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UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
01 Oct 20. Boxer turret competition? Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the UK is looking at a turreted version of its Boxer MIV vehicle as a new variant and adding additional vehicles to the 508 already slated for the British Army. The contenders will be Lockheed Martin. Ampthill, using the turrets offered for WCSP, Nexter and Rafael using the Sampson 30 turret already chosen for the Australian Boxer and could be made by Leonardo in the UK. Whether CT40 will be mandated again as a GFE item or mothballed, is not clear or will the MoD look at another calibre? The Northrop Grumman Bushmaster 30 and its ammunition is qualified in the UK as type 45 has it. The turret will also require an ATGW option. This news comes as sources suggest that the MoD is soon to announce the demise of the WCSP programme and all or some of the Ajax Programme. The Rheinmetall Lynx could be a likely contender for a replacement vehicle for both projects particularly the IFV and recce role. A likely sop for LMUK would be using the Warrior chassis for the ABSV role when the exiting Warriors come out of service.
01 Oct 20. Is Precision Fires back on the UK’s agenda? CGS General Sir Nick Carter and The Head of the Army General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith both stated the requirements for log-range precision fires in their future wish list for the forthcoming Defence Review. Some weeks ago Precision Fires was slated as being delayed for two years due to budgetary issues. But with some vehicle programmes rumoured for the chop, funds for Precision Fires maybe available. Bidders include Nexter with Cesar, BAE Systems with Archer and RBSL with a Boxer KMW RCH 155 solution along with Hanwha which is offering the K9 Thunder already sold to South Korea, Australia and Norway. This development may play into the hands of Hanwa where the UK is looking for offet opportunities for the Australian BAE Hunter frigate programme.
01 Oct 20. Pentagon Favors F-35 Over F-18E in Offers to Switzerland. The Pentagon’s pricing of its two competing offers for Switzerland’s Air2030 fighter replacement competition clearly favors the Lockheed F-35A at the expense of the Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornet. As notified to Congress on Sept. 30, the price for the 40 Super Hornets offered to Switzerland is set at $7.45bn, clearly exceeding the 6bn Swiss francs at Jan. 2018 prices ($6.52bn at today’s exchange rate) that Switzerland has earmarked for the purchase of its new fighters. That budget is now set in stone, after having been approved by Swiss voters in Sunday’s referendum, and under Swiss law cannot be exceeded. Consequently, by offering the Super Hornet at nearly one billion over budget, Washington has ensured that it will be excluded from the competition, and that the F-35 remains the only financially compliant offer from the United States. Also competing for the Swiss contract are Germany, with the Airbus Eurofighter, and France, with the Dassault Aviation Rafale. In contrast, the Congressional notification for the 40 F-35As offered to Switzerland sets their price at $6.58bn, just $6m over the Swiss budget and a difference that can be wiped out by daily exchange rate fluctuations.
The difference in pricing is not the only sign that the Pentagon is influencing Switzerland’s selection towards the F-35 at the expense of the F-18E. In its Congressional notification, the Super Hornet is presented as improving “Switzerland’s capability to meet current and future threats,” and adds that “The primary missions of the aircraft and associated weapons will be policing the airspace above Switzerland and providing national defense capabilities.”
By contrast, the notification of the F-35A sale states that the “proposed sale of F-35s and associated missiles and munitions will provide the Government of Switzerland with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region,” and “will also replace Switzerland’s retiring F/A-18s and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability.”
Selective support needs
Finally, the F-35’s notification glosses over the aircraft’s need for a high degree of contractor support because of the well-documented failings of its Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS), while saying that the Super Hornet will require a six-man contractor support team for the duration of its service life.
“Implementation of [the proposed F-35] sale will require multiple trips to Switzerland involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management and training over the life of the program. U.S. contractor representatives will be required in Switzerland to conduct Contractor Engineering Technical Services (CETS) and Autonomic Logistics and Global Support (ALGS).”
“Implementation of [the proposed F-18E] sale will require the assignment of six (6) additional U.S. contractor representatives to Switzerland on an intermittent basis for a duration of the life of the case to support delivery of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft and provide supply support management, inventory control, and equipment familiarization.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com)
30 Sep 20. Switzerland approved for potential F-35, F-18, Patriot buys worth billions. The U.S. State Department has preemptively cleared Switzerland to purchase the F-35A joint strike fighter and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, just days after a public vote narrowly ok’d the Swiss government to move forward with a planned procurement of new fighter aircraft.
The two packages were posted on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s website Wednesday. DSCA posts formal notifications to Congress that State deems the sales are worth moving forward.
However, the potential packages are not a sign that Switzerland has decided the Lockheed Martin F-35 or Boeing produced F/A-18 are their fighter of the future. Rather, the announcement is a bureaucratic move by State and DSCA to make sure that, should the jets be selected, there will not be delays in getting the stealth fighter cleared. The DSCA has previously done so with F-35 requests from Belgium and Canada.
The F-35 package comes with an estimated price tag of $6.58bn, while the F/A-18 package with a price tag of $7.452bn. Both those totals, if they represent final figures — and DSCA notifications often do not — would exceed the approved $6.5bn budget for the program.
In addition, State pre-cleared Switzerland to purchase the Patriot air defense system, a contender for a complimentary ground-based capability. The five Patriot batteries come with an estimated $2.2 bn price tag.
A national referendum on Sept. 27 approved the plan to go ahead with the procurement, along with $2bn for a complementary ground-based air defense system, was narrowly approved by 50.1 percent of voters, a margin of just 8,670 votes.
Switzerland’s “Air 2030” program, which includes an estimated $6.5bn to buy 30-40 new aircraft for policing the country’s airspace, has the F-35A and Super Hornet facing off against the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale. The Saab Gripen had been in the running as well, but dropped out last summer based on the criteria from the Swiss government.
All vendors must meet a deadline of Nov. 18 to deliver final proposals. The government will then evaluate the bids throughout the first half of 2021 and make a decision on the aircraft type and missile defense hardware by June. (Source: Defense News)
26 Sep 20. Poland’s Aviation Procurement Programmes. Over the past several years, Poland set out a number of priority procurement programmes, which are expected to change the posture of the Polish Air Force, as well as the Army’s aviation fleet. In early 2019, Polish authorities signed a contract for the procurement of 32 F-35A LIGHTNING II 5th generation multirole fighter aircraft. A few months later, an agreement for the delivery of four Leonardo AW101 helicopters in ASW/SAR configuration was also reached. Currently, the Polish MoD is in the process of defining requirements for the procurement of a number of other fixed- and rotary wing platforms. The modernisation process might, however, be disturbed by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, and an expected reduction in procurement funds as a result of the economic slowdown, or due to a redefining of acquisition priorities.
In February 2019, Poland’s Minister of Defence Mariusz Błaszczak, presented a new Technical Modernisation Plan (TMP) for the country’s Armed Forces. The document, which was later revised and updated in the autumn of 2019, outlined a number of priority procurement and modernisation programmes in the field of fixed and rotary wing platforms.
The most current TMP document, which has a value of €118Bn and covers the period of 2021-2035, sets the goal for procurement of new fifth generation multirole fighter aircraft and a number of modern attack helicopters under the HARPIA and KRUK programmes.
The first project was finalised at the end of January 2020, when a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) was signed by Minister Błaszczak at a ceremony held at the premises of the 4th Training Aviation Wing in Dęblin. The document covered the acquisition of 32 F-35A LIGHTNING II multirole fighter aircraft and had a value of €4Bn. The agreement also included logistical and training packages. The second programme is still ongoing. At the moment, it is very hard to predict when it will be finalised and which platform will eventually replace the Mi-24s currently operated in the field.
The rest of the Polish Armed Forces’ helicopters, as well as combat aircraft, are composed of locally manufactured W-3 and SW-4 helicopters, as well as Soviet-era Mi-2s, Mi-8s, Mi-17s, and Mi-14s, in addition to ex-US SH-2G and Su-22 fighter/bombers and MiG-29 fighters. Most of these platforms no longer meet their operational requirements, due to a number of factors such as age, overexploitation, technical condition or obsolescence. Only the W-3s, SW-4s and Mi-17s remain in an acceptable condition, which allows them to remain in service for some time longer.
New Multirole Fighter Aircraft
Deliveries of Polish F-35A fighter aircraft should commence in 2024 and run through to 2030. Under the current estimates, each year Poland will receive a batch of four to six aircraft. In the period 2024-2025, the first six F-35s will be temporarily stationed in the US, where they will serve for the training of pilots and maintenance personnel in one of the US Air Force’s bases. These aircraft should eventually be transferred to Poland by 2025-2026, following this training period.
It is expected that as many as 24 Polish pilots and 90 maintenance personnel will undergo the training course on US soil. As a result, they will receive an instructor certificate, allowing them to conduct the training of future pilots and ground crews directly in Poland.
According to the agreement, most of the Polish F-35A fighters will be delivered in the Block 4 configuration, which will be the most modern standard at the time. However, the contract also includes a modernisation package, which will cover the upgrade of a few aircraft which will be originally delivered in a less advanced version to the desired configuration – most probably the less stable Block 3. This means that a small batch of Polish F-35s, probably those which will be temporarily stationed in the US for the training of pilots and maintenance personnel, will be from an earlier production lot, indicating that they might have originally been manufactured for another user country.
The Polish MoD envisions that the country’s F-35A fighter aircraft will reach their Initial Operational Capability (IOC) only after a number of requirements are met. These include the acceptance of the delivery of at least eight jets, training of a sufficient number of pilots and maintenance personnel, as well as delivery of necessary spares and operational equipment.
Additional F-35As Probable
Although at this point Poland declares its ambition to only procure 32 F-35 fighter jets, some MoD officials have already indicated that the fleet of Polish 5th generation aircraft could increase in the future. Wojciech Skurkiewicz, the Secretary of State at the Ministry, has suggested that Poland might decide to acquire an additional batch of 16 F-35s at the later date.
However, it is not sure if the MoD will eventually decide to increase the number of F-35 fighter jets in the future, due to a number of reasons. First of all, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic will most surely result in an economic slowdown, which in turn would impact on the country’s procurement capabilities. Secondly, the new TMP also outlines a requirement for an additional batch of F-16 multirole aircraft, as well as modernisation of the existing fleet of the fighters, which are considered less operationally capable compared to more modern aircraft, but at the same time more affordable.
Although it was not immediately explained which variant of the F-16 aircraft could be eventually procured, it has become obvious that these fighters would supplement the fleet of 48 F-16C/D Block 52+ jets, that are currently operated by the Polish Air Force.
Requirement for Light Multiroles
The plan to procure a series of light, multirole aircraft was first revealed in 2012. However, over time, a handful of other investments, such as the planned acquisition of medium multirole helicopters (which ended up with the procurement of Airbus CARACAL rotorcraft, which was eventually cancelled in 2016) or modern attack helicopters were prioritised, de facto setting the PERKOZ project aside.
This programme was not even included in the current TMP. However, in early May 2020, the Armament Inspectorate, which acts on behalf of the Polish MoD, officially launched the project for procurement for 32 light, multirole helicopters.
According to the statement made by the Armament Inspectorate, the new helicopters will be procured in three variants: direct fire support, command and observation / reconnaissance. They will have a load carrying capacity of up to 1,000 kg of cargo or five soldiers in full combat equipment. Additionally, new rotorcraft will be required to have an advanced training capability, which means that it would have to be a two-engine platform with a doubled steering system.
During combat operations, the helicopter should be capable of carrying a full team of dismounts, as well as weapon systems and supplies. It should also be equipped with opto-electronic observation and self-defence systems.
New multirole helicopters will replace the currently operated and obsolete Mi-2s and some specialised versions of the W-3s. Mi-2s entered service over 50 years ago and their further use might prove to be impractical and even hazardous. According to recent data, in 2019 the Polish Armed Forces operated 61 of these helicopters (41 in the Army, 16 in the Air Force and 4 in the Navy), but no more than 40 of them were operationally capable.
Shortly after the PERKOZ project was launched, the Inspectorate informed that it had received a dozen applications from local and international companies, which show interest in the project. These included:
- Works 11
- Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, PGZ)
- Air Force Institute of Technology (Instytut Techniczny Wojsk Lotniczych)
- PZL-Świdnik (a subsidiary of Leonardo)
- Łukasiewicz Research Network
- Institute of Aviation (Sieć Badawcza Łukasiewicz – Instytut Lotnictwa)
- PZL Mielec (a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin)
- Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) with Helicopter Division Hindustan Aeronautics
- Cobham Aviation Services UK
- Airbus Helicopters
- Bell Textron
- Elbit Systems
- The Boeing Company
A handful of participating entities will be able to offer fully equipped and operational rotorcraft, while other companies could submit particular onboard systems.
In mid-June, Bell Textron informed that it intended to offer Poland its H-1 family platforms, the A-1Z VIPER and UH-1Y VENOM, for a number of the country’s procurement programmes, including PERKOZ and KRUK. The manufacturer states that this duo is successfully operated by the US Marines Corp and has recently been selected by the Czech Armed Forces, which procured four VIPER and eight VENOM rotorcraft.
Other bidders could offer the following platforms for the PERKOZ programme:
- AW169M or AW109 (PZL-Swidnik)
- S-76 (PZL Swidnik / Lockheed Martin)
- H145M or H135 (Airbus Helicopters)
- Dhruv (Hindustan Aeronautics).
In due course, the Armaments Inspectorate will select a number of offers which will receive a Request for Information (RfI), and will be subsequently invited to participate in the Technical Dialogue procedure, which should be finalised by December.
The KONDOR Naval Helicopter Programme
In mid-2018, the Polish MoD publicly confirmed that the country has a requirement for a number of modern naval helicopters, which would replace the currently operated ex-US Kaman SH-2G SUPER SEASPRITE rotorcraft. The Polish Navy has to consider the decommissioning of the SUPER SEASPRITEs due to the fact that their OEM concluded offering technical support to the platform’s operators. Moreover, out of four Polish SH-2Gs, only one or two are flight-capable, while the rest are used for training purposes or as a source of spare parts.
Poland acquired four SH-2G SUPER SEASPRITEs in 2002-2003 for operations from two OLIVER HAZARD PERRY class frigates (ORP GEN. K. PUŁASKI and ORP GEN. T. KOŚCIUSZKO), which were transferred to Poland following their decommissioning from the US Navy. They were manufactured in 1992-1993 and now serve in anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare roles, as well as SAR and logistical support missions. They serve under the Naval Aviation Brigade of the Polish Navy.
The KONDOR programme was launched on 31 December 2019 by the Armaments Inspectorate. At that time, its goal was to acquire four to eight multirole rotorcraft with a maximum take-off weight of no more than 6,500 kg, capable of performing ASW operations and target acquisition with the use of onboard radar systems. New multirole maritime helicopters will be subordinate to the Naval Aviation Brigade of the Polish Navy.
Nine manufacturers signalled their intention to participate in the Technical Dialogue procedure. This included four local Polish companies: Enamor, Polish Armaments Group, PZL Mielec and PZL Swidnik, as well as five foreign entities:
- Airbus Helicopters
- Bell Textron
- Elbit Systems
- General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada
- Kaman Aerospace Corporation.
Through the technical dialogue process, the Armament Inspectorate will define a number of technical requirements in connection with the planned procurement, which will be related to such issues as desired weapon systems, communications, self-defence, navigation, EW and Identification Friend or Foe systems.
However, it is expected that due to the Polish Navy’s strict requirements related to the platform’s MTOW, only a handful of manufacturers will ultimately decide to make a bid in the future tender.
The fleet of approximately 30 Mi-24D/W combat helicopters, which still remain in service, is considered to be obsolete, not meeting the requirements of the modern battlefield. However, it may take as long as ten years between the selection of the Mi-243’s successor and the time the new platform actually enters service. Therefore, the modernisation of Soviet-era rotorcraft is deemed a necessity in order to maintain at least minimal combat and operating capabilities of Polish Army Aviation. (Photo: st.szer. Wojciech Król, Polish MoD)
Bell has already confirmed that it will bid a specially modified version of its UH-1Y VENOM helicopter for the KONDOR programme, while Leonardo could propose its AW159 WILDCAT rotorcraft, which has already been selected by the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and UK. In return, Airbus might consider promoting its AS565 platform already operated by the navies of, inter alia, Bulgaria, France, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, Kaman Aerospace Corporation, which in the past manufactured SUPER SEASPRITEs, as well as General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada, have the requisite experience and capability of offering modernisation packages for the Polish Navy’s SH-2G rotorcraft. Both companies might present an offer for the extension of the operational service life of the Polish SH-2Gs.
The new helicopters would be deployed on a number of Polish Navy’s operational vessels, such as the OLIVER HAZARD PERRY class frigates, or the ORP SLAZAK (241) patrol corvette, which was commissioned in late 2019, as well as a series of MIECZNIK class coastal defence vessels, which until recently the defence services planned to procure in the future.
KRUK Awaits Finalisation
The Polish MoD is still expected to launch its long-touted tender for the procurement of 32 modern attack helicopters under the KRUK programme. This project calls for the replacement of a fleet of obsolete, Soviet-era Mi-24D/W rotorcraft, which no longer meet the requirements of the modern battlefield, with a more combat effective and multipurpose platform.
The analytical phase of the KRUK project was launched in 2014. However, ever since the Armament Inspectorate failed to start the formal tender procedure, in the meantime, there are repeatedly changing priorities and technical requirements for the project.
The tender was expected to finally be launched in 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the MoD to once again postpone commencement of the competition. It left the Polish Army’s aviation with the no answer to the question about when it might receive new combat helicopters, which are needed to significantly enhance its operational and combat capabilities and also allow for the development of new tactics for enhanced cooperation with various types of units on the modern battlefield.
In recent years, Boeing (with its AH-64E) has been viewed as the favourite in the competition. The US manufacturer placed a lot of effort into promoting its platform among local experts and decision-makers. Aside from undoubted combat and operational capabilities, which the rotorcraft could add to the Polish Army’s aviation, Boeing has also highlighted that the same platform is already in service with Poland’s major allies, such as the UK and US, which would benefit Poland through commonality of combat systems and enhanced interoperability on the battlefield.
Furthermore, the company entered into agreements with a number of Polish defence manufacturers, most of which are subsidiaries of the Polish Armaments Group. Consequently, local entities could get involved in the production of specific elements of the future Polish AH-64E APACHE, as well as their future service, overhaul and maintenance, bringing revenue to the country’s economy.
However, despite the intensive promotion of its combat platform, Boeing still has to prepare itself for an extensive competition with a handful of other manufacturers, all of which bodes well for the Polish KRUK programme.
The other frontrunner for the Polish KRUK programme is Bell. The company perceives Poland as one of the most attractive export markets in the Central and Eastern Europe region. Therefore, the company has high hopes regarding Polish Army’s plans to acquire new attack rotorcraft.
Bell continues to promote its AH-1Z VIPER in Poland, convinced that the platform offers not only new combat capabilities, but in the long run could also allow the operator to benefit from significantly lowering the cost of platform’s purchase, production and sustainment.
Particularly, it hopes that Poland might also consider the acquisition of the other H-1 family platform, the UH-1Y VENOM utility, multirole helicopter. The manufacturer explains that both rotorcraft share 85% commonality of parts, which means significantly lower maintenance and sustainment costs.
Aware of Poland’s traditional and strict requirement for the procurement of any new weapon system to involve the local defence industry in its production, Bell has already entered into partnerships with a number of local industrial entities, such as the PGZ. As a result, the country could see extensive involvement if its own manufacturers in the production process and the establishment of a local service and maintenance facility in Poland, which could serve other operators of the H-1 family across the region.
The list of other major competitors in the KRUK programme include: Turkish Aerospace (T129 ATAK), Leonardo (AW249) or Airbus Helicopters (TIGER).
Competition for the KRUK programme will significantly stiffen as soon as the formal tender procedure is launched, especially given the fact that the project could prove to be even more profitable than originally seemed to be the case.
Although the original plan of the Armaments Inspectorate was for the procurement of an initial batch of 32 attack helicopters, the overall requirement for such a platform in the Polish Army’s aviation branch is believed to be around 100 units. Even if this number is never met, is seems probable that the KRUK programme might eventually bring even more revenue to the selected OEM.
The initial batch of 32 attack rotorcraft could be procured in two tranches, each consisting of 16 helicopters (the contract would simply most likely include an option for the second tranche). Assuming that the project continues according to the most current plan and time schedule, the first combat squadron of the Polish Army’s aviation branch could be equipped with new attack helicopters as soon as 2026.
Delayed Modernisation of Mi-24s
In 2019, the Armament Inspectorate launched a technical dialogue to determine a preferred scope and timeline for the planned modernisation of a fleet of Polish Mi-24 combat helicopters. The project called for the enhancement of the platform’s combat and operational capabilities, and an extension of its operational service until the new platform, procured under the KRUK programme, entered the field.
The technical dialogue was expected to lay the groundwork for specifying the best and most affordable options for the modernisation of a fleet of approximately 30 Mi-24D/W combat helicopters, which remain in the service of the Polish Army’s aviation. The main focus was placed on the acquisition of new weapon systems, such as new guided, anti-tank missiles, as well as more modern communication, self-defence, IFF, navigation and electronic warfare equipment.
A number of local and foreign defence companies have already shown interest in the technical dialogue procedure. Among them are:
- MBDA UK
- Paramount Aerospace Systems
- Megmar Logistics & Consulting
- Elbit Systems Advanced Technology Center
- Israel Aerospace Industries
- Lom Praha Trade
- Aselsan Elektronik Sanayi ve Ticaret
- Green Aviation (representing Motor Sich)
- Ibcol Polska
- Elbit Systems EW and SIGINT
- SCAT Security Consulting and Training
- BAE Systems
- SAAB Technologies Poland
For the modernisation of the Mi-24s, MBDA UK plans to offer Poland a wide range of multifunctional, guided weapon systems for air-to-surface and air-to-air applications, like the BRIMSTONE or MISTRAL ATAM. Another UK-based company, BAE Systems, has also confirmed its readiness to supply the Polish combat helicopter fleet with modern combat and auxiliary equipment, offering multiple technologies for attack helicopters, such as aircraft survivability equipment, transponders, data links, and precision munitions.
During MSPO 2019, a consortium composed of PGZ’s subsidiaries, along with the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and Israeli Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, proposed a modernisation package for the fleet of the Polish Army’s Mi-24D/W attack helicopters.
The modernisation programme includes the installation of modern communications, navigation and observation systems, as well as new weapon systems and more efficient avionics, including new head-up and multi-function displays. New self-defence mechanism, with missile warning receivers and infrared countermeasures equipment, are also part of the upgrade package. The helicopters could be armed with a family of SPIKE ER2, LR2, NLOS anti-tank missiles from Rafael, as well as locally designed PIORUN air-to-air missiles, NLPR-70 and WW-15 rocket launchers and 12,7mm machine guns.
As a result of the proposed modernisation process, Polish Mi-24s could regain the ability to detect, localise and engage the enemy’s tank and armoured vehicles, including those on the move. They could also conduct a wide range of missions, such as ISR, coordinating air combat operations and air-to-air combat, also while operating with other manned and unmanned aerial platforms.
The proposed modernisation of Poland’s Mi-24D/W attack helicopters has been labelled an ‘interim solution’, which is necessary to implement, while the Armed Forces awaits the selection to the future attack helicopter through the KRUK programme.
It could take as long as ten years between the time Poland selects its new attack helicopter, and when that platform actually enters service. In the meantime, it will be for the obsolete Mi-24s to provide fire support to ground units during combat operations. Therefore, the Soviet-era platform requires an in-depth modernisation and enhancement of its operability.
New EOS for Polish Rotorcraft
In spring 2020, Israeli Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Polish PCO announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding cooperation in the production of the TOPLITE EOS system for the Polish Armed Forces.
The agreement was originally signed on 25 February. However, it took both companies over one month to publicly announce entering into a new partnership.
The MoU refers to cooperation in the production of the TOPLITE EOS system for the long-awaited modernisation of the fleet of Polish Mi-24D/W attack helicopters.
“Recently, Rafael signed a MoU with PCO for the transfer of technology and common production of the TOPLITE EOS for the Mi-24 upgrade programme. This cooperation will enhance the industrial base of the programme and we’re sure it will benefit additional programmes in which we can offer our advanced EOS,” said Gal Papier, Director of marketing and business development at Rafael’s Precision Tactical Weapon Systems.
Under the terms of the agreement, PCO will become the sole supplier of TOPLITE EOS systems for clients within the country. This would include not only the expected upgrade of Mi-24 helicopters, but also any other modernisation or procurement programmes, which might materialise in the future, such as KRUK, which calls for the procurement of a number of modern attack helicopters.
Following the agreement, PCO could become a member of Rafael’s TOPLITE EOS global supply chain. The Israeli company makes a point about the fact that ”TOPLITE optoelectronic heads are fully integrated with SPIKE missiles manufactured by another PGZ daughter company – Mesko. The system will supplement PCO’s OE payloads portfolio by adding a solution dedicated for the air domain”, a Rafael spokesperson said.
Entering into cooperation with PCO, as much as with other Polish defence companies, could significantly improve Rafael’s chances of participating in the Mi-24s modernisation programme. Especially, since that Rafael extensively promotes the idea of arming Polish attack helicopters with a wide range of its guided, anti-tank missile systems, such as SPIKE ER2, SPIKE LR2 and SPIKE NLOS.
AW101 for Poland
In April 2019, an agreement was signed between the Polish MoD and PZL Świdnik, a Leonardo company, for the delivery of four AW101 ASW/CSAR helicopters for the Polish Navy by 2022. The new rotorcraft will be manufactured in the ASW/CSAR configuration in a deal worth €374M.
In late December 2019, the Polish Special Forces Command took delivery of four locally manufactured S-70i BLACK HAWK helicopters. However, the total requirement for such rotorcraft is much bigger. (Photo: Michał Jarocki)
“We have signed a contract, which provides PZL Swidnik with a growth potential. Lately we’ve acquired helicopters for Special Forces, and now we will also significantly enhance our capabilities to perform anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations from the air. These helicopters will also be suited for search and rescue (SAR) operations,” said Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland’s Defence Minister, who attended the ceremony. “PZL Swidnik’s role will be crucial not only as prime contractor for this new contract, but also for the modernisation of other platforms,” he added.
AW101 helicopters will supplement and eventually replace the currently operated fleet of Mi-14PŁ and Mi-14PŁ/R helicopters, which most likely will have to be phased out by 2023.
The contract for AW101 was signed only after the Polish MoD and a number of other companies, such as Leonardo MW, Thales DMS France and MES (Meccanica per L’Elettronica e Servomeccanismi), reached an agreement on the offset programme accompanying the helicopter project.
The offset agreement is worth around €90M and will lead to the establishment of a maintenance and overhaul centre for AW101 helicopters at the Military Aviation Works No.1 in Łódź, a subsidiary of the PGZ (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa). The new centre will support the fleet of Polish AW101 ASW/CSAR helicopters through their whole service life.
Uncertain Future of the ‘Drop’ Programme
On 13 July 2020, the Armament Inspectorate informed that the analytical phase of the ‘Drop’ programme had been placed on hold. The project called for procurement of a number of medium transport aircraft which were to eventually replace the Lockheed Martin C‑130E HERCULES.
The Inspectorate stated that the analytical phase had been stopped due to the ‘redefinition of operational requirements’ of the project. Therefore, the whole project will most likely require redefining and a re-evaluation of its goals, before it is once again back on track.
The ‘Drop’ programme was originally launched in May 2019. Shortly after a technical dialogue was launched and a number of international manufacturers, Leonardo, Airbus Defence & Space, Embraer, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, applied to take part..
The Polish MoD still has to make the final decision on the future of the ‘Drop’ programme, which calls for acquisition of a fleet of medium transport aircraft to replace Lockheed Martin C-130E HERCULES. The country is in discussions with the US government on the possible procurement of five secondhand Lockheed Martin C-130H HERCULES air- craft, which, if ever was to be finalised, would surely put an end to the ‘Drop’ programme. (Photo: st.szer. Wojciech Król, Polish MoD)
However, the future of the ‘Drop’ programme is overshadowed by the fact that the Polish MoD continued negotiations with the US Department of Defense regarding the possible acquisition of five secondhand Lockheed Martin C‑130H HERCULES medium transport aircraft. If negotiations with authorities in Washington turn out to be successful, the ‘Drop’ programme will most likely be formally cancelled and Poland will end up procuring the ex-US Hercules aircraft instead, which will replace those which had previously been acquired in the same manner.
S-70i BLACK HAWKs for Polish SF
On 20 December 2019, the Polish Special Forces Command took delivery of four S-70i BLACK HAWK helicopters. The ceremony took place at the 1st Airlift Base (1. Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego) in Warsaw and was attended by, among others, the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, and the Minister of National Defence, Mariusz Blaszczak.
The contract for four new S-70i BLACK HAWK helicopters in the SF configuration was signed on 25 January 2019. It had a value of €155M and covered the delivery of helicopters, as well as technical and training packages and installation of additional, specifically selected onboard equipment.
The new S-70i helicopters, which were manufactured by PZL Mielec, the local subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, are expected to significantly enhance the air mobility of the Polish Special Forces.
During his speech, President Duda admitted that the requirement of the Polish Special Forces for new transport/multirole helicopters is much larger than just these four rotorcraft, adding that he hoped that Poland will be able to fill this requirement in the near future. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
28 Sep 20. Germany walks away from Lockheed, Boeing cargo helicopter offers. The German Defence Ministry wants to start fresh on a new heavy transport helicopter after finding that offers from American firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the Chinook and the King Stallion, respectively, were too expensive, officials announced Tuesday.
The surprise decision halts an acquisition race that was scheduled to a see a contract awarded in 2021. The two companies delivered their initial proposals for the program, aimed at replacing Germany’s aging CH-53G helicopters, in January 2020. A request for a second proposal was expected by the end of this year.
The move comes as the budget implications of the coronavirus crisis are starting to materialize, despite leaders’ pledges to keep military spending high. Given that context, other programs are also expected to be on shaky ground, according to sources in Berlin.
Officials canceled the helicopter race — locally known as Schwerer Transporthubschrauber, or STH — because the government deemed offers by the defense giants as “uneconomical,” a Defence Ministry statement read. The chance of meeting all requirements while adhering to the envisioned multibillion-dollar budget would be “unlikely,” officials wrote.
The STH program was initially planned to be a poster child for a no-frills, off-the-shelf purchase that’s easy on the defense budget. But acquisition officials kept piling on requirements to such a degree that it surprised some industry executives associated with the bidders, Defense News reported earlier this year. Also included in the government’s requirements was a decades-long maintenance scheme under which contractors had to guarantee certain availability rates.
Tobias Lindner, the Green Party’s point man in the Bundestag for defense issues, called the helicopter program’s a “bitter sign” for Germany’s soldiers. He argued the Defence Ministry had been naive in its approach to the much-needed acquisition. “A new competition alone won’t solve that problem,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
01 Oct 20. DOD Supports Small Businesses in Big Ways. The Defense Department is directing billions of dollars in modernization funding to small businesses and is making it easier for these companies to work with the department, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment said.
Ellen M. Lord spoke today about supply chain integrity at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support.
In 2019, the DOD directed 24.2% or $75.4bn of its entire budget to small businesses, she said.
Furthermore, subcontract funding in 2019 was $62.3bn, meaning there was a significant flow-down from major, defense prime contractors to small businesses, Lord said, adding that this year’s spending flow is also targeting small businesses.
Small businesses that are particularly important to the department, she said, are those that manufacture parts for aircraft, shipbuilding, soldier systems, microelectronics, rare earth elements and space systems — which are all critical to national defense.
Regarding the COVID-19 response effort, the department directed more than 75% of its investments to small businesses for medical items such as drugs and biologicals, surgical instruments, equipment and supplies, hospital and surgical clothing and related special purpose items, she said.
Investments to small businesses have been vital to sustaining the domestic industrial base and have spurred job creations, she added.
In the area of reform, the department released its small business strategy in December, which reduced the barriers small businesses faced in becoming part of the defense industrial base and to educate small businesses in cybersecurity readiness, she said.
To further strengthen the industrial base, the department came out with the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Program. Lord said this program establishes cybersecurity as fundamental to DOD acquisition and secures the DOD supply chain.
The department also released its first policy on intellectual property to customize strategies for acquiring and licensing IP and technical data rights, she continued.
And finally, the DOD published its Adaptive Acquisition Framework. This is the most substantial change to acquisition policy in the last several decades, she said. It improves the acquiring of warfighting capability and allows the department to better partner with industry, particularly small businesses. (Source: US DoD)
01 Oct 20. US Navy drives unmanned surface and subsea platforms toward programmes of record. Work being done now by the US Navy (USN) is geared toward transitioning unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and unmanned undersea vessels (UUVs) into programmes of record within the next two to three years, according to Rear Admiral Casey Moton, USN program executive officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants.
Speaking on 30 September during a virtual special topics breakfast hosted by the US Navy League, Rear Adm Moton cited fruitful “two-way” conversations with members of Congress on the development of those platforms, and he lauded the US lawmakers defence committees on their “willingness to have a discussion” and “come up with a plan” that all agree on to reach programmes of record.
The USN, Rear Adm Moton noted, is still continuing with experimentation and testing with the Sea Hunter USV and Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV), focusing on autonomous transit development, automated software and safe autonomous navigation while dealing with multiple contacts at varying speeds and in different sea states.
The USN, he said, is working toward longer transit times, leading up to 30 days. The service wants to demonstrate remote health monitoring capability and vessel reliability.
“Reliability,” he said, is a key to success for an unmanned vessel.”
The USN plans to use Sea Hunter in multiple fleet exercises and for tactical training, he pointed out.
The USN surface fleet Aegis combat system is being adapted to better integrate unmanned vessels with the netted fleet, he said, adding, “Firing will remain with a man in or on the loop.” (Source: Jane’s)
30 Sep 20. New Policy Makes U.S. More Competitive Partner. A new “term of sale” opens the doors to more nations that want to approach the United States about foreign military sales, and that makes the U.S. more competitive in seeking partnerships, the director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
Just last year, DSCA created the “risk assessed payment schedule,” or RAPS, term of sale, which offers more nations better opportunities to acquire U.S. military hardware through foreign military sales, Heidi Grant said today in an online discussion during the ComDef 2020 conference, a virtual conference providing insights and perspectives on issues facing the international defense communities.
“[This is for] countries that are on the cusp of what people are familiar with, dependable undertaking,” Grant said. “This is a new financial opportunity, so we can be more competitive … and we’ve approved already three countries for this RAPS opportunity. One of them has actually acted on it. And we won a competition out there, I would say, because of this financial opportunity.”
Some nations interested in FMS may qualify as “dependable undertaking,” which means those countries have been evaluated as most likely to be able to meet financial obligations made as part of their FMS request.
Nations not able to meet qualifications for dependable undertaking, or that are only on the cusp of meeting those requirements, have, in the past, been able to engage in FMS using “cash with acceptance,” which requires they pay in full for their FMS purchase at the time the sale is approved.
For nations that are approved for the risk assessed payment schedule, it isn’t necessary to pay in full before delivery of FMS materiel. Instead, those nations would agree to alternative payment schedules, including paying a deposit that amounts to 100% of the cost of terminating their agreement.
Grant took the helm at DSCA in August and brings nearly 30 years of federal experience to the job, with about 20 years in security cooperation. She said that while the agency is still calculating the FMS “success stories” for fiscal year 2020, in FY 2019, DSCA had oversight of 14,700 FMS cases, executed $55.4bn in arms sales, and worked with over 160 countries. But she pointed out that weapons sales are not the only thing DSCA does.
“Foreign military sales often seems to be the focus when people talk about DSCA — that’s what we’re most well-known for,” she said. “But we provide much more than just defense equipment to our allies and partners. Security cooperation includes international military education and training, advising on defense doctrine, rule of law, human rights, civilian harm mitigation, and other institutional capacity-building programs.”
As the new director of DSCA, Grant said her focus will be on expanding opportunities for which the defense industry could compete; identifying barriers to progress and developing plans to remove those barriers; and fostering innovation across the security cooperation enterprise. (Source: US DoD)
30 Sep 20. USMC CH-53K King Stallion’s technical problems have been solved, maker says. In 2018 the Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion, capable of lifting more than three times the weight of its predecessor.
But with more than 100 technical issues found with the helicopter, the promising program was set back by two years.
Now nearly all the technical issues have been solved and only a few tests remain before the King Stallion can be cleared for operational testing, a Sikorsky official told Marine Corps Times.
“The majority of the issues are closed, all the tough ones are already behind us and done,” said Bill Falk, a program director from Sikorsky, the helicopter’s manufacturer.
“We have a few more that we have to do the final demonstration in the next couple of months … then we’ll have demonstrated closure on all the technical issues and could start operational testing and evaluation,” Falk added.
So far 118 of the 126 technical issues already have been solved, Megan Wasel, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, told Marine Corps Times in a Monday email.
In December, engineers were able to successfully overcome a major exhaust gas reingestion issue, which caused the aircraft’s engine to suck back in dirty air, reducing its power.
The CH-53K is scheduled to join Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One on Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, by the end of October, Wasel said.
“The program is moving toward completion of developmental test in early 2021, leading to Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) in 2021,” she added.
The first deployment for the CH-53K is expected to take place in either late 2023 or early 2024, she added.
The CH-53K boasts a maximum external lift of 36,000 pounds and has the capability of moving 27,000 pounds 110 nautical miles, a potential boon to the Corps as it plans to operate on small islands spread across the Pacific as part of its new force design.
However, as the Corps plans to reshape on a budget, the cost of the program may create a problem.
The current total program acquisition cost comes in at $148m per aircraft, Wasel told Marine Corps Times. The Marine Corps historically has argued that the best cost to consider is the recurring fly-away cost, which so far is $92m per aircraft, Wasel said. The Corps is still looking for ways to cut down the cost to what was expected in 2017.
“The CH-53K King Stallion program continues to be committed to driving the average Unit Flyaway Cost down to $87M per aircraft as planned,” Wasel said in the email.
“The cost of the aircraft continues to go down, lot after lot,” Falk said. (Source: Defense News)
25 Sep 20. Italy eyes path into US Army’s next-gen helo program, thanks to EU pandemic-relief fund. Italy is considering using funds handed over by the European Union for its Covid-damaged economy as a way to fund defense technology programs including the U.S. Future Vertical Lift helicopter initiative.
The so-called FVL program to build next-generation helicopters is currently being pursued by the United States only, but is listed as a possible target for Italian investment in a document drawn up by Italy’s industry ministry and seen by Defense News.
The cash would come from the the European Union’s 750bn euro Recovery Fund, conceived this year to help European member states relaunch their economies after the devastation caused by Covid-19 lockdowns.
Rome is due to receive the largest share, totalling just over 200bn euros in grants and loans.
Italy’s government ministries have come up with hundreds of ideas for investing the money, with a focus on job creation, green technologies, digital programs that include extending broadband internet access, and building new rail lines and hospitals.
Defense also features on the preliminary list. The defense funding, the document states, would “allow a technological leap in research, innovation and the construction of very high performance dual use platforms with a reduced environmental impact, total cyber security and digital innovation.”
Examples given are “sixth generation aircraft”, a likely reference to Italy’s commitment to the UK Tempest program, “advanced submarine technology”, unmanned technology, artificial intelligence and ships.
Guido Crosetto, the head of Italian aerospace and defense industry group AIAD, said new developments in marine propulsion could be a focus for naval funding.
The surprising item on the list is “FVL new generation helicopters.” Led by the US Army, the Future Vertical Lift program is split into different projects including a Future Attack Reconnaissance aircraft (FARA), with Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Bell chosen to build prototypes.
Bell and a Sikorsky-Boeing team have each built and flown technology demonstrator aircraft that will inform the Army’s other next-generation aircraft pursuit — the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA). Bell has spent almost three years flying its V-280 Valor tilt rotor while Sikorsky trailed behind with its SB-1 Defiant coaxial aircraft due to manufacturing issues.
The US Army said this month that eight militaries around the world had already expressed interest in FVL programs.
Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, director of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, said bilateral deals were being worked on, but did not name the countries.
Vincenzo Amendola, Italy’s minister for European Affairs, told Defense News that any suggestions about what Italy’s EU cash would be used for were a long way off being confirmed. “Italy’s plan for spending does not need to be presented to the EU until between January and April 2021,” he said.
Crosetto said he was keen to see defense programs make the final shortlist, starting with cash to get involved with FVL.
“It’s fundamental,” he said. “We are talking about a faster helicopter and we have a world leader in the helicopter business,” he said, referring to Italian defense champion Leonardo. “We cannot ignore it,” he added.
“In general, aeronautics needs state aid in normal times, and it is certainly a sector which has been impacted by Covid-19,” he said.
Lockheed Martin, which owns Sikorsky, is already holding discussions with Leonardo about teaming on development of Sikorsky’s FVL technology, a source with knowledge of the talks told Defense News.
“The discussions involve working on a medium-sized civilian version of the coaxial helicopter, with possible government versions also. Lockheed Martin is interested in a European partner to handle European sales and share risk costs,” said the source, who declined to be named.
He added, however, that a stumbling block for Leonardo was its need to continue spending money developing its own civilian tilt rotor, the AW609. “It is not clear if Leonardo will have the cash or the engineering capacity to work on the FVL project and the AW609,” he said.
A second program which is soaking up helicopter development cash at Leonardo is the AW249, a replacement for the AW129 Mangusta attack helicopter. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
REST OF THE WORLD
29 Sep 20. India unveils new defence acquisition procedure. India unveiled on 28 September its new policy for military procurement and defence offsets. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in New Delhi said that the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 will support its drive to spur indigenous capability development and achieve self-reliance: targets that have been afforded higher priority in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
The MoD said the new policy, which replaces the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) that was introduced in the early 2000s, is applicable from 1 October and has been shaped by input from a cross-section of stakeholders including government, industry and think-tanks. Drafts of the policy were issued by the MoD earlier this year.
Key aspects of the DAP 2020 include enhanced requirements for local content in defence production projects as well as greater emphasis on local preference in procurement decisions as well as new provisions for trial procedures, leasing, and the procurement of information and communications technologies (ICT).
The new defence offset guidelines put less emphasis on technology transfers and more on facilitating industrial collaboration between foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their local partners. The MoD said the 2020 offset guidelines have also removed related obligations in procurements that are framed by government-to-government agreements such as those through the US Foreign Military Sale (FMS) mechanism. (Source: Jane’s)
25 Sep 20. Egypt boosts naval power in deal with German shipbuilder. Egypt is getting ready to start building its first locally manufactured frigate with the help of Germany. Egypt’s Alexandria Shipyard Company officially announced the start of the implementation of a contract for the local manufacturing of the first Egyptian Meko A-200EN class frigate next year. On Sept. 17, the company stated on its official website that the frigate has a displacement capacity of 3,400 tons, with a length of 118 meters (387 feet), a beam of 14.8 meters (48.5 feet), a draught of 4.3 meters (14 feet) and a maximum speed up to 32 knots.
The company said that it will built the frigate in cooperation with the German naval shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), as per the contract signed between the two sides, which also stipulates that the Egyptian naval force would acquire four Meko A-200EN frigates.
In April 2019, the German parliament approved the sale of four frigates of the same type to Egypt, including one that was to be built locally.
In November 2018, Germany and Egypt had signed a 2.3bn euro (about $2.7bn) deal to initially provide the Egyptian navy with six Meko A-200EN frigates, which was later amended to four frigates.
Gamil Afifi, an expert on military affairs and managing editor at the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, said that the local manufacturing of a frigate is a quantum leap for the Egyptian navy.
He noted that this frigate is part of a contract concluded between Egypt and the German TKMS, with the support of the German federal government, for the procurement of four frigates of Meko-A200 class.
In 2019, Egypt ranked as the largest importer of German arms among the Arab countries, with imports worth 802m euros (about $934m).
“The Meko-A200 frigate is a German multi-tasking frigate of medium displacement and heavy armament. It can accommodate 50 members of the navy forces. It can be in the water before it needs to be replenished for 28 days. The warship is capable of deterring attacks by enemy vessels. Egypt is now facing an irregular terrorist war, in which ships are being used to transport terrorists from one country to another, and are being secured by the intelligence of major countries at sea,” Afifi told Al-Monitor.
Over the past five years, the Egyptian navy has been comprehensively developing its weapons systems by acquiring arms since 2015, the latest of which was the S-43 attack submarine acquired from Germany in May.
“The Middle East region is on the verge of explosion. There are threats from all strategic directions. Egypt has a large maritime zone in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. It also plays a major role in securing the Mediterranean given the war going on in the western part of Libya. There are no naval forces or border guards in Libya able to control the situation,” Afifi explained.
According to the Global Firepower Index for the global military strength ranking, Egypt ranked among the 10 most powerful armies for the year 2020, going up from last year’s 12th position to the 9th. At the regional level, it went from the second to the first place.
Thus, the Egyptian army has surpassed large armies in the world, including the Turkish army, which fell from the 9th to the 11th place at the global level, and ranked first in the Middle East, according to Global Firepower.
The Egyptian army also topped the Iranian army, which came in 14th and the Israeli army, which ranked 18 in the 2020 index.
Global Firepower bases its assessment of more than 50 armies around the world on manpower, air power, land forces, naval forces, natural resources, logistics, financials and geography.
According to the detailed assessment, the Egyptian army’s strength lies mainly in the large number of its land forces, with 920,000 soldiers, 440,000 of whom are on active duty.
The Egyptian army also had high scores in other classifications such as the strength of tanks, the number of armored vehicles, the number of self-artillery weapons and missile bases.
At the naval level, the Egyptian army received a high score for the power of its naval mines, which came second in the world. Egypt ranked third at the global level for the power of its aircraft carriers.
Rear Adm. Ahmed Mohamed al-Sadiq, former head of the Port Said Port Authority, told Al-Monitor that the Egyptian armed forces’ current policy is to diversify its sources of weapons, as part of efforts to counter any security chaos, whether inside Egypt or outside its borders.
“The first challenge lies in the ongoing unrest in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Egyptian army is trying to keep things under control. The situation in Sinai is an important factor to determine the size and the type of weapons [the government] needs,” Sadiq said.
“At the regional level, Libya is seen as Egypt’s backyard. The unrest and security chaos in next-door Libya are sources of military and security concern for Egypt. As long as there are no peaceful solutions in the offing, Egypt will continue to fear that violence might spill over into its western borders,” he added.
Sadiq further explained that Egypt has been developing its armament to confront any threats of this kind, and to defend its economic interests in the Mediterranean, including the Zohr gas field among others.
He added that Egypt also faces another threat, which is the illegal immigration that poses a danger to the northern Mediterranean countries, as well as drugs smuggling.
In May, Egypt announced a plan to boost the local manufacturing of weapons to strengthen the capacities of its army and with the ultimate aim to export them to Africa.
On Feb. 17, Egypt inaugurated the Abu Zaabal Company for Specialized Industries, also known as “Military Factory 300,” which represents a huge breakthrough in military capabilities, with state-of-the-art technologies and production lines that fully rely on electronic control for design modification. The factory also produces individual weapons and high-quality ammunition. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.al-monitor.com/)
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