Socially-distant RIMPAC kicks off
This year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) international naval exercise, which has been scaled back due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, has kicked off in Hawaii, with the US Navy joined by ships from several regional countries including Australia.
The Royal Australian Navy is taking part with a task group made up of Hobart class DDG HMAS Hobart, ANZAC class frigates HMA Ships Arunta and Stuart, and the replenishment ship HMAS Sirius.
The exercise has been reduced in scale from 30 nations, 50 vessels and 25,000 personnel participating in at-sea and on-shore phases in 2018, to ten countries, 23 vessels and 5,300 personnel at the event, and has also been limited only to an at-sea phase only. Other nations participating include Brunei, Japan, and Singapore.
Taiwan’s newest F-16s contracted
Lockheed-Martin has been awarded a US$4.9 billion contract by the USAF for the delivery of 90 F-16 fighter jets for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers.
Although the contract announcement did not identify the customer(s) or the variant, the number of jets contracted matches that requested by Taiwan and Morocco, which have sought 66 and 24 F-16Vs (Block 70), respectively.
The Taiwanese order is another step forward for the self-governing island’s acquisition, which has almost become a saga in its own right. Arms sales to Taiwan are a fraught affair as supplier countries are wary of angering China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has vowed to re-integrate the island with the mainland.
Taiwan had sought earlier variants of the F-16 to boost its fleet as far back as 2006, with the US either rejecting the requests or offering upgrades to Taiwan’s current F-16s instead, before the Trump Administration finally approved to the sale in 2019.
Taiwan had previously taken up the offer to upgrade the 144 F-16s in its fleet to a Block 70 standard, with the program currently ongoing.
Elbit awarded naval air training systems contract
Elbit Systems has announced a contract award to provide its EHUD Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation training systems to an un-named customer, for use from shore bases and on board aircraft carriers.
The contract, which is worth A$37 million will run for a two-year period, followed by a three-year maintenance period, subject to availability. Although the contract announcement did not mention the customer by name, the intended use of the system on board the aircraft carriers of a ‘South Asian Navy’ suggests that it is almost certainly India.
Resembling an AIM-9 Sidewinder airframe, the EHUD is a range-less and fully autonomous air combat manoeuvring instrumentation (ACMI) system. Elbit says the system offers a unique combination of advanced air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training, which include real-time hit notification and removal, real-time electronic warfare and air-to-air weapon delivery, simulation, and advanced reporting.
The system can also support multiple network participants in real-time through the Elbit Systems data link protocol.