more than 2,700.

Aurora completes first flight of VTOL X-plane prototype

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Aurora Flight Sciences completed the first flight of a subscale vehicle demonstrator (SVD) of vertical take-off and landing experimental plane (VTOL X-plane) for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Weighing 325lb, the 20% scale flight prototype of the unmanned vehicle designated as LightningStrike completed the maiden flight at a US military facility.

Marking a critical milestone in the development of DARPA's VTOL X-plane, the SVD met the research agency's risk reduction requirement.

Iran showcases Russian-built S-300 missile tubes and radar equipment

Iran reportedly showcased Russian-built S-300 surface-to-air missile tubes and radar equipment during the Army Day Parade in Tehran.

Delivered as part of a contract signed by the two countries last year, Russia delivered the first batch of the new advanced S-300 air defence system to Iran.

Iran originally signed an $800m contract with Russia in 2007 for the supply of five S-300PMU-1 systems, but it was scrapped in 2010 following a fourth UN Security Council arms embargo on the Middle Eastern country.

Pratt & Whitney wins $1.4bn contract for F-35 aircraft propulsion systems

Pratt & Whitney secured a contract worth $1.4bn from the US Department of Defense (DoD) for the production of the ninth low-rate initial production (LRIP-9) batch of F135 propulsion systems to power the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company will supply 66 total production engines, including spare engines, spare modules, and spare parts for the field.

The LRIP 9 production lot includes 53 conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) and 13 short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) propulsion systems for the US Air Force (USAF), Navy and Marine Corps, as well as Italy, Norway, Israel, Japan and the UK.

Kuwait to invest in Typhoon combat aircraft

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The Kuwait Ministry of Defence (MoD) unveiled plans to invest in the Eurofighter Typhoon programme.

As part of the development, the MoD has signed agreements with Finmeccannica, BAE and the Italian Government for the supply of 28 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

Built by a consortium of Finmeccanica, Airbus Group and BAE Systems, the Typhoon's development is Europe's largest multinational military collaboration managed by the Nato Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA).

UK MoD to upgrade and build new facilities at RAF Marham

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled plans to upgrade and build new facilities worth £167m at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham to house the F-35B Lightning II squadrons.

The modernisation programme will include the addition of maintenance, training and logistics facilities to the station in East Anglia.

The latest decision will see the MoD upgrading RAF Marham through three contracts.