The announcement from Rolls-Royce North America last week that it had been selected to provide the powerplant for the B-52 Stratofortress under the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP), further extending a long history of powering the United States Air Force, was one of the big highlights of what has been an excellent month for orders and other announcements across the defence sector. Just as the Rolls-Royce North America built A2100 power plant of which 1,800 have so far been delivered, powers the Lockheed Martin C130J family and other aircraft internationally, so it is that the Rolls-Royce order will mean that the US built Rolls-Royce F-130 engines will power the B-52 bomber for the next 30 years.
Considered to have been an excellent show all round by visitors and exhibitors, DSE, which was held at London’s EXCEL centre in September, was an event during which many, but not all, important defence related announcements seen in September were made.
As a truly international company, BAE Systems has over the past month made a number of very important order announcements including an $872 million indefinite delivery/indefinite contract to provide life-cycle sustainment and technical support to the Limited Interim Missile Warning System (LIMWS) program for the US Army – a 10-year contract that has a ceiling value of $872 million.
Separately, I note that Reuters quotes BAE Systems director of Future Combat Air Systems, Michael Christie saying that he expected contracts on the concept and assessment phase to be signed by the end of 2021 an that talks with Japan potentially joining the programme as either a partner or collaborating on technology continued.
Earlier this month, following approval of a three-year Definition and Design phase, BAE Systems was awarded an £85m development contract by the MOD for a submarine that will ultimately replace the UK’s Astute class. The company will work alongside the Submarine Delivery Agency, Rolls-Royce, Babcock International and other specialist defence partners. The company was also awarded a $26 million contract to support identification Friend of Foe (IFF) situational awareness and early warning for the US Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. The aircraft capability is regarded as essential for battle management command and control BSE Systems interrogator systems enables operators to identify friendly forces and make informed decisions in a variety of threat environments.
During September BAE Systems also announced that it has taken a step into the satellite sector in the UK with the acquisition of low earth orbit spacecraft builder In-Space Mission, a company based in Alton, Hampshire. This small but important acquisition is hugely important for BAE Systems in respect of future space related strategy and as the UK government has itself now launched its formal commercial and defence space strategy intentions.
It is of course far too early to project the ultimate longer-term benefits of the announcement in September by the US, Australian and UK governments of the AUKUS defence partnership for UK companies other than to suggest that is could well be enormous. BAE Systems has a strong presence in all three markets and the UK has an enormous skill base in nuclear powered submarine build and operation.
Amongst other interesting announcements in September was that BAE Systems had been awarded a DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) contract to design and test revolutionary flow control technologies for future military aircraft.
Separately, here in the UK, BAE Systems was awarded a hugely important contract worth more than £220 million to deliver advanced synthetic training for pilots to fly Typhoon military jets, including facilities at RAF Lossiemouth. Under the Typhoon Future Synthetic Training (TFST) contracts, BAE Systems will lead work to deliver 10 high-fidelity, immersive simulators, as well as state-of-the-art training facilities at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby, in Lincolnshire. The new training centres will be linked together to provide an integrated environment for pilots to ensure they are ready for life in a fast-jet cockpit and to carry out complex combined training exercises using real world mission software and tactics.
Another important announcement last month was that the Italian aerospace and defence company Leonardo had joined with BAE Systems in order to develop the new European Common Radar System Mark 2 (ECRS Mk2) radar for the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. This development followed the announcement last year that BAE Systems and Leonardo had been awarded £317m to develop the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the Typhoon military jets. In regard of Typhoon upgrade and long term evolution designed to keep Typhoon at the forefront of military air capability for decades to come , BAE Systems has also displayed a new large area display (LAD) cockpit that would replace the existing three-multifunction display (MFD) cockpit configuration systems with a single unit and that would aid with the sensor fusion required for the new datalinks, as well as linking with the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar systems being integrated onto Typhoon aircraft capability.
In another important move, Lockheed Martin UK announced at DSEI that the company had developed a new software architecture in order to provide a framework from which new land systems equipment simulation systems can be built and delivered.
In regard of another huge programme on which UK based companies have from the outset engaged in a 15% overall programme workshare, Lockheed Martin announced that it had delivered the 700th production F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to U.S. and international operators, the impact and success of the global F-35 fleet is profound and far reaching. Lockheed Martin F-35s Joint Strike Fighter aircraft are today operating from 21 bases around the globe. With order commitments from 14 nations across the globe, already more than 1,460 pilots and 11,025 maintainers having been trained and the F-35 fleet as a whole having surpassed 430,000 cumulative flight hours, the record is very impressive.
DSEI also saw the MOD announce awards of three contracts in respect of deploy directed energy weapons – including two high-power lasers and one radio-frequency system – for the British Army and Royal Navy. Worth a total of £72.5 million, the four-year contracts will be completed by consortia led by global defense giants Thales and Raytheon.
Another important deal announced at DSEI, in this case on HMS Argyll was that Babcock International had signed an important export contract for its Arrowhead AH140 design, which is also the basis of the current in-build Type 32 frigate for the Royal Navy, through a design licence agreement with PT PAL Indonesia.
Babcock International has been working alongside the UK Government to promote the Arrowhead 140 Frigate into the global market for some time and has seen strong interest internationally. The company had recently announced that it was one of the bidders down-selected by the Polish Government to provide a potential design solution for the Polish Navy’s Miecznik (Swordfish) frigate programme.
The baseline Arrowhead 140 design can be configured to meet a broad range of naval requirements and, with Babcock’s support, PAL will now engineer the required modifications to configure the Arrowhead 140 for the Indonesian customer.
As part of a much heralded £6.6 billion MOD research and development plan, speaking at DSEI the Minister of Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin MP, said “We’re going to be pioneering the sort of beyond-next-generation technology which can alter the face of conflict. So, to mark the opening of this festival of science, innovation and industry, I am delighted to today announce that we have awarded three contracts to UK firms to produce and trial advanced laser weapons. These directed energy weapons, which operate without ammunition, could make a vital contribution to future national security and that in the meantime, the contracts are also sustaining more than 250 skilled jobs”.
The above is not intended to be a full list of orders received by companies either based in the UK or international defence companies with large specialist manufacturing operations here in the UK. It is merely intended to be a flavour and to highlight the importance of maintaining UK sovereign based manufacturing capability.
CHW (London – 1st October 2021)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785