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15 Feb 06. Italian Army plans digitisation unit trials. The first tangible step in the Italian Army’s transformation as part of a so-called Future Integrated Force (FIF) will be in place later this year, when tests and operational evaluations begin with a combined arms company equipped with a mix of Dardo infantry fighting vehicles, Ariete tanks and Centauro 8×8 reconnaissance vehicles, all equipped with the SICCONA battle management system (BMS). (Source: Jane’s International Defence Review)

09 Mar 06. MILAN ER will bring 50% range increase. MBDA is rapidly pushing ahead with the development of its private-venture MILAN ER (Missile d’Infanterie Leger Anti-char Extended Response) anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW). (Source: Jane’s Defence Weekly)

12 Mar 06. Fourth flight for biggest Ariane. The launch had been postponed three times Europe’s most powerful rocket – the Ariane 5-ECA – has launched two satellites from French Guiana. It lifted off from Kourou spaceport at 1932 local time (2232 GMT), carrying satellites for the Spanish defence ministry and a French telecoms company. The launch marked the Ariane 5’s first flight this year and only the fourth for the 780-tonne heavy-lift version. The ECA has the power to push 10,000kg of payload towards geostationary orbit, 36,000km above the Earth. The mission had originally been scheduled for 21 February but was put off three times because of technical problems with ground support equipment, the payload and the upper stage of the launcher. Saturday’s attempt, however, proceeded without a hitch. The first satellite released, 27 minutes into the flight, was the 3.7-tonne Spainsat, the first Spanish satellite dedicated to secure government communications. It shared a ride with the 4.1-tonne Hot Bird 7A, the 21st satellite launched for the Paris-based telecoms operator Eutelsat Communications. Eutelsat Communications said Hot Bird 7A would transmit more than 850 television channels and 550 radio stations to 110 million homes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for the next 15 years. Saturday’s launch was the 170th of an Ariane rocket since the start of the French-led programme in 1979. (Source: BBC)

13 Mar 06. MoD’s Chief Buyer in U.S. for Crucial Talks. As the AirTanker consortium presses for financing for its £13bn ($22.6bn) plan to lease aerial refueling planes to the Royal Air Force, the much-delayed deal hangs on London’s ability to clear the last major export hurdles with Washington. Among the few major issues remaining to be resolve in the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) program is the question posed by U.S. officials: Who is allowed to operate or maintain the planes? Averting a potentially costly crisis, British Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson hopes to secure a satisfactory answer when he arrives in Washington this week for talks over Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) technology transfer and other issues. Drayson’s first U.S. trip since taking office 10 months ago will include meetings with Pentagon acquisition chief Kenneth Krieg, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Robert Joseph, the undersecretary of State for arms control and international security. Drayson also will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in a March 14 hearing on the international aspects of the JSF program. The innovative FSTA program would see the EADS-led AirTanker group lease an undetermined quantity of modified Airbus A330 tanker jets to the RAF from about 2010 to about 2035. Jets not immediately needed for military missions — perhaps three of a total of 17, analysts say — would be chartered for civilian use. The main licensing hurdles have revolved around the proposed inclusion of U.S.-made refueling gear and defensive systems to the A330s. That would turn them into military aircraft subject to strict U.S. controls — even when the most sensitive systems are removed for civil operations. Through years of discussions, U.S. and British officials have resolve

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