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  • The Navy is looking at an unmanned helicopter to make its newest ships more lethal — and it just passed the first test

    July 16, 2018 | International, Aerospace, Naval

    The Navy is looking at an unmanned helicopter to make its newest ships more lethal — and it just passed the first test

    Christopher Woody The Navy recently completed initial testing of the MQ-8C Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter capable of carrying three times as much payload as an earlier version. The Navy hopes to deploy the MQ-8C aboard littoral combat ships, augmenting their limited range and firepower. More testing is needed however, and the Navy is still evaluating how the arm the drone helicopter. On June 29, US Navy crews completed the first comprehensive initial operational test and evaluation of the MQ-8C Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter the Navy hopes will increase the lethality of the service's new littoral combat ships. The aircraft carried out several mission scenarios from the USS Coronado, an LCS commissioned in 2014. The Coronado's crew and members of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 performed simulated engagements in order to review the MQ-8C's target-identification, intelligence-gathering, and surface-warfare abilities. The testing showed "cohesion between the surface and aviation platforms," the Navy said in a release published on July 9. "The results, lessons learned, and recommendations reported on following this underway test period are absolutely invaluable to the future of the MQ-8C Fire Scout's mission effectiveness and suitability to perform that mission," Lt. Cmdr. Seth Ervin, leader of the Air Test and Evaluation detachment on the Coronado, said in the release. The testing also looked for ways to simultaneously operate both the Fire Scout and a MH-60S Seahawk manned helicopter onboard an LCS, finding that such operations were possible but required extensive planning and coordination. "It has been challenging and rewarding to be one of the first maintainers afforded the opportunity to take both aircraft aboard the ship. Working together, we made the overall product more functional and efficient for the fleet," Aviation Machinist's Mate Second Class Salvatore Greene, a member of the testing squadron, said in the release. The Coronado previously hosted tests of the smaller MQ-8B, which has been used in Afghanistan to detect improvised explosive devices. The larger MQ-8C, which is based on the Bell 407 manned helicopter, retains the hardware and software for the smaller model but has twice the range and can carry a payload three times bigger. The MQ-8C can also fly for 11.5 hours because the redesign for the Fire Scout program fitted the Bell 407's passenger and cargo spaces with fuel tanks, according to Jane's 360. The MQ-8B was to be equipped with a multimode maritime radar and the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, consisting of modified 70 mm Hydra rockets fitted with a guidance system. The MQ-8B was limited to three tube launchers, but Capt. Jeff Dodge, the Navy's Fire Scout program manager, told USNI News the service was looking to put seven tubes on the MQ-8C. Limited space aboard the LCS complicates decisions about arming the Fire Scout. The LCS has one magazine that would store all weapons used by aircraft and the ship's own weapon systems. Dodge said in April that the Navy was still deciding how to fit Fire Scout armaments in with the LCS's own weapons. Those complicating factors had effectively put a hold on efforts to arm the MQ-8C until 2023, Dodge said at the time. The MQ-8C can land and takeoff autonomously from any aviation-capable ship and can carry out anti-submarine, anti-surface, mine warfare, and search-and-rescue operations, according to Northrop Grumman. Northrop has also touted the MQ-8C as a range-extender, adding up to 300 miles by providing targeting data for the LCS's over-the-horizon surface missile. The company plans to upgrade the MQ-8C with a new radar and datalink that allow it to send air-to-air and surface targeting information to surface ships. The MQ-8C did its first ship-based flight in December 2014 on the USS Jason Dunham, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. It also did underway-testing aboard the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery in April 2017, when it took its first flight from an LCS. Initial operational testing and evaluation for the MQ-8C began on April 16. Pierside testing focused on maintenance and cyber capabilities will continue on the Coronado through mid-July, the Navy said. Initial operational capability is expected by the end of this year. The Navy hopes to have the MQ-8C aboard the LCS fleet by the early 2020s.

  • The Army’s next machine gun could fire caseless ammo — and one of these companies might build it

    July 16, 2018 | International, Land

    The Army’s next machine gun could fire caseless ammo — and one of these companies might build it

    By: Todd South  The replacement for the Army’s 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon could be an entirely new type of light machine gun that fires not only a different caliber round, but caseless ammunition. That’s because one of the five companies recently awarded contracts to produce a weapon prototype by this time next year has been building weapons to fire that type of ammo for the past 14 years. A notice posted Thursday included the identities of the five companies: AAI Corporation Textron Systems in Hunt Valley, Maryland. FN America Columbia, South Carolina. General Dynamics-OTS Inc. PCP Tactical, LLC. in Vero Beach, Florida. Sig Sauer Inc. in Newington, New Hampshire. The companies were awarded a contract to provide a prototype for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR. The light machine gun is the first planned major overhaul of small arms in decades. Based on the notice, it appears that FN America has been granted an award to provide two prototypes, while the other four companies will provide a single prototype. Those prototypes will help the Army decide what’s possible given their extensive requirements for the new weapon. There will then be an open competition following those submissions, where more companies can try to get in on the weapon that will utlimately replace the M249 SAW and influence the M4 replacement, as well. It is also the first weapon of its type that could mean a dramatic shift in all small arms, with follow-on changes planned for an individual carbine that will likely incorporate the machine gun changes, officials have said. Current efforts include work on a lighter machine gun that fires a government-designed 6.8mm round, which falls between the lighter 5.56mm and heavier 7.62mm used in heavy machine guns. But submissions can include other calibers, so long as they meet accuracy and lethality requirements for the new weapon, officials have said. In the Textron release, the company says the prototype will be based on their cased-telescoped weapons and ammunition portfolio. The company has designed both a carbine and light machine gun variant, which have been displayed publicly in recent years. The NGSAR will be an “intermediate caliber, high-velocity, magazine-fed system,” according to the release. It will weigh less than 12 pounds with ammunition that weighs 20 percent less than the traditional brass case ammo. The weapon will be at most 35 inches long and be able to fire 60 rounds per minute for 15 minutes without a barrel change. Accuracy matters too. A shooter must be able to hit standard targets at 50 meters while standing, with three- to five-round bursts at least 70 percent of the time. The companies also received awards for advanced weapons and fire control technologies, for the Next Generation Squad Weapons Technologies, the umbrella program for advancing small arms, and for the fire control capability. Wayne Prender, vice president of Applied Technologies & Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, told Army Times Thursday that he couldn’t discuss details of their fire control submissions configuration. But he did talk about some of the capabilites they plan to provide. “We’re offering up a solution set, day/night system optics with a laser range finder, integrated ballistic computer for computation of the target,” Prender said. Last year Textron unveiled a 6.5mm carbine using their ammunition. The NSGW program aims to use an intermediate caliber, likely in the 6mm range, such as their 6.8mm ammunition development. But Prender said he couldn’t discuss details of the caliber submission for the weapon prototype. Army leaders have said that advancements will come in stages and initial fire controls will be a part of the first fielded system, but that improved fire controls with additional upgrades will be incorporated into the system.

  • This is the city the Army has picked for its new Futures Command

    July 16, 2018 | International, Land

    This is the city the Army has picked for its new Futures Command

    By: Jen Judson and Leo Shane III  WASHINGTON — The new Army Futures Command (AFC) will be in Austin, Texas, congressional sources, who are now being notified of the choice, have confirmed. The new four-star command was stood up in October at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington. The plan is to realign the Army’s modernization priorities under a new organization that will implement cross-functional teams that correspond with the service’s top six modernization efforts: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality. The service plans to make an official announcement on the location of the command July 13 at the Pentagon. The Army has wanted the new command’s headquarters in a city or urban hub close to industry and academia and not on a base or military installation. Earlier this year it shortlisted several major cities in the U.S. as possible locations and put each through a rigorous vetting process. Congressional leaders from the locales pressed hard for a chance to host the new command. The creation of the AFC has also meant taking some elements from some of the major commands and moving them over to the new organization, Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy told Defense News in an exclusive interview just ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium in March. But he said many of those elements won’t have to move to the command’s new location. The AFC’s first commander has been reported to be Lt. Gen. John Murray, the current Army G−8,but the Army has not officially confirmed that selection.

  • Governments receive plans for industrial tie-up between Fincantieri, Naval Group

    July 16, 2018 | International, Naval

    Governments receive plans for industrial tie-up between Fincantieri, Naval Group

    By: Pierre Tran PARIS — France and Italy received in June plans for industrial cooperation from shipbuilders Fincantieri and Naval Group, the spokeswoman for the French Armed Forces Ministry said. “The governments concerned received the proposals from the companies and these proposals are being studied,” Valérie Lecasble said July 12, replying to a question from Defense News. That delivery last month met a timetable for the Italian and French shipbuilders to pitch their plans for an industrial alliance in building warships and cooperating in export sales. Submarines are excluded from that proposed cooperation. Naval Group is pursuing that link up with “great determination,” a company spokesman said. Meanwhile, a 36-page report from ADIT, a partially state-owned company working in economic intelligence, has painted a “highly negative” picture of the compliance and ethics of Fincantieri, business paper La Tribune reported July 12. That ADIT report is circulating in the French Economy and Finance Ministry and the offices of the Armed Forces Minister, the report said. There is also a report from the DGSE foreign intelligence service that cites “doubtful practices” Fincantieri’s commercial matters. That DGSE report has been handed to the French prime minister’s office, as well as the two French ministries. The business model for the proposed Franco-Italian deal is seen by Naval Group as similar to the partnership between French carmaker Renault and its Japanese ally Nissan, in which there is close cooperation but the two are separate companies. That proposed cross-border collaboration would seek synergies by pooling research, development and the procurement of equipment, and by cooperating on export offers in a bid to cut competition between the two companies.There would also be a cross shareholding of some 10 percent between the two companies. It remains to be seen how the two partners have brought into the plan the French and Italian systems companies Thales and Leonardo, respectively, which supply electronics for warships. Thales holds a 35 percent stake in Naval Group, with the majority of the remainder owned by the French state.

  • No surprise, cloud tops new Defense CIO’s priorities

    July 12, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    No surprise, cloud tops new Defense CIO’s priorities

    By: Mark Pomerleau  Dana Deasy, the Department of Defense’s new CIO, said he sees four critical areas to support the national defense strategy and digital modernization: cloud, artificial intelligence, command, control and communications, and cyber. Speaking at an event hosted by Defense Systems in Arlington July 11, Deasy said those initiatives are listed not in order of importance, but rather in order of integration. Cloud is the foundation for many future warfighting capabilities as well as the other three priorities. As a result, the much anticipated Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure proposal is “not a longs ways off, [but] we have a bit more work to do before we release,” he said. Despite not committing to a specific release date for the multibillion dollar JEDI proposal, Deasy said he wants the overall JEDI effort to be comprehensive, clear and maximize responses. The proposal, he said, should be written in a way “that truly represents what any smart intelligence company in private industry would do in seeking to put an enterprise cloud in place.” Deasy, who has been on the job about two months, acknowledged the department doesn’t have a true enterprise capability that will deliver the efficiencies on the scale it needs. Since taking over the JEDI acquisition, he said there is a top down, bottom up review of the effort. deally, an enterprise solution should allow for flexibility, management of classified and unclassified data, scalable in the form of both infrastructure as a service and platform as a service, have common governance and will eventually be a multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment. he said. In his remarks, Deasy also highlighted the recently established Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. The center, he said, will advance DoD’s ability to organize AI capability delivery and technology understanding within DoD. The center will also help to attract and cultivate much needed talent in the AI space, he added, demonstrating successful intersection of human ingenuity and advanced computing to include ethics, humanitarian considerations and both short term and long term AI safety.

  • Destroyers Maxed Out, Navy Looks To New Hulls: Power For Radars & Lasers

    July 12, 2018 | International, Naval

    Destroyers Maxed Out, Navy Looks To New Hulls: Power For Radars & Lasers

    By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR. ARLINGTON: The Navy has crammed as much electronics as it can into its new DDG-51 Flight III destroyers now beginning construction, Rear Adm. William Galinis said this morning. That drives the service towards a new Large Surface Combatant that can comfortably accommodate the same high-powered radars, as well as future weapons such as lasers, on either a modified DDG-51 hull or an entirely new design. “It’s going to be more of an evolutionary approach as we migrate from the DDG-51 Flight IIIs to the Large Surface Combatant,” said Galinis, the Navy’s Program Executive Officer for Ships. (LSC evolved from the Future Surface Combatant concept and will serve along a new frigate and unmanned surface vessels). “(We) start with a DDG-51 flight III combat system and we build off of that, probably bringing in a new HME (Hull, Mechanical, & Engineering) infrastructure, a new power architecture, to support that system as it then evolves going forward.” “Before the end of the year, we’ll start reaching out to industry to start sharing some of the thoughts we have and where we think we’re going,” Galinis told a Navy League breakfast audience. “We’ll bring industry into this at the right point, but we’re still kind of working a lot of the technology pieces and what the requirements are right now.” Evolution, Not Revolution This evolutionary approach is similar to how the current Aegis combat system entered service on the CG-47 Ticonderoga cruisers in 1983 but came into its own on the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers. (Despite the difference in names, the two classes are virtually the same size). The DDG-51 is now the single most common type in the fleet, a vital part of the hoped-for 355-ship Navy, with some ships expected to serve into the 2070s: There are now 64 Arleigh Burkes of various sub-types in service; nine of the latest Flight IIA variant are in various stages of construction; and work is beginning on the new Flight IIIs in Mississippi (Huntington Ingalls Industries) and Maine (General Dynamics-owned Bath Iron Works). The Navy is doubling down on long-standing programs to keep its older warships up to date and on par with the newest versions. But the current destroyers just won’t be able to keep up with the Flight III, which will have a slightly modified hull and higher-voltage electricity to accommodate Raytheon’s massive new Air & Missile Defense Radar. A stripped down version of the AMDR, the Enterprise Air Search Radar (EASR, also by Raytheon) is already going on amphibious ships and might just fit on older Burkes as well, however. But it’s tight. On the Flight III, even with the hull modifications, “you kind of get to the naval architectural limits of the DDG-51 hullform,” Galinis told a Navy League breakfast this morning. “That’s going to bring a lot of incredible capabilities to the fleet but there’s also a fair amount of technical risk.” The Navy is laboring mightily to reduce that risk on Flight III with simulations and land-based testing, including a full prototype of the new power plant being built in Philadelphia. But it’s clear the combat system is out of room to grow within the limits of the current hull. So how different does the next ship need to be? “How much more combat capability can we squeeze into the current hullform?” Galinis said. “Do we use the DDG-51 hullform and maybe expand that? Do we build a new hullform?” “We’re looking at all the options, Sydney,” he said when reporters clustered around him after his talk. “(It’s in) very, very early stages… to say it’ll be one system over another or one power architecture over another, it’s way too early.” “We’re still working through what that power architecture looks like,” Galinis told the breakfast. “Do we stay with a more traditional (gas-driven) system… or do we really make that transition to an integrated electric plant — and at some point, probably, bring in energy storage magazines…to support directed energy weapons and things like that?” The admiral’s referring here to anti-missile lasers, railguns, and other high-tech but electricity-hungry systems. Having field-tested a rather jury-rigged 30 kilowatt laseron the converted amphibious ship Ponce, the Navy’s next step is a more permanent, properly integrated installation next year on an amphibious ship, LPD-27 Portland. (Subsequent LPDs won’t have the laser under current plans). But Portland is part of the relatively roomy LPD-17 San Antonio class, which has plenty of space, weight capacity, power, and cooling capacity (SWAP-C) available, in large part because the Navy never installed a planned 16 Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes in the bow. By contrast, while the Navy’s studying how to fit a laser on the Arleigh Burkes, the space and electricity available are much tighter. The DDG-1000 Digression The larger DDG-1000 Zumwalt class does have integrated electric drive that’s performing well in sea trials, Galinis said. (That said, the brand-new DDG-1001, Michael Monsoor, has had glitches with the harmonic filter that manages the power and, more recently, with its turbine engine blades). “We’ve learned a lot from DDG-1000” that the Navy’s now applying both to its highest priority program, the Columbia-class nuclear missile submarine, and potentially to the future Large Surface Combatant as well. In other ways, DDG-1000 is a dead end, too large and expensive for the Navy to afford in quantity. The Navy truncated the class to just three ships and restarted Arleigh Burke production, which it had halted on the assumption the Zumwalts would be built in bulk. Today, the Zumwalt‘s very mission is in doubt. The ship was designed around a 155 mm gun with revolutionary rocket-boosted shells, but ammunition technology hasn’t reached the ranges the Navy wanted for the original mission of bombarding targets ashore. With the resurgence of the Russian fleet and the rise of China’s, the Navy now wants to turn the DDG-1000s into ship-killers, which requires even longer ranges because modern naval battle is a duel of missiles. The gun’s place in ship-to-ship combat is “probably not a significant role, at least not at the ranges we’re interested in,” Galinis told reporters. While the Navy could invest in long-range cannon ammunition, he said, it’s paused work on several potential shells it test-fired last summer, awaiting the final mission review. If the Zumwalts do move to the anti-ship mission, which Galinis said they would be well suited for with minor modifications, their guns will be less relevant than their 80 Advanced VLS missile tubes or future weapons such as railguns drawing on their prodigious electric power. That power plant might evolve into the electric heart of the future Large Surface Combatant — or it might not. “We’re going to have the requirements discussion with Navy leadership and then we’re going to want to engage industry as we start thinking about what options might be available,” Galinis said. “Frankly industry’s probably best suited to try to help us with the technology piece, especially if we start thinking (that) we want an innovative electric plant…..We’d go to probably the big power electronics/power system vendors, who really work in that field and have the best information on where technology’s going.”

  • Lockheed to double Patriot missile production as orders explode

    July 12, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Lockheed to double Patriot missile production as orders explode

    By: Jen Judson WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin is planning to double its most advanced Patriot missile’s production in the coming years to deal with exploding orders of the weapon from the U.S. Army and its allies, according to a company executive. The U.S. Army has dramatically increased its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, or PAC-3 MSE, orders to not just account for full-rate production of the missile but to increase the stockpile on hand as operations overseas continue to eat up the inventory. The MSE version has a larger, dual-pulse solid-rocket motor and larger control fins that double the missile’s reach and improve performance against evolving ballistic and cruise missiles. Meanwhile, several new customers abroad have joined the ranks of Patriot air and missile defense owners to include Poland, Romania and Sweden this year. This includes the purchase of a number of the MSE missiles as part of the initial order. For example, Lockheed would build 576 PAC-3 MSEs just for the three European countries that recently signed on to buy Patriot. Romania plans to buy 168 PAC-3 MSEs for its Patriot system as part of its order. Poland wants to buy 208 of them. Sweden intends to buy 200. The reason for such an explosion in PAC-3 MSE buys is due to the proliferating threat both in the Middle East and in Europe as the U.S. and its allies remain embroiled in conflict in the Gulf region, and as European countries work to build up robust air defenses to deter Russia. By: Aaron Mehta A comparison of the U.S. Army’s fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 budget justification documents show the service drastically increased its planned buys — in some cases more than doubling — across FY18 through FY22. The Army had planned to buy roughly 95 missiles per year from FY18 through FY22, but a year later the service increased the 2018 order from 93 to 240 to include those bought with overseas contingency operations funds. In FY19, the Army asked for 240 missiles again. And the base orders for the missile in FY21 and FY22 total 160 each year. The Army’s plans to dramatically increase its PAC-3 MSE production going forward has seen unanimous congressional approval, although the final FY19 defense appropriations bill has yet to become law. House and Senate appropriators are fully funding the production of 179 MSE missiles in FY19 in the base budget. Lockheed is no longer selling its original PAC-3 missiles, but it is still producing them for one customer, according to Bob Delgado, director of international business development for integrated air and missile defense at Lockheed Martin, who spoke to Defense News in a recent interview at the defense conference Eurosatory in Paris. This means Lockheed can make room for PAC-3 MSE production, which received the go-ahead to move into full-rate production by the U.S. Army in April. “There is a lot of interest in [PAC-3 MSE], so much so we are doubling our capacity,” which equates to up to 500 of the missiles per year, Delgado said. This will likely mean adding an extra production line, he added. Lockheed is currently meeting the demand, Delgado said, “however, it is getting more difficult as more orders come in, and that is why we are foreseeing, along with the U.S. government, a point where we need to increase our capacity.”

  • Slovakia selects F-16 over Gripen for new fighter

    July 12, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Slovakia selects F-16 over Gripen for new fighter

    By: Aaron Mehta  WASHINGTON ― Slovakia has decided to purchase 14 new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to replace its Russian made MiG-29 jets. The Slovakian Defence Ministry’s announcement Wednesday means the F-16 has beat out the Saab Gripen. In a statement on the ministry’s website, Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš said the U.S. jets were selected because they are “state-of-the-art modern machines,” and the ministry statement said the U.S. planes were cheaper according to an analysis done through 2040. However, the ministry did not put a final price tag on the F-16 purchase, but Reuters reported that the dollar figure could be €1.1 billion (U.S. $1.3 billion) for the 14 jets. “We are pleased Slovakia has selected the F-16 Block 70,” Lockheed spokesman John Losinger said. “This partnership will deliver new capabilities to the Slovak Armed Forces and strengthen Slovakia’s strategic partnership with NATO and the U.S.” In April, the U.S. State Department OK’d the potential sale of 14 Block 70/72 F-16Vs for Slovakia, indicating the process for getting those planes on contract should be fairly smooth. Slovakia’s choice of the U.S. jet over its Swedish counterpart is notable in a regional context, as two of its closest neighbors ― Hungary and the Czech Republic ― operate the Gripen. Poland, however, operates the F-16, as do a number of other NATO nations. Lockheed’s sale of the F-16 to Slovakia is the second order since the company made the decision to move its production line from Fort Worth, Texas, to Greenville, South Carolina. The Slovakian sale, coupled with the Bahrain deal cemented last month, will help Lockheed keep production of the F-16 going while its biggest potential customer, India, figures out what it wants out of a future fighter. Lockheed has proposed moving the entire F-16 line to India in exchange for a large order, but India seems to be taking its time, having released a request for information to a handful of defense aviation companies in April.

  • France proves midair refueling capability with Rafale and A400M

    July 12, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    France proves midair refueling capability with Rafale and A400M

    By: Pierre Tran PARIS ― France has completed a range of in-flight tests showing that the Rafale fighter jet could be refueled from underwing fuel pods on the A400M military transport plane, the Armed Forces Ministry said. “After a campaign of flight tests conducted by the Direction Générale de l’Armement with the support from the Air Force, the A400M has just passed a significant milestone in demonstrating its capability to refuel the Rafale from underwing fuel pods,” the ministry said July 9 on its website.. The tests allowed the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office to authorize the A400M for refueling the Rafale, while the Air Force is preparing the means to enter the new capability into service. Meanwhile, the A330M will fly in the July 14 Bastille Day parade, marking the first time the multirole tanker transport twin jet will take part in the military showcase. Last year, U.S. Air Force F-16s flew down the Champs Elysées, with U.S. President Donald Trump admiring the parade with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron. The A400M MRTT will fly in French Air Force colors, with the first official delivery due after the summer. In the flight-test campaign, the Rafales took fuel from the two underwing pods as well as from the fuselage from the hose drum unit, which is used to refuel transport and fighter aircraft, the ministry said. The next major test will be refueling of helicopters. The tests included refueling the Rafale at various altitudes and speed, as well as simulated failure of one of the fighter’s engines and flight controls, the ministry said. Tests were conducted in day and night, including using night vision goggles, with the fighter flying in different conditions. The Air Force is preparing flight procedure, technical support and training, the ministry said. “The A400M will then offer the capability of in-flight refueling in the theater,” it added. Further test campaigns are due to be held later this year, including the A400M refueling the Mirage 2000 fighter from the pods and other transport aircraft from the hose drum unit, the ministry said.

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