2019 top news stories

3 January 2020 (Last Updated January 3rd, 2020 15:04)

EU commissioner proposes European space force and India launches air strikes against militants in Pakistan. Airforce-technology.com has wrapped up key headlines for 2019.

2019 top news stories
EU commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska suggested the concept of a European space force despite concerns of a global arms race in space. Credit: ESA – Jürgen Mai.

EU commissioner proposes European space force

European Union (EU) commissioner and deputy prime minister of Poland Elzbieta Bienkowska suggested that the EU should consider establishing a European space force.

Bienkowska said in her opening speech at the 11th Annual Conference on European Space Policy in Brussels: “The link between defence and space will increase. The US has recently created a space force. Some of our member states are considering a similar arrangement. We should reflect on the possibility to have a European space force.

“From an industrial perspective, the military will soon run the disruption of technologies. For instance, on earth point-to-point space flights. Such a prospect can be very disruptive on the medium term, for instance, to the aviation sector.”


India launches air strikes against militants in Pakistan

India conducted air strikes against a terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in a raid.

The offensive was seen as retaliation for the killing of 40 Indian paramilitary forces in Pulwama district in the Indian side of Kashmir in a suicide bombing claimed by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

A convoy of 78 vehicles carrying 2,500 Indian troops was targeted by terrorists with an explosives-laden car.


Boeing wins $14.31bn contract to increase lethality of US bombers

Boeing was awarded a $14.31bn flexible acquisition and sustainment contract for the US Air Force’s (USAF) bomber aircraft, the B-1 Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers.

The indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contract from US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) required the company to perform the modification, modernisation, engineering, sustainment and test of the weapons systems.

The US DoD announced: “This B-1/B-52 Flexible Acquisition and Sustainment contract provides for the upcoming modernisation and sustainment efforts to increase lethality, enhance survivability, improve supportability, and increase responsiveness.”


Japan’s first F-35 fighter jet crashes into Pacific Sea

An F-35 advanced stealth fighter jet belonging to Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) crashed into the Pacific Ocean after losing contact.

The aircraft was performing training manoeuvres along with three other jets when its pilot signalled the need to halt practice just before the aircraft lost contact with the radar, Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters.

According to JASDF, the F-35 fighter was flying about 135km east of the Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture when it disappeared from radar.


Raytheon and USAF to modernise legacy space debris tracking system

A Raytheon-led consortium is partnering with the AFLCMC to modernise and simplify the legacy space debris tracking and monitoring system Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC).

The SPADOC is a 1990s-era system that reached the end of its planned service life.

The USAF intends to replace SPADOC with modern systems in a bid to simplify operations and enable greater space situational awareness and collision avoidance capabilities, including space debris tracking.


German Eurofighter aircraft crash after mid-air collision

Two Eurofighter jets belonging to the German Air Force crashed in the Müritz area in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern following a mid-air collision.

The incident occurred when three Eurofighters from the Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 (TLG73) ‘Steinhoff’ were taking part in an air combat mission. TLG73 ‘Steinhoff’ is a fighter wing of the German Air Force.

In an official Twitter post, the airforce’s Team Luftwaffe stated that two of the three jets were involved in the collision and the pilots managed to eject from the jets using parachutes. However, only one of them survived the crash. The other pilot was declared dead by the airforce.


Boeing and Australia’s DRDC to develop AI for unmanned systems

Boeing formed a partnership with an Australian research group to develop advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for unmanned systems in support of military operations.

Under the partnership, the company will work with Australia’s Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre (DCRC) to incorporate machine learning techniques into unmanned systems.

The machine learning techniques will improve the understanding and response of the unmanned systems to threat environments, Boeing said.


Pentagon and Lockheed Martin finalise $34bn F-35 fighter jet deal

The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin finalised a $34bn agreement for the next three lots of F-35 fighter jets, setting the price of an F-35A jet below $80m.

Under the deal, the US Department of Defense (DoD) will purchase 478 F-35s from Lockheed Martin to support the country’s military services, partner nations and foreign military sales customers.

The deal covers lots 12, 13 and 14. Lockheed Martin will deliver 149 F-35s in Lot 12, 160 aircraft in Lot 13, and 169 for Lot 14.


US approves sale of 36 AH-64E Apaches for $4.25bn to Morocco

The Trump administration approved Morocco’s request to purchase AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in a deal valued at up to $4.25bn.

Under the potential foreign military sale, the US will sell 36 AH-64E Apaches and associated equipment to the Government of Morocco.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which operates under the US Department of Defense (DoD), has notified Congress of the possible deal.


India test-fires BrahMos cruise missile from Su-30MKI fighter

The Indian Air Force (IAF) test-fired a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from the Su-30MKI fighter jet.

The IAF tested the air-launched version of the BrahMos missile, which hit an intended sea target off the coast of the Indian state of Odisha.

In a media statement, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “The launch from the aircraft was smooth and the missile followed the desired trajectory and achieved a direct hit on the sea target, off Odisha coastline.”