16 Mar 17. Bulgaria receives responses in fighter contest. Bulgaria’s defence ministry announced on 13 March that it had opened three proposals to equip the nation’s air force with modern fighters. These were submitted by the Swedish government, offering newly produced Saab Gripen C/Ds; the US and Portuguese governments, jointly offering ex-US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs to be upgraded to the mid-life update standard by Ogma; and an Italian bid using second-hand Tranche 1-standard Eurofighter Typhoons. Sofia released a request for proposals for the requirement in December 2016, seeking an initial eight fighters to be procured through a government-to-government agreement. The defence ministry’s current plan foresees an investment of €767m ($823m) to acquire the aircraft and ground support equipment, plus a small package of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, logistics support and personnel training. The fighters are required to be delivered before 2020. A second phase, slated to run between 2022 and 2023, is expected to lead to the acquisition of another eight multirole fighters of the same type. An evaluation of the proposals should be completed within a one-month period, according to an investment plan approved by the Bulgarian parliament in June 2016. However, the project is advancing against the backdrop of a political crisis, and a general election planned for 26 March. The defence ministry is under pressure to sign a purchase agreement before year-end and use a €102m allocation for 2017 which should serve as a first instalment for the deal. Bulgaria spent €36m last year on acquiring new engines and other spare parts for its current 15 RAC MiG-29 fighters. It expects to invest a further €16m this year on maintenance for the type, which provides air policing cover for the nation. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Flightglobal)
15 Mar 17. NZDF C-130 upgrade project complete. The New Zealand Defence Force’s C-130 Hercules upgrade project is now complete, the New Zealand government announced on 10 March.
The life extension project included the refurbishment of the aircraft centre wings, refurbishment or replacement of other structural component, a major rewire, replacement of avionics systems, flight management, autopilot and navigation and communications suites.
The work will ensure that the aircraft continue to comply with evolving air traffic control regulations worldwide.
The upgrade project of the five-strong fleet began in 2010 in Canada. The project was moved to New Zealand, with the Ministry of Defence taking over management, when the Canadian contractor – L-3 Communications Spar Aerospace – ceased operations. The final aircraft were upgraded by a team led by Graeme Gilmore with the support of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Aviation Labour Group as the principal labour provider, and Safe Air providing support services to the project.
The upgraded aircraft have already been in use with deployments to the Middle East as part of Operation Team, and assisting with the recovery efforts following Cyclone Winston in Fiji earlier last year. (Source: Shephard)
15 Mar 17. SpaceX Scores Another Win in Push for Military Satellite Launches. The U.S. Air Force picked Elon Musk’s SpaceX to blast a second Global Positioning System satellite into orbit, part of a broader drive to open up various other launch contracts for competitive bidding through late 2019. Tuesday’s award of the $96.5m, fixed-price contract to SpaceX indicates that faced with escalating budget pressures and heightened congressional prodding, Pentagon brass are stepping up efforts to give the Southern California company additional opportunities to become a significant provider of military satellite launches. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has battled for years and even took the military to court to be allowed to bid on such contracts using its Falcon 9 booster. The latest developments mark another victory in the company’s campaign to s