October's top stories: Brazil Gripen NG contract, UK deploys Reaper to Syria

The Brazilian Air Force finalised Gripen NG contract with Saab, the UK deployed MQ-9 Reaper and RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft to Syria, and the US Air Force's X-37B orbital test vehicle mission 3 successfully landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US, after 22 months in orbit. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from October.


Gripen NG

Brazilian Air Force finalises Gripen NG contract with Saab

The Brazilian Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a SEK39.3bn ($5.4bn) contract with Saab for the supply of Gripen Next-Generation (NG) fighter aircraft to the Brazilian Air Force.

Signed through MoD's Aeronautics Command (COMAER), the contract covers development and production of 36 Gripen NG fighters, including 28 single-seat and eight two-seat jets, as well as related systems and equipment.

Saab president and chief executive officer Håkan Buskhe said: "The contract with Brazil validates Gripen as the most capable and modern fighter system on the market.

Roketsan, Lockheed partner new F-35 air-to-surface standoff missile

Roketsan signed a teaming agreement with Lockheed Martin to manufacture a new generation air-to-surface standoff cruise missile for use on the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

Called SOM-J, the missile will be an autonomous, long-range, low-observable, all-weather, precision air-to-surface cruise missile, and is tailored for internal carriage on the fifth-generation fighter.

Under the terms of agreement, the two companies jointly develop, produce, market and support SOM-J for internal carriage on the Turkish Air Force F and Nato allied F-35s or external carriage on other aircraft.

Embraer unveils first KC-390 military transport aircraft prototype

KC-390

Embraer rolled out the first prototype of the KC-390 military transport aircraft from its production hangar at the industrial plant of Gavião Peixoto, Brazil.

The aircraft will continue with initial systems evaluations that will lead to the first engine run, followed by the ground vibration tests and the other planned ground tests.

Developed in collaboration with the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), the KC-390 is a tactical transport and aerial refuelling airplane, and is designed to perform cargo and troop transport, troop and cargo air delivery, aerial refuelling, search-and-rescue, and combating forest fires, among others.

South Korea may cancel F-16 upgrade contract with BAE

The South Korean Government is likely to cancel a contract with BAE Systems for modernisation of the national air force's KF-16C/D Block 52 fighter aircraft fleet.

In December 2013, BAE received a foreign military sales contract from the US to upgrade the Republic of Korea Air Force's ageing fleet of 134 KF-16 fighters in two phases at a cost of KRW1.75tn ($1.7bn).

Two US-based sources were quoted by Reuters as saying that the deal ran into rough weather after the US Air Force (USAF) added on significant risk 'reserves' to proposed costs.

UK deploys Reaper and Rivet Joint aircraft for surveillance missions over Syria

Reaper

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) deployed the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft and RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft to support a US-led coalition in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a written statement to Parliament that the two aircraft will conduct surveillance missions over Syria.

"The deployment will see the Royal Air Force aircraft gathering intelligence as the UK ramps up efforts to protect our national interests from the terrorist threat emanating the country.

Pentagon IG criticises USAF's plan to spend $8.8bn for Reapers

The Pentagon Inspector General (IG) criticised the US Air Force's (USAF) plans to invest around $8.8bn to buy, operate and maintain 46 MQ-9 Reapers, which may not be used.

In its audit report, the US Department of Defense (DOD) IG found that the USAF had failed to justify its purchase of a total 401 MQ-9 Reapers at an estimated cost of $76.8bn.

The Air Combat Command (ACC) officials failed to follow the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System requirement to secure Joint Requirements Oversight Council approval for an increase in procurement.

USAF's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-3 returns to Earth

X-37B

The US Air Force's (USAF) unmanned, reusable space plane X-37B orbital test vehicle mission 3 (OTV-3) successfully landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US.

Launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in December 2012, the OTV-3 conducted on-orbit experiments for 674 days during its mission, extending the total number of days spent on-orbit for the OTV programme to 1367.

An unnamed X-37B programme manager said: "The landing of OTV-3 marks a hallmark event for the programme.

"The mission is our longest to date and we're pleased with the incremental progress we've seen in our testing of the reusable space plane."

Turkey authorises US and allies to use its airbases in fight against IS

Incirlik

The Turkish Government authorised the US-led coalition to use its airbases to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice was quoted by NBC News as saying that the country has also agreed to train moderate Syrian rebels and 'engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria.'

"That's the new commitment, and one that we very much welcome," Rice added, noting that the agreement included use of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey's south.

An unnamed Turkish government official said nearly 4,000 Syrian opposition fighters would be trained on the Turkish soil after thorough screening by the local intelligence.

Raytheon bags 3DELRR contract from US Airforce

Raytheon Company bagged a $19.5m contract from the US Air Force (USAF) for engineering and manufacturing development of a new expeditionary radar, designed to detect, identify and track drones, missiles and aircraft.

The contract will include procurement of an additional three radar systems and continued development of the three-dimensional expeditionary long-range radar (3DELRR) programme. It also includes options for another three systems that brings the total value of the contract to around $71.8m.

The 3DELRR is one of the first programmes under the US Department of Defense's (DoD) Better Buying Power initiative to be designed for exportability.

First series production Tejas aircraft completes maiden flight

Tejas

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) successfully conducted the maiden test flight of the first series production standard Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) from its facility in Bangalore, India.

Piloted by HAL Test Flying Chief Air Commandore (Retd) KA Muthana, the aircraft took off without any telemetry support and landed safely in less than 30 minutes, as reported by Flightglobal.

The flight test takes the indigenously built aircraft closer to final clearance and induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF).