October’s top news stories

7 November 2018 (Last Updated November 8th, 2018 10:25)

US DoD and Lockheed cut F-35 price under $11.5bn deal, US approved $3.5bn sale of 16 H-47 Chinook helicopters to UK, and production began on Qatari Amiri Air Force’s Typhoon fighter jets. Airforce-Technology.com wraps up key headlines from October 2018.

October’s top news stories
An F-35A Lightning II aircraft. Credit: MSgt John Nimmo Sr.

US DoD and Lockheed cut F-35 price under $11.5bn deal

The US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded an $11.5bn contract to Lockheed Martin for the production and delivery of a total of 141 units of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

The per unit price of the F-35 has been reduced for the 11th consecutive year, with the cost this year set at the lowest in the history of the aircraft development programme.

With the cut, the cost of an F-35A aircraft in Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 11 (LRIP 11) has been quoted at $89.2m, including engine and fee, representing a 5.4% reduction from the $94.3m per unit cost in LRIP 10.


US approves $3.5bn sale of 16 H-47 Chinook helicopters to UK

The US State Department approved a potential sale of 16 H-47 Chinook extended range helicopters to the UK for $3.5bn through the foreign military sale programme.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) issued the requisite certification to notify Congress. It said the proposed sale is expected to bolster the UK’s capabilities by providing a heavy lift rotary wing capability for execution of missions in extreme environments.

In addition to the Boeing H-47 Chinook, the UK has placed a request for the sale of 36 T-55-GA-714A engines, 48 embedded GPS inertial navigation units, 20 common missile warning systems, 22 radio-frequency countermeasures, and 19 multi-mode radars.


Production begins on Qatari Amiri Air Force’s Typhoon fighter jets

BAE Systems started production on the Qatari Amiri Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets at its sites in Warton and Samlesbury, UK.

The start of production was officially marked by a steel cutting ceremony at BAE’s facilities during a visit of Qatari Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah to the UK.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is manufactured by a consortium of BAE Systems, Airbus and Leonardo.


Belgium intends to buy F-35A Lightning II jets to replace F-16 fleet

The Belgian Government intends to procure 34 units of the Lockheed Martin-built F-35A Lightning II conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) combat aircraft for €4.011bn.

In addition to purchasing the CTOL aircraft, the investment will be used to procure two flight simulation centres, equipment, information and communications technology (ICT) systems, as well as high-technology helmet systems for F-35 pilots.

ICT systems will be purchased for operational and technical support of the fighter aircraft fleet while stationed on base and during deployments.


USAF awards $792m LSA to Northrop’s OmegA rocket development

The US Air Force (USAF) awarded a $792m Launch Services Agreement (LSA) to Northrop Grumman to support the service’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle programme.

Under the deal, the company will be responsible for the continued development of the OmegA rocket, which is scheduled for its first launch in 2021.

Awarded by the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center, the agreement is expected to continue until 2024 and includes certification flights of OmegA’s intermediate variant in 2021 and its heavy variant in 2024.


Canada seeks $300m sale of King Air 350ER ISR aircraft from US

The US DSCA notified Congress of a potential foreign military sale of King Air 350ER intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to Canada.

Estimated to cost $300m, the proposed sale was requested by the Government of Canada and approved by the US State Department.

Under the proposed deal, Canada requested three King Air 350ER aircraft with customer unique post-modifications for ISR operations, in addition to three WESCAM MX-15D electro-optical and infrared imaging sensors, and three AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispenser systems.


Saab Gripen E test fighter concludes external payload launch tests

The first of the Saab-built Gripen E test aircraft completed the maiden series of tests in order to validate its ability to release and launch external payloads.

Carried out at Vidsel Test Range in the north of Sweden, the tests comprised jettisoning one external fuel drop tank and one firing of an infra-red imaging system tail / thrust vector controlled air-to-air missile.

Designated 39-8, the first test jet performed the trials as part of the latest steps taken in the Gripen E flight test programme preceded by the carriage tests in July and forms part of the weapon integration work.


USAF set to launch fourth AEHF communications satellite

The USAF’s fourth advanced extremely high frequency (AEHF) protected military communications satellite was declared ready for launch.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the communications satellite was launched on 17 October from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The AEHF-4 satellite was manufactured at the company’s facility in Sunnyvale, California, US, and delivered to Florida on 27 July.


Indian Air Force completes development trials of Astra BVR-AAM

The Indian Air Force completed development trials of the Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile (Astra BVR-AAM).

The development trials included a series of flight tests that were carried out by the airforce at the Integrated Test Range in the Balasore city of Odisha, India.

Flight trials involved a combination of complex tests for engagement of pilotless target in different modes of manoeuvring, off-boresight, medium and long ranges.


GA-ASI’s second MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft concludes maiden flight

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) successfully completed the maiden flight test of its second MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), the YBC02, at the Laguna Army Airfield in Yuma Proving Grounds in the US.

YBC02 features advanced capabilities such as lightning protection, an upgraded avionics and software suite, and a de-icing system.

The features have been added on to the second unmanned system as part of MQ-9B’s roadmap to become the first RPA to be certified to fly in civil airspace.