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22 Jan 19. Latvia halts $206m armored vehicle contract amid controversy. Latvia’s public procurement watchdog IUB has stopped the defense ministry from signing a contract worth about €181m ($206m) to buy four-wheel-drive armored vehicles from Finland’s Sisu Auto after two bidders, AM General from the United States and SouthAfrica’s Paramount Group, filed complaints on the tender. Auditors have given the the ministry three months to overhaul the procedure of evaluating all vendors’ offers.
The development follows another round of controversy surrounding the procurement, as state-run broadcaster LSM reported that an adviser to Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis had lobbied for Paramount Group. The aide denied the allegations, saying he was not a member of the tender committee and he had not lobbied for the company since the procedure was launched. Bergmanis said he trusted the source-selection committee and had “no doubt about the persons that implemented the tender”.
The defence ministry ranked Sisu Auto’s offer as first, followed by the bids submitted by AM General, Turkey’s Otokar, and Paramount Group, respectively. Sisu Auto offered its GTP 4×4 vehicle, AM General said it would supply the High Mobility Multi-PurposeWheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), Otokar offered the Cobra, while Paramount Group had offered its Marauder. (Source: Defense News)
21 Jan 19. Italy prepares to launch submarine rescue vessel programme. The Italian Ministry of Defence’s Naval Armament Directorate is gearing up to launch its acquisition programme for a new multirole submarine rescue vessel by mid-2019. The Special and Diving Operations – Submarine Rescue Ship (SDO-SuRS), for which EUR424m (USD481.7m) has been earmarked from 2018, is intended to replace the ageing salvage ship, Anteo. Jane’s understands that the vessel will have a modular design in order to carry out its three main tasks of submarine rescue in addition to supporting special forces and diving operations carried out by the Italian Navy’s Comando Subacquei ed Incursori (COMSUBIN) special forces and divers command. Basic specifications include a full-load displacement of about 8,500 tonnes, an overall length of 120m, and a 20m beam. The ship will be powered by an integrated full-electric propulsion system (IFEP) – using two azimuthal propulsion pods and two bow-mounted thrusters – able to achieve a maximum speed of 15kt. The ship will be capable of embarking US Navy and NATO submarine rescue systems, a 12-man integrated saturation diving system, a suite of survey and rescue underwater vehicles (including an AUV capable of operating to depths of 3,000m and two remotely controlled underwater vehicles), an atmospheric diving system capable of operating to a depth of 300m, a McCann rescue chamber, and a hyperbaric simulator. A dedicated underwater operations medical facility is to be fitted in addition to extensive special forces and command and control (C2) facilities and provisions for expeditionary operations.
The ship will feature aviation facilities for a medium-sized helicopter such as the Leonardo Helicopters AW101 and a stern area equipped for underwater and special forces operations. Accommodation will be provided for 200 personnel in about 60 cabins. The new platform will be equipped with a comprehensive C4I suite with internal large-band wireless communications. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
21 Jan 19. Latvian regulators put brakes on 4×4 contract. The Latvian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been ordered to halt the EUR200m (USD228m) procurement of the Finnish-built Sisu Auto GTP for its long-running 4×4 tactical vehicle requirement following formal protests by two contractors in December 2018. Latvia’s Procurement Monitoring Bureau, which oversees government procurement for the Ministry of Finance, issued a detailed 31-page report on 16 January that effectively prohibited the MoD from concluding an agreement with Sisu Auto, citing “irregularities” in the tender process. According to the bureau’s decision, the MoD’s procurement committee now has three months “to eliminate the irregularities” identified in its reassessment of the negotiated procedure. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
23 Jan 19. USMC issues Next Generation Armoured Recce Vehicle Requirement launched in February. A brief was given at the IAV Conference at Twickenham, UK, outlining the upcoming Requirement for the USMC Next Generation Armoured Recce Vehicle to replace the current LAV vehicle. Two demonstration platforms will be required and an Office of Naval Research Trade Study is underway which will start in March 2019 and take 8-9 months. Various calibres of weapons are being looked at from 30mm upwards. The USMC is looking to replace the existing 650 vehicle fleet with 500 vehicles.
REST OF THE WORLD
23 Jan 19. Change of plans: Seoul decides to start from scratch with helo competition. It looked like Italy’s aerospace group Leonardo was going to be an easy winner for South Korea’s second batch of anti-submarine helicopters. The procurement program would seek 12 more AW-159 “Wildcat” helicopters, with no other competitors for the $840m program. But the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, or DAPA, threw a curveball, deciding to accept a U.S. proposal for alternate option and to begin the competitive bidding process from the scratch.
The plan for the maritime operational helicopter, or MOH, was originally to sign a direct commercial deal with a foreign helicopter maker, with three bidders — Leonardo, Lockheed Martin and NH Industries — showing interest. The two latter contenders failed to submit their proposals by the Oct. 31 deadline, leaving Leonardo seemingly as the only remaining bidder. According to sources from DAPA, however, the U.S. government in November sent a letter of price and availability of Lockheed Martin’s MH-60R Seahawk, causing South Korea’s arms procurement officials o rethink the acquisition approach.
“We’ve decided to consider the U.S. FMS option,” DAPA spokesman Park Jung-eun told Defense News. “We’re going to weigh in on both options of commercial and FMS contracts.”
As dictated by acquisition regulation, two successive failed biddings mean that the agency can make a private contract with a sole bidder, but that’s not mandatory. The agency is expected to issue a renewed request for proposals as early as March, according to DAPA officials. Leonardo would be a direct buy, while the Sikorsky bid would be a foreign military sale.
Leonardo said in a statement that it would still pursue the South Korean naval helicopter program “in a fair and transparent manner.” A Leonardo spokesman said the AW-159 is optimized for the Korean theater of operations, pointing to an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for detecting North Korea’s coastal weapon system and a missile firing range that is more than three times longer than Seahawk.
“We do not really know about the details of the U.S. Navy’s latest proposal,” a Lockheed Martin communications official said, declining to elaborate. “After an RFP is issued, we could be able to discuss with the service.”
Pundits here expressed different reactions to the renewed MOH bidding process. Shin In-kyun, head of Korea Defense Network, a Seoul-based private defense think tank, said it’s a better opportunity to acquire state-of-the-art naval helicopters with better performances.
“The Seahawk is estimated to be more expensive by 20 to 30 percent than the Wildcat, but the former has performances about two times better than the latter,” said Shin. “The unit price of the MH-60R could be lowered through the FMS, as the U.S. and Indian Navies are also said to be procuring more than 40 MH-60Rs.”
Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense & Security Forum, said an FMS deal may not guarantee economic benefit for South Korea.
“You give up offset programs should an FMS deal be made,” he said. “I’m not really sure how much the unit cost of the MH-60R could be lowered. If lowered, we may have to lose some optional functions of the helicopter.”
Moreover, a possible MH-60R selection will bring more work to change the designs of warships, he added.
“The Navy’s existing warships, including the KDX-III Aegis destroyer, are not able to accommodate the MH-60R, so it’s inevitable to change the design should the American helicopter be chosen.”
The South Korean Navy currently operates eight AW-159s acquired under a 2012 deal. The helicopters fly missions aboard KDX-series destroyers and Incheon-class guided-missile frigates. The service plans to commission at least 12 more new frigates fitted with a flight deck and a hangar that can accommodate one Lynx helicopter. (Source: Defense News)
24 Jan 19. The growing case for an Australian aircraft carrier. Japan’s recent announcement that it would refit its Izumo Class vessels to act as F-35B carriers has seen ASPI kick off renewed debate about the viability of a similar platform for the Royal Australian Navy. Aircraft carriers emerged from the Second World War as the pinnacle of maritime prestige and power projection. However, unlike their predecessors, the battleship, aircraft carriers are in themselves relatively benign actors, relying heavily a their attached carrier air-wings and supporting escort fleets of cruisers, destroyers and submarines to screen them from hostile action. In recent years, Indo-Pacific Asia has seen a growing number of traditional aircraft carriers and large deck, amphibious warfare ships being used to secure sea-lines-of-communication and maritime borders, while acting as potent power projection platforms through the use of amphibious operations and potent marine units.
Both the US and China continue to invest heavily in the potent power projection capabilities provided by aircraft carriers and large-deck amphibious warfare ships.
The growing Chinese carrier fleet in particular has prompted Japan, which has been prevented from operating aircraft carriers since the end of World War Two, to embark on a modernisation of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF) fleet of large-deck amphibious warfare ships, the Izumo Class vessels.
Equally important is the capability of the aircraft deployed on such vessels. The F-35B, as with the larger ‘A’ and ‘C’ variants of the Joint Strike Fighter, represents a step-change in the power projection, air defence, close air support, sensor fusion and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of carrier air-wings.
The short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) ‘B’ variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter incorporates all of the key fifth-generation force multiplier capabilities of the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) ‘A’ variant currently in operation with the Royal Australian Air Force, with the added operational and strategic flexibility as a result of the specialised design, enabling deployment on board large-deck amphibious warfare ships.
Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has reopened the debate around the return of fixed-wing naval aviation and strike capabilities for the RAN in response to the rising regional carrier capabilities.
“Starting this conversation is part of a broader discussion ahead of the 2020-21 white paper. We have recognised that a) we can’t have same white paper as 2016 and b) we need to start seriously responding to the changing strategic reality, which will require a wholesale review of the force structure and force posture and a renewed focus on long-range strike and power projection, both of which a carrier or similar vessel can fill perfectly,” Davis told Defence Connect.
The Japanese decision
The Japanese government has closely monitored the rise of the Chinese Navy and its growing force of aircraft carriers and territorial ambitions particularly in the South China Sea (SCS) and the Southern Ryukyu and Senkaku Islands. In response, the recent announcement that Japan would begin the refit of the Izumo Class vessels to reintroduce an integrated fixed-wing naval aviation capability to the JMSDF.
“The dozen or so aircraft likely to be embarked won’t be enough to constitute a traditional carrier air wing, but they will better support the defence of Japan’s vulnerable archipelagic regions in the Southern Ryukyu and maybe the Senkaku Islands,” Davis commented.
Izumo and her sister ship Kaga are capable of supporting airwings of 28 aircraft, with capacity for about 10 ‘B’ variant of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, with both 27,000-tonne vessels capable of supporting 400 marines. While in the early stages of design phase for the refit of the vessels, incorporating the F-35B into the two vessels enhances the maritime strike and broader deterrence options for Japan.
However, the Japanese decision is not without challenges, China’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers, and the increasingly potent area-access/area denial (A2AD) capabilities provided by anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) systems like the DF-21 and DF-26 increase the risk to aircraft carriers and large-deck amphibious warfare ships.
“The Japanese capability will be limited, according to their post-war constitution which views aircraft carriers largely as offensive weapons platforms, so the Izumo and Kaga will be limited to extending the Japanese ability to project force and defend Japan’s interests closer to China,” Davis added.
The introduction of these A2AD systems requires that the new ‘carriers’ be supported by an enhanced layer of air and missile defence capable cruisers, destroyers and frigates, adding further cost and operational complexity challenges.
Additionally, concerns about the capability of the ‘B’ variant of the F-35, particularly concerning combat range, payload and maneuverability raises additional variables that can be overcome through the integration of key force multiplying platforms, namely tanker aircraft, either fixed wing or rotary and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft and need to be accounted for as part of the broader integration equation Japan is currently embarking upon.
“The introduction of these capabilities is incredibly costly, not only with the refit of ships themselves, you then have to include the cost of the aircraft, the crews, maintenance, sustainment and support and escort vessels,” Davis said.
Despite these challenges and protestations from Beijing, the Japanese government remains resolute in pursuing the capability, with Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya saying, “The Izumo Class destroyers will continue to serve as multi-function, multi-purpose destroyers. This mode of operation falls within the realm of an exclusively defence-oriented policy.”
Modify the LHDs or a buy a new one?
The notion of Australia acquiring a third, F-35B dedicated Canberra Class LHD has been discussed at great length by both strategic policy analysts and politicians since the RAN acquired the vessels. Currently, the HMA Ships Canberra and Adelaide lack a number of structural and technical modifications that would enable the ships to safely and effectively operate the aircraft and any third vessel would need to incorporate the modifications from the keel up, in a similar manner to the Turkish Navy’s TCG Anadolu (based on the Canberra/Juan Carlos Class vessels).
Davis identifies that Australia’s acquisition of the ‘A’ variant also raises the possibility of purchasing up to 28 F-35Bs as part of Phase 2C of the broader AIR 6000 project.
“For Australia, this would be an expensive process. It will require a new ship, it will require the aircraft and conceivable modifications to the Air Force’s KC-30As or the integration of a dedicated refuelling platform on board. It will also require an expansion of the escort and support vessels, this could mean five Hobart Class and 12 Hunter Class vessels, increased maintenance and sustainment, and it will mean growing the Navy to comfortably crew a larger surface fleet, all of which is costly,” Davis explained.
However, the same challenges presented by the Japanese plan influences any potential for an Australian fixed-wing naval aviation capability, particularly the increased purchase of key escort vessels, namely the Hobart and Hunter Class and the Attack Class.
This is reinforced by Richard Brabin-Smith and Benjamin Schreer in a report for ASPI, where they focused on both the broader force structure challenges, combined with the operational limitations a small fleet of Australian F-35Bs operating from the Canberra class will provide.
“Despite their capacity to accommodate a number of STOVL aircraft, the LHDs are multi-purpose amphibious assault ships – not dedicated aircraft carriers. Because of their finite capacity, they can’t carry a full complement of helicopters, and amphibious troops with their vehicles and equipment, and simultaneously deploy a useful number of STOVL aircraft and additional support aircraft. Even in a ‘STOVL-only’ configuration, the LHD would face challenges in generating enough F-35B sorties continuously to protect itself and ships in company against a capable adversary,” the report argues.
Despite this, Davis recognised the potent force projection and force multiplying capability the F-35B would afford Australia’s naval commanders and the broader ‘joint force’ as it continues to develop and integrate key platforms like the E-7A Wedgetail, Hobart and Hunter Class vessels and broader Army long-range fire systems.
“The F-35s will however increase the target acquisition, networking, information sharing and survivability of the new major surface combatants. It will also add to the broader ‘joint force’ and brings additional value to Australia’s participation in coalition operations in the Indo-Pacific region and will serve to address the long-range strike capability that Australia lost since the retirement of the F-111,” he said.
However, it is important to recognise the limitations of the LHDs in the carrier capacity and role, and identify alternatives that would better suit the introduction of a dedicated aircraft carrier role.
In particular, close monitoring of the Japanese conversion of the Izumo and Kaga and, looking further abroad, the Italian integration of the F-35B into the specialised aircraft carrier Cavour, which has been designed to operate a larger number of F-35Bs than the Japanese vessels.
The introduction of a dedicated aircraft carrier benefits Australian industry as well, through increased procurement programs for support and escort vessels, larger F-35 supply chain contributions and larger sustainment and maintenance contracts, which are key to keeping the Navy ‘battle ready and deployed’.
Both fixed-wing naval aviation and amphibious capabilities are one of the key force multipliers reshaping the region. The growing prevalence of fixed-wing naval aviation forces in particular serves to alter the strategic calculus and balance of power. (Source: Defence Connect)
22 Jan 19. Made-In-India Fighters: Rafale Fire Rains On MiG’s Retirement Parade. The Indian Air Force’s wait for new fighter jets to replace an ageing MiG fleet is set to get longer. The selection process to identify combat aircraft to be made in India is unlikely to commence before the general elections this year, high-level sources indicate. Steps to induct a Future Multi-Role Fighter (FMRF) has been awaited since 2016, when the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets was signed and a decision was taken to manufacture 110 fighters under a new strategic partnership policy intended to promote the private sector. Several officials ET spoke to confirmed that responses have been received from seven companies after a preliminary request. The inputs were being studied to firm up the technical requirement the Air Force would mandate for the formal selection process to begin, the officials said. The slack is on account of the shadow cast by the Rafale controversy that has impacted decision making. Multiple rounds of meetings have taken place with foreign vendors who have responded to the preliminary request, and the Air Force has been studying how much of indigenous production it can mandate for the contract. The plan is to ensure that fighters made in India under the scheme have no less than 45% local content. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Economic Times)
22 Jan 19. India, Ukraine to resume stalled An-32 upgrade programme for IAF. India and Ukraine have agreed to resume the upgrade programme for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) fleet of Antonov An-32 ‘Cline’ turboprop transport aircraft as Kiev has developed alternatives to replace the Russian-made systems in the platforms. Official sources told Jane’s on 21 January that the retrofit of 65 An-32s will commence imminently, will take 3–4 years to complete, and will be carried out at the IAF’s base repair depot (BRD) in Kanpur – some 495km southeast of New Delhi – using equipment transferred from Ukraine. India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a USD400m contract with Ukraine in 2009 to upgrade the IAF’s 105-strong fleet of An-32s by overhauling the aircraft’s Ivchenko AI-20 turboprop engines and airframes and fitting the platforms with advanced avionics, navigation, and communication equipment. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Jan 19. Kazakhstan to assemble Mil Mi-8AMT and Mi-171 helicopters under licence. Moscow and Astana have agreed to launch the assembly of Mil Mi-8AMT and Mi-171 ‘Hip-H’ helicopters in Kazakhstan following the signing of a related memorandum of understanding (MOU) in 2017. A contract was signed on 18 January between Russian Helicopters, Kazakhstan Engineering, and Kazakh firm Aircraft Repair Plant No 405 (ARP 405) that will see 45 kit versions of the helicopters delivered to Kazakhstan until 2025 for local assembly, a representative of Russian state holding company Rostec told Jane’s. The contract will see Russian Helicopters certify the assembly line in Kazakhstan, assist the country in providing through-life support (TLS) for the assembled platforms, and deliver training for personnel. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
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