03 Aug 16. Full speed ahead? Russia seeks to maintain momentum in shipbuilding programme. Today’s very active Russian navy needs a future equipment programme that can deliver the right ships and submarines, at the right cost, at the right time. Alex Pape considers the sustainability of the navy’s equipment plan in meeting this requirement
There is something going on in Russia, something that has been underway for six years or so.
In 2010, the story of the Russian Federation Navy was one of a lack of investment. New construction remained at a level not high enough to replace the ageing, Soviet-vintage fleet. Fast forward to 2016, however, and the Black Sea Fleet has received its first new submarine and frigate in more than 20 years. On the operational side, the US Navy (USN) is reporting the highest levels of submarine activity since the Cold War.
In short, this surge in capability was precipitated by a change of policy and a massive injection of funding. IHS Jane’s Markets Forecast projections suggest that on the shipbuilding front, work has jumped from around USD2bn per year in 2010 to around USD6bn in 2016. This level of uplift may not be sustainable unless the underlying economy improves; nonetheless, funding looks set to remain substantially above the post-Cold War level.
This funding is supporting the delivery of a number of key programmes.
Below the surface
The lead boat in the new Project 955/955A Dolgoruky (Borey) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) class was commissioned in 2012 (having been laid down in 1996). Boats two and three were delivered in 2013 and 2014 respectively. These boats were laid down in 2004 and 2006, but funding and design issues slowed their progress. However, following a new agreement with builder Sevmash signed in 2012, activity has been increasing with one new boat started per year between 2012-16. Completion of the planned class of eight boats should occur by the early 2020s. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
03 Aug 16. Philippines looks to acquire additional attack helicopters. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has confirmed a plan to procure additional attack helicopters as part of the service’s long-term modernisation programme. A PAF spokesman quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency said on 3 August that the assets were required to “close [the PAF’s] capability gap” in line with the service’s Flight Plan 2028, which intends to strengthen the PAF and boost the Philippines’ territorial integrity. The spokesman did not confirm what types of attack helicopters the PAF is looking to acquire, but other government officials in Manila have indicated that the tender documents could be issued by the Department of National Defense soon. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
03 Aug 16. Next GPS III Launch Contest Begins. The Air Force today will open up a competition to launch the next GPS III satellite, hoping that both SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) will bid on the contract.
Deborah Lee James, Air Force secretary, told Defense News that it is her hope that ULA will indeed place a bid this time around, after the company declined to take part in the last GPS III launch contract bidding.
“We do not ultimately have the power to force anybody to compete, but we put it out in a competitive manner,” the secretary said. “It is certainly my hope that ULA will compete. It’s a business decision on the part of ULA so I cannot guarantee it. It is my hope and expectation that they will.”
Last October, the Air Force asked for bids to launch GPS III in what was billed as the first true competition for military space launch since the Elon Musk-backed SpaceX was certified by the Air Force in 2015.
Driving competition into the military space-launch sector has been key to the Air Force’s strategy to bring costs down for getting vital assets into orbit, and there was excitement around the fact that the contract would signal the arrival of true competition in that area.
However, ULA declined to offer