April 2020 news

Air Forces - Aerospace and Defense Industry


The U.S. Department of Defense and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence announced their intent to continue a bilateral effort to explore advanced solid fuel ramjet technologies. The Tactical High-speed Offensive Ramjet for Extended Range, or THOR-ER, is an Allied Prototyping Initiative (API) effort under the Directorate for Advanced Capabilities within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

Black Swift Technologies (BST), a specialized engineering firm based in Boulder, CO, announced that it has been awarded a USAF SBIR Phase II contract to develop an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to autonomously conduct atmospheric profiling supporting more accurate cargo drops and improved localized weather forecasts supporting Air Force, Army and Special Operations Forces (SOF) operations.

On Sunday, April 19, Harry Harris, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, announced the delivery of additional Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk long-range surveillance drones to the country. The first of four RQ-4 Global Hawk drones for South Korea arrived in December 2019 at Sacheon Air Base.

The Russian Defense Ministry plans to upgrade Mi-28N helicopters to the Mi-28NM level. A prototype can make the first flight in the autumn of 2020. It will have more powerful and longer-range missiles, upgraded optics and radar. The upgrade will increase combat capabilities of the helicopter without excessive costs, the Izvestia daily writes.

Airbus has achieved the first ever fully automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) operation with a boom system. The flight test campaign, conducted earlier in the year over the Atlantic Ocean, involved an Airbus tanker test aircraft equipped with the Airbus A3R solution, with an F-16 fighter aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force acting as a receiver.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. , a leading National Security Solutions provider, announced on April 15 that the Kratos Unmanned Systems Division has recently received sole-source contract awards totaling more than $19 million for the purchase of 21 high-performance jet target drones and spares. As a part of one of the contracts, Kratos will also provide development engineering to enable key specific mission capability for that customer.

On March 20, 2020, U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) pilots and sensor operators from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) conducted their first operational flight of an MQ-9A Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the Middle East. The multi-sensor reconnaissance-equipped MQ-9A UAS produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has provided crucial support to USMC’s forward operations on the battlefield.

The Russian Defense Ministry began to upgrade the massive fleet of Mi-24 helicopter gunships. The Syrian experience prompted to equip them with night vision devices. Cockpits and sights will be upgraded for operations in the dark. It was initially planned to decommission Mi-24 and replace them by new helicopters, but perfect operation of Mi-24 in Syria changed the decision, the Izvestia daily writes.

VOX Space, the Virgin Orbit subsidiary which provides responsive and affordable launch services for the U.S. national security community, has been selected to launch three dedicated missions for the U.S. Space Force (USSF), delivering multiple spacecraft to orbit for the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program-S28 (STP-S28). This launch service contract — awarded by the USSF Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) Office in Albuquerque, NM — is the first task order under the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract.

The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) concluded its first-ever Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) carrier qualifications (CQ) for Naval aviators while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, April 4. “For the first time ever, this ship conducted carrier qualifications for two fleet replacement squadrons and generated readiness for the fleet,” said Capt. J. J. Cummings, USS Gerald Ford’s commanding officer.

Israeli company Elbit Systems announced on April 12, 2020, that it was awarded two contracts valued at a total of approximately $20 million from Latin American customers to upgrade the capabilities of their Hermes 900 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Both contracts will be performed within a 12-month period.

Amid the challenges of COVID-19, the Air Force remains committed to supporting the innovation ecosystem. On the week of 27 April, Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, will officially launch Agility Prime, the Air Force program to accelerate the growth of the transformative vertical flight market for subsequent government use.

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