Welcome to The War Report, your *Tuesday morning roundup of articles and posts by Aviation Week & Space Technology Defense Editor James Drew. Send your questions, comments or news tips to james.drew@aviationweek.com, but for an immediate response, dial the Bat Phone: +1 202 704 8852. For personal correspondence, email Secret Squirrel via james.drew.media@gmail.com. All exchanges are on deep background, unless otherwise expressed.

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Global Thunder 17

Boeing Backs Massive B-52 Engine Upgrade

Momentum is building for a propulsion upgrade of the 1960s-vintage, nuclear-armed Boeing B-52H Stratofortress, with the company proposing an eight-for-eight swap for engines in the 17,000-19,000-lb.-thrust range that were designed to power regional jets.

In the mid-2000s, the U.S. Air Force was tinkering with four-engine options to replace the strategic bomber’s old and wheezy Pratt & Whitney TF33s using the Boeing 757-class Rolls-Royce RB211, Pratt PW2040 or General Electric CF6. However, that configuration would have taken too long and cost too much because of significant airflow changes, with all wing-mounted weapons needing to be requalified for flight. Instead, Boeing is touting an eight-engine program that “avoids $10 billion” in operating, maintenance and sustainment costs—compared to keeping the TF33s for the B-52s’ remaining 20-30 years of expected service life—while extending unrefueled range by 40%… Read more at Aviation Week.

Air Force Image Of Boeing B61-12 On F-15

Did Trump and Putin Resume the Cold War?

In 140 characters, President-elect Donald Trump has registered U.S. interest in re-entering a Cold War-style nuclear buildup to counterbalance Russia, tweeting that the U.S. must “greatly strengthen and expand” its strategic arsenal.

The tweet to make America’s nuclear stockpile great again came just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a strengthening of Moscow’s strategic forces to include weapons that can “reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” a likely reference to the U.S.’s expanding missile shield.

“The U.S. must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” @realDonaldTrump tweeted on Dec. 22, hours after Putin’s speech. Putin reportedly praised the Russian military’s performance in Syria and called for a strategic buildup, adding that Russia is stronger militarily than “any potential aggressor…” Read more at Aviation Week.

Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 Defiant Fuselage from Swift Engineering

Bell V-280 ‘85%’ Complete As Swift Delivers SB-1 Body

Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky/Boeing could usher in a new era for military rotorcraft in 2017 when they fly their competing V-280 Valor and SB-1 Defiant technology demonstrators. In the final days of this year, the two teams recorded significant progress in the construction of their respective aircraft, including delivery of the SB-1 composite fuselage and installation of the V-280’s two General Electric T64 engines.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command have obtained clearance from the Pentagon to begin an 18-month analysis of alternatives into such systems, specifically common utility and attack platforms to succeed the UH/MH-60 Black Hawk and UH/AH-1 Venom/Viper. That process is already underway with prior funding and will not be held up by Congress’s continuing budget resolution.

In December, the SB-1 composite fuselage built by Swift Engineering in San Clemente, California, was passed to Boeing for inspection and loads testing at the company’s attack helicopter facility in Mesa, Arizona. Meanwhile, construction of Bell’s V-280 prototype in Amarillo, Texas, is 85% complete with the gearboxes and T64-419 engines now being installed, ahead of vibration testing in February. At that point, the aircraft will be “90% complete,” Bell says. Read more at AWIN.

textron-airland-scorpion

Textron Aviation Not Ruling Out T-X Bid

Textron Aviation is not ruling itself out of the U.S. Air Force’s forthcoming T-X fighter trainer competition, just weeks out from the expected request for proposals (RFP).

If it did jump into the race, the Wichita, Kansas-based aircraft manufacturer would be the sixth entrant in an already heated battle to produce 350 or more high-performance trainers for Air Education and Training Command’s prospective fighter and bomber pilots.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon already have declared their candidacy, and on Dec. 16, Aviation Week reported on Sierra Nevada Corp. and Turkish Aerospace Industries’ surprise “Freedom Trainer” bid. Rumors are now circulating among industry of a potential sixth entrant, leading to the question, where is Textron? Read more at Aviation Week.

Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-154B-2 Transport Airplane

Russian Ships, Drones Comb Black Sea For Tu-154 Crash Victims

Russia is mourning the deaths of 92 passengers and aircrew on board the ill-fated Tupolev Tu-154 military transport that crashed into the Black Sea shortly after takeoff from Sochi International Airport on the morning of Dec. 25.

The Tu-154B-2 belonging to the Russian air force had stopped off in Sochi en route to Russia’s coastal airbase in Latakia, Syria, but went down less than one mile (1.5 km) from shore moments after takeoff. The aircraft was carrying 84 passengers and eight crew, including nine journalists and 64 members of a Russian Red Army military choir, the famed Alexandrov Ensemble, who were due to perform for Russian troops and airmen deployed to the war-torn nation.

“A thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the plane crash and every effort will be made to provide support to the families of the victims,” Russian President Vladimir Putin says, adding that Dec. 26 will be a day of national mourning. Read more at Aviation Week.

MBDA Sea Ceptor, armed with Common Anti-Air Modular Missile

Value Of Scud-Destroying Air Defense Missiles Increases

Saudi Arabia is no stranger to Scud missile attacks, having been bombarded by Iraq during the Persian Gulf war of 1990-91. But now the Arab kingdom is coming under almost routine attack by Houthi rebels across the border in Yemen in response to military intervention there. Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas Kennedy said recently that at least 40 Scuds have been fired at Saudi Arabia since the conflict flared up in 2015, all intercepted by the company’s Patriot batteries armed with Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 hit-to-kill missile.

Saudi Patriots achieved a “100% success rate” against the Scuds, he says, including one that was fired at the Islamic holy city of Mecca. Qatar’s and Kuwait’s Patriot systems also have been on high alert as regional tensions escalate and other Middle East states including Israel shield themselves against Iran’s growing stockpile of long-range, conventionally armed ballistic missiles. Read more at Aviation Week.

Bell-Boeing MV-22

MV-22s Return To Flight In Japan After Safety Review

Bell-Boeing MV-22 Ospreys assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan, have returned to flight less than a week after one of the aircraft clipped the refueling hose of an Air Force C-130 during a routine refueling and crashed. The Marine pilot deliberately crash landed his Osprey in the water near Camp Schwab after it began “shaking violently” because of damage to its rotor blades.

In response to the Dec. 13 incident, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force (3rd MEF) commanding general, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, grounded all Ospreys under his purview pending a review of MV-22 checklists and safety of flight procedures. The Marine Corps and Air Force decided to continue flying MV-22 and CV-22 variants elsewhere.

On Dec. 19, the head of U.S. Forces Japan, Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, announced a return to flight following debriefings and notifications to the 3rd MEF and Okinawa government and defense bureau. “While the investigation is ongoing, we are highly confident in our assessment that the cause of the mishap was due solely to the aircraft’s rotor blades coming into contact with the refueling line,” Martinez said in a Dec. 19 statement. Read more at AWIN.

Politics, Terrorism And Refugee Crises Change World Security Outlook

From the Middle East to Europe and the U.S., terrorists inspired by the self-proclaimed Islamic State group continued to strike in 2016. Meanwhile, China kept expanding its influence in the Asia-Pacific region, and Russia, still sowing the seeds of conflict in Ukraine, showcased its might in Syria. The wars in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq and Syria have prompted waves of migrants to make their way to a more peaceful Europe. But there are signs that stability may ebb. Though Turkey’s president fought off a military coup, he has adopted an authoritarian tone. And with citizens in the U.S. and Europe unexpectedly embracing far-right candidates, the globe and the outlook for security may look quite different in 2017. Read more at Aviation Week.

Can Canada’s Liberals Make Good On Defense Pledges?

For Canada’s liberal government, 2016 was like walking a tightrope in terms of military procurement. Having been elected in October 2015 on a platform that included ditching the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has instead decided to stay in the Joint Strike Fighter program and procure an “interim fleet” of 18 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, all while continuing to court European manufacturers for an upcoming next-generation fighter competition to replace the nation’s outdated CF-18A/B Hornets.

Instead of a noncompetitive, sole-source procurement of 65 F-35As, the government is hammering out a deal with Boeing for the interim fleet as it carefully crafts a “fair and open” competition among Western fighter builders for CF-X.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan has devoted a lot of time on the “fighter file,” saying it was “completely mismanaged” by the previous government, resulting in a fleet of just 77 CF-18s that can no longer satisfy Canada’s security commitments to NORAD and NATO simultaneously, and risk mechanical and structural failure by the mid-2020s without significant upgrades and a backup fleet. Read more at Aviation Week.

Dassault Rafales Over Egypt

2016 World Conflict Guide: Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific

(James Drew and Tony Osborne) Islamist terrorist attacks are growing around the world, from the U.S. to Africa and Bangladesh. At the same time, China is expanding its influence in the Asia-Pacific and making its neighbors nervous. And relations between nuclear players Pakistan and India have grown worse, with a series of cross-border strikes along the line of control that separates the two nations. See the full gallery at Aviation Week.

2016 World Conflict Guide: Arctic, Europe and the Middle East

Though defense spending is on the decline in Russia, the country is showcasing the results of its decade-long military buildup everywhere from the civil war in Syria to Ukraine and across the Arctic. Its bombing campaign in Syria has prompted the flow of refugees to Europe. Turkey, a pass-through point for many of those migrants, remains in turmoil. This summer, the president fended off a military coup, and then adopted a more authoritarian stance. Near year-end, a gunman shot and killed the Russian ambassador in Ankara. Read more at Aviation Week.

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* This send-out is arriving one day late due to the Boxing Day holiday. The next edition (Vol. 6) will be posted Monday Jan. 2, 2017.

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