March’s top stories: France-UK combat air system project, second phase of Operation Inherent Resolve
France and UK to work on £1.54bn future combat air system project, Operation Inherent Resolve enters second phase, Finmeccanica to supply M-346 aircraft to Italian Air Force. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from March 2016.
The defence ministries of France and the UK announced work on the £1.54bn future combat air system project (FCAS) and introduced a new unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).
The development follows the successful completion of a £120m joint feasibility study undertaken by the countries in 2014.
The FCAS project, which is aimed at developing the most advanced vehicle of its kind in Europe, is expected to benefit companies such as BAE Systems, Dassault Aviation, Thales France, Selex, Rolls-Royce and Safran.
The US-led coalition forces Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve entered the second phase in its fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The second phase will include three operational approaches, coalition-enabled pressure on ISIS to isolate Raqqah in Syria, isolating and eventually recapturing Mosul in Iraq and stabilising Iraq's Anbar province.
USAF colonel Patrick Ryder said: "Manbij pocket near the Mara line is ISIL's last route to move people, money and supplies into Syria and Iraq, and the territory continue to go back and forth.
"This will be one of the most difficult fights going forward.
"Operations are working to isolate Raqqah from Mosul and deny ISIL freedom of movement between the two important cities."
Finmeccanica secured a €300m contract to supply Aermacchi advanced M-346 aircraft from the Italian Ministry of Defence.
Under the terms of the agreement, the company will supply an additional nine M-346 aircraft for the Italian Air Force, bringing the total ordered by Italy to 18.
Additionally, the contract covers provision for logistics support and an additional development phase of the advanced integrated training systems, which include digital training aids, simulators and infrastructure at the Lecce-Galatina Air Force base.
Finmeccanica CEO and general manager Mauro Moretti said: "The Aermacchi M-346 is the most advanced trainer aircraft available on the market today, the only one in the world designed to train pilots who will go on to fly new-generation, high performance defence aircraft.
"It has won all the most important international bids and we have chosen it to be in the running to be the platform on which the new American Top Guns' trainer aircraft will be based."
Raytheon secured a contract worth $573m from the US Air Force (USAF) to continue building advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs).
The latest contract represents a modification to exercise the option on a previously awarded contract for AMRAAM.
Work under the contract will be performed in Tucson by early 2019.
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Defence (MoD) reportedly approved $500m of funding to purchase Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, as part of efforts to strengthen the country's military capabilities.
The additional funds are expected to be withdrawn from the country's general reserve fund, reported state news agency KUNA.
In January, the Kuwaiti Parliament approved $10bn in additional funds for military spending over the next ten years.
The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is reportedly working on developing a sixth-generation fighter jet to enhance the air defence capabilities of the nation.
Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi has presented designs for the sixth-generation fighter, which are planned to be both manned and unmanned.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was quoted by Tass, a Russian state news agency, as saying: "They have really come up with the designs for the creation of the sixth-generation fighter.
"I'm referring to new design concepts briefly presented by the Sukhoi design bureau and by the general designer appointed for all aircraft systems and armaments."
Pratt & Whitney officially secured a contract to build engines for the US Air Force's (USAF) long-range strike bomber (LRS-B), designated the B-21.
In October 2015, the USAF awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman for the production of LRS-B, in a bid to replace the air force's aging fleet of bombers.
The move is a part of USAF's efforts to modernise aircraft to provide warfighters with enhanced capabilities.
US-based private equity firm KKR agreed to acquire Airbus Group's defence electronics business for €1.1bn.
Airbus Defence Electronics is a global provider of mission-critical sensors, integrated systems and services for premium defence and security applications based in Ulm, Germany.
Under the terms of the agreement, Airbus will retain 25% stake in the company and the rest will be held by KKR, for a period of three years, reported Financial Times.
The Israeli Air Force reportedly test fired Patriot surface-to-air missiles from the Palmachim air base in central Israel as part of an air defence exercise, code-named Juniper Cobra.
The test firing, which marked the conclusion of the exercise, was aimed at stimulating the interception of multiple targets against Israel while testing the readiness of the Israeli as well as the US military against such assaults.
Additionally, a new interception system known as the David's Sling Weapon System (DSWS) was included in the exercise for the first time.
The Iranian Defence Ministry reportedly launched a successful ballistic missile from several silos located at different regions of the country as part of a military exercise.
Iranian state television broadcasted a three-minute clip that showed a missile silo at an underground base with a ballistic missile resembling Qiam 1.
The move is believed to be in violation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that bans Iran's missile-related proliferation and procurement activities.