UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
14 Apr 21. IAI, Thales team up to offer Sea Serpent anti-ship missile for UK I-SSGW requirement. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has teamed up with UK-based Thales to offer the Sea Serpent guided anti-ship/anti-surface weapon system as a potential low-risk military off-the-shelf solution for UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) ship-launched Interim Surface-to-Surface Guided Weapon (I-SSGW) requirement.
I-SSGW is intended to equip several UK Royal Navy (RN) Type 23 frigates to bridge the capability gap following the retirement of the service’s current GWS 60 Harpoon Block 1C system from the end of 2023.
In March 2019 the UK MoD’s Weapons, Torpedoes, Tomahawk, and Harpoon (TTH) Project Team released a Prior Information Notice (PIN) detailing its intention to acquire a ship-launched over-the-horizon precision anti-ship capability; a subsequent provision specified an additional terrain-following precision maritime land attack capability. The notice stated that the I-SSGW capability would be fitted to five Type 23 (towed array) frigates that are capable of concurrent anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) operations for a 10-year period as part of the UK’s Maritime Task Group. Other potential I-SSGW bidders could include Kongsberg/Raytheon, Saab, and MBDA.
Sea Serpent is understood to be based on the latest variant Gabriel V weapon system, which is planned for integration on the Israel Navy’s three existing Saar 5 corvettes and four new Saar 6 Class corvettes. Announcing the teaming agreement with Thales, IAI said in a 13 April statement, “Sea Serpent has been developed in parallel with similar systems in service with the Israel Navy and was selected to provide powerful strike capabilities for Finland’s SSM2020 programme.” (Source: Jane’s)
08 Apr 21. UK’s new medium helicopter to fly into 2040s. Whichever helicopter the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) selects for its new medium helicopter requirement will likely be in service until the mid-2040s, Army Technology understands. Whichever helicopter the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) selects for its new medium helicopter requirement will likely be in service until the mid-2040s, Army Technology understands.
The requirement for a new medium helicopter was first revealed in the UK’s Defence Command Paper and will replace four in-service helicopters including the Puma and Bell 212 with a single platform. The Puma is currently slated to be retired in 2025.
The other two platforms to be replaced have yet to be confirmed, however, speculation is that they will be the Bell 412 and the Dauphin used by the Special Air Service (SAS).
Officially the MOD has yet to release details of the programme, and evaluation of the number of helicopters needed and how long they will be in service is still in progress.
Army Technology understands that the British Army would like to acquire around 45 helicopters, however, this figure will be affected by the affordability of the chosen platform.
It is also understood that 36 platforms is seen as the minimum number of helicopters needed to meet operational requirements.
The potential 2040 out of service date could also be affected by the future potential entry into service of aircraft developed under the US Future Vertical Lift programme if the UK decided to purchase one of the resultant platforms in future.
In July 2020, the US and UK signed a ‘modernisation agreement’ covering both countries’ armies. The plan aimed to cover ‘complementing capabilities’ and included ‘closer affiliation in the development of helicopter capability’ under the US Future Vertical lift programme.
Future Vertical Lift currently covers two different US Army programmes including the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), to replace the capability gap left by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa, and the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) which will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Announcing the plans, the Defence Command Paper reads: “Investment in a new medium-lift helicopter in the mid-2020s will enable a consolidation of the Army’s disparate fleet of medium-lift helicopters from four platform types to one; including the replacement of Puma.”
Under current plans, the chosen helicopter will be operated jointly by the British Army and Royal Air Force (RAF) through the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command.
In a recent news release, the British Army wrote: “Work on this programme is at an early stage with effort primarily focused on developing and refining key user requirements. Details in relation to the procurement strategy, basing locations, fleet size, delivery schedule and organisational structure are all being assessed.”
So far, Leonardo is said to be interested in pitching its AW149 helicopter for the requirement, with a promise to build the helicopters in Yeovil, and Lockheed Martin is reportedly interested in offering its UH-60 Black Hawk.
Leonardo has said it would be able to deliver ‘military off-the-shelf’ AW149 aircraft within 24 months of a potential contract award and could deliver platforms ahead of the Puma’s 2025 retirement.
Promoting its helicopter, Leonardo Helicopters UK managing director Nick Whitney said: “Leonardo stands ready to support the UK Government with its intention to procure a New Medium Helicopter and develop future technologies, including uncrewed systems.
“As we continue to invest in these future battlespace capabilities, it is fantastic to see the vitality of the next generation of engineering innovators and inventors as they begin their careers on our award-winning apprenticeship and graduate schemes. (Source: army-technology.com)
15 Apr 21. With new CH-47 variant back in flight tests, Boeing hopes for production contract. The U.S. Army has yet to schedule a limited-user test for the latest variant of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, instead ordering its return to flight testing to gather more data. But despite issues cropping up in previous testing, Boeing is confident it will win a first production contract in fiscal 2021, two company executives told Defense News.
Boeing believes the program is still on track to deliver CH-47F Block II Chinook cargo helicopters to the first Army unit in 2025. The company is already delivering the first of the special operations version of the helicopter — the MH-47G — with two in hand and another to be delivered in a few weeks, Andy Builta, company vice president and H-47 program manager, said in an April 14 interview. There are 24 on order.
The F-model Block II variant has already flown a total of 450 flight test hours to date, he said. Last month, Boeing proved the new variant’s rotor blades can handle an additional 2,500 pounds of lift, and the firm will continue to run ground tests on the new blades this fiscal year.
F-model Block IIs in the engineering and manufacturing development phase returned to testing last week, with one more aircraft left to instrument next week, Builta said.
Testing was paused for a few months, which, according to Builta, was due to needing the aircraft to support G-model flight test requirements.
The Army originally planned to conduct a limited-user test this quarter and had directed Boeing in February to prepare aircraft to support that test. The service has since decided to return to flight testing, Builta said, “so that we can continue to capture data necessary to complete the flight test program.”
Issues were identified during testing in 2020, including excessive vibration from the new Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades.
While a report from the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester noted that the vibrations present in ground, hover and forward flight could pose “safety of flight risk,” Builta said the company is working on implementing changes to address the issue.
“We’re working closely with the Army on a mitigation system or an adjustment to existing mitigation systems to account for that different vibration frequency,” Builta said. “It is in no way a safety of flight risk, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed going forward.”
Fixes could include adjustment to dampeners to identify the different vibration frequencies that need to be dampened out, Builta said, or adding additional dampeners.
“This is a low-risk, well-known activity that we’ve done across multiple platforms,” he noted.
“At this time, we really see no technical or programmatic challenges standing in the way of rewarding the Lot 1 production contract this fiscal year,” Heather McBryan, Boeing’s director of global sales and marketing, said in the same interview. “We’ve been working closely with the Army to lay out a plan to meet all of our milestones and show a low-risk path to a first unit equipped in 2025, which was, you know, as planned originally.”
Boeing also encountered problems with the fuel cell failing to self-seal in ballistic tests, but is now testing a redesigned version at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
Technical issues aside, the F-model Block II Chinook program wouldn’t have continued into production if the Army had had its way. The service decided to only buy G-model versions of the newest variant — featuring new rotor blades, a fuel system, an electrical system and a stronger airframe that brings the Chinook up to a maximum gross weight of 54,000 pounds — in order to free up funding for its future vertical lift endeavors. But Congress pushed back in the FY21 budget and funded the purchase of five Block II CH-47F helos, which is considered the first production lot of aircraft.
McBryan pointed to the Army’s 2017 analysis of alternatives for the program that found it would save over $3bn in the long term compared to recapitalizing the entire CH-47F fleet, which would be necessary without a Block II program.
“Savings could really be used as the Army moves forward with their future vertical lift priorities and modernization,” she noted. (Source: Defense News)
15 Apr 21. Martin UAV wins US Navy’s Mi2 Technology Demonstration competition. Martin UAV and its V-Bat 128 vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) tail-sitting fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) beat L3Harris and its FVR-90 VTOL hybrid quadcopter in the US Navy’s (USN’s) Mi2 Technology Demonstration unmanned aircraft effort.
USN spokesperson Brittany Dickerson said on 15 April that the service intends to award a non-federal acquisition regulation (FAR)-based prototyping contract to Martin UAV in July and that contract negotiations are ongoing. This award is based on the results of a Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD)-sponsored Phase 2 live demonstration event that ended in December 2020 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, the US Navy’s Innovation and Modernization Patuxent River (IMPAX) division announced on 12 April.
Dickerson said that Martin UAV will initially provide three complete systems, including the air vehicle and control system, as part of this OT prototype project. Ongoing negotiations, she said, will determine the final number of aircraft for delivery supporting command prototyping efforts.
NAWCAD AIRWorks estimated in a 24 July 2020 question and answer document that a potential OT prototyping effort following the technology demonstration would include delivery of six air vehicles, four ground-control stations (GCS), and peripherals and spares within five months of the prototyping OT award. The USN is procuring an innovative variant of the V-Bat for further prototype development that meets the service’s requirements. (Source: Jane’s)
13 Apr 21. DARPA chooses three firms to design nuclear-powered space vehicle. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has picked three companies to design a nuclear thermal propulsion system that will operate above low Earth orbit in 2025, the U.S. agency announced April 12.
General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin received contract awards and will be the prime contractors for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, program.
DARPA believes nuclear-powered propulsion could enable rapid maneuver in space — a capability that is difficult to achieve with current electric and chemical propulsion systems. The agency claims DRACO’s nuclear thermal propulsion, or NTP, system could potentially deliver the high thrust-to-weight ratios of a chemical propulsion system with the high propellent efficiency of an electric system. That would give U.S. military systems the agility the Pentagon wants for cislunar operations.
“The performer teams have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems,” Maj. Nathan Greiner, the Air Force program manager for DRACO, said in a statement. “The NTP technology we seek to develop and demonstrate under the DRACO program aims to be foundational to future operations in space.”
DARPA did not reveal the value of the three awards.
The Phase 1 contracts cover an 18-month period. General Atomics will create a preliminary design of the NTP reactor and propulsion subsystem, while Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will each independently design an operational system spacecraft concept and demonstration system spacecraft concept. The demonstration system will be derived from the operational system concept, but it will be specifically for demonstrating the NTP propulsion subsystem.
“This first phase of the DRACO program is a risk reduction effort that will enable us to sprint toward an on-orbit demonstration in later phases,” Greiner said.
DARPA will use the Phase 1 work to inform its follow-on efforts for more detailed design work, building the systems and conducting an on-orbit demonstration. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/C4ISR & Networks)
13 Apr 21. US Army finalizes requirements for future attack reconnaissance aircraft. The U.S. Army’s Requirements Oversight Council has approved the requirements for its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, a service spokesman confirmed to Defense News.
The council met April 9 and greenlighted the requirements in the form of an Abbreviated Capabilities Development Document (A-CDD) that validates the designs developed by two companies competing to build the aircraft.
The Army validated a Final Design and Risk Review (FD&RR) for the competing FARA designs in December. It determined that industry is ready for a fly-off at the end of 2022, Rugen told Defense News in an interview earlier this year.
The FARA program will fill a critical capability gap currently covered by AH-64E Apache attack helicopters teamed with Shadow drones following the retirement of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The service has tried and failed three times to fill the gap with an aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Bell are in a head-to-head competition to build prototypes and fly them beginning in November 2022. The Army will pick one it wants to build for the force following the competitive fly-off period.
Sikorsky pitched a coaxial rotor blade design based on its S-97 Raider that it is calling Raider X. Bell unveiled its design — the 360 Invictus — at the 2019 Association of the U.S. Army annual conference.
The industry teams have already been bending metal to build prototypes for months (if not several years) to prepare the aircraft for flight by the end of next year.
“What we saw back on the final designs from industry were impressive to the government team. Industry really did more. I think that gets into talent management, to use an Army term, because they had a cheat rep with [Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration],” said Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen, who is in charge of the Army’s future vertical lift modernization efforts. “The industry teams have really been better than we thought they would be on this design work.”
Bell and Lockheed each have experience in such a process with the Army’s other future vertical lift project to procure a future long-range assault aircraft, or FLRAA. A Sikorsky and Boeing team as well as a Bell team built and flew technology demonstrators ahead of the program of record to inform requirements for the future aircraft. Those aircraft have flown over several years, and are undergoing testing and evaluation as part of a competitive risk-reduction activity.
It is expected those two teams will compete against each other for FLRAA with offerings closely based on Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration systems.
Brig. Gen. Rob Barrie, the program executive officer for Army aviation, told Defense News earlier this year that the FLRAA request for proposals is expected in the third quarter of fiscal 2021. The draft RFP was issued at the end of 2020. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
13 Apr 21. US Air Force seeks EO/IR sensor options for MQ-9. US Air Force Material Command’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) directorate is gathering industry input for a slate of “alternative and improved” options for electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors, designed for the air service’s MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial system (UAS) and other medium altitude UAS platforms.
“As a critical component of the current MQ-9 weapon system, the EO/IR sensor’s capabilities are integral to the combined ISR and Strike mission,” according to a 9 April request for information (RFI). “As such, the [US] Air Force is interested in EO/IR sensor capabilities that are currently available with minimal integration cost to the current platform, as well as researching alternative ways to support future lower-end, lower-cost ISR missions which may include initiatives to modernise, augment, [or] replace existing systems,” the RFI stated.
The command’s ISR division and its Special Operations Forces (SOF) directorate are leading the effort, with plans to reach initial operating capability (IOC) for the new tranche of EO/IR sensors for the MQ-9 by early 2022. The anticipated IOC for potential sensor solutions for medium-altitude UAS aside from the MQ-9 is planned for mid-2030, the RFI stated.
Air service leaders issued a RFI last June, calling for industry options for a new medium-altitude UAS for ISR and strike missions. In that RFI, service officials suggested potential offerors use the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Skyborg programme as a baseline for formulating their proposals. Skyborg is AI initiative focused on co-ordinating unmanned aerial systems and manned fighter jets. (Source: Jane’s)
12 Apr 21. As the US Navy scrambles to field more missiles in Asia, a tough decision looms for aging cruisers. In the 12 years since the Pentagon canceled the next-generation cruiser, the question seemed to have no good answer: How is the Navy going to replace its 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, the air defense ships that each pack 122 vertical-launching missile cells?
The ideas varied from cheap arsenal ships designed to pack scores of missile cells capable of remote firing, to a larger version of the Arleigh Burke able to support more than its current 96 more missile tubes, to today’s push for an unmanned surface vessel that can act as an adjunct missile magazine accompanying the fleet and that can be rotated out as it expends its payloads.
But each of those solutions has encountered problems, and all the while the cruisers keep getting older, more worn and closer to the day when maintenance costs outweigh the vessels’ benefits.
As it gears up for its 2022 budget battle, the Navy has signaled it is time to move on and phase out the cruisers to make room for the next-generation Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, even if it means shrinking the fleet in the near term. The Flight III doesn’t solve the Navy’s missile problem, but it does have enough space onboard (it’s about 400 tons heavier than its Flight IIA counterparts) to house the air warfare command role that currently belongs to the cruisers.
Experts and observers who spoke to Defense News think it’s time for the Navy to cut its losses on cruisers but said the loss of the vertical launching system, or VLS, tubes is a significant concern, especially given the missile and anti-air threat in Indo-Pacific region.
The Navy had planned to keep 11 cruisers in the fleet for as long as possible to pair with the 11 aircraft carriers, but now the service is looking at phasing in the Flight III DDG as an alternative. A one-for-one swap of 11 destroyer for 11 cruisers is a net loss of more than 300 VLS cells.
But for the Navy, it is a matter of where its money is best spent. After years of battling Congress over the fate of its largest surface combatant, the Navy looks poised to fight for accelerating their decommissioning. The settlement with Congress created the current cruiser modernization program, but the Navy is again looking to change course.
In an emailed statement to Defense News, the Navy’s top requirements officer said there would be a new plan for the cruisers submitted with the fiscal 2022 budget, and that the escalating costs associated with keeping them is driving the conversation.
“Due to increased program cost, schedule delays, substantial growth work and challenges with shipyard execution, the Navy considered truncating the [cruiser modernization] program as part of a pre-decisional version of the 30-year shipbuilding plan drafted under the previous administration,” said Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, the deputy chief of naval operations for war-fighting requirements and capabilities. “These plans are under review by the current administration as part of broader discussions regarding the FY22 budget.”
The Navy’s plan going forward is to start phasing in the Flight III DDG as the primary air and missile defense command ships, along with the next-generation destroyer currently in development, Kilby said. The first Flight III, the Jack Lucas, is scheduled to begin entering the fleet in 2023, Kilby said.
Flight III was built around the Raytheon-developed AN/SPY-6 radar system, which is about 30 times more sensitive than the SPY-1 arrays on the Navy’s current cruisers and destroyers, but it requires much more power. That led to a significant redesign of the Flight IIA DDG.
Changing the deal
The Navy is currently executing what’s known as the 2-4-6 plan, a compromise hashed out between Congress and the Navy to keep at least 11 cruisers in the fleet to run shotgun on the air defense of the 11 carriers in the fleet through the 2030s.
The 2-4-6 plan calls for two ships at a time to be sidelined for no longer than four years, and that no more than six ships will be in this inactive status at one time. Today, the Navy has five ships in modernization, four of which have completed significant portions of the upgrades. Two of them are going through a difficult reactivation process to bring the ships back to the fleet in 2022, Kilby said.
The idea behind the 2-4-6 plan was to keep the class as the air and missile defense command ships of the fleet until the last cruiser, the Cape St. George, retired in 2038 after 40 years in active service.
In its 2021 budget submission, the Navy floated the idea of canceling six of the planned cruiser modernizations and starting to accelerate decommissioning the hulls.
The plan, as it was proposed to Congress, was to decommission the cruisers Bunker Hill, Mobile Bay, Antietam, Leyte Gulf, San Jacinto and Lake Champlain in 2021 and 2022, foregoing plans for service-life extensions that previously received support in Congress.
All the ships will be at or near the end of their 35-year service lives when they are decommissioned. But the same congressional objections still exist today that a few years ago birthed the Navy’s 2-4-6 plan. In March, House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Elaine Luria, D-Va., said she is opposed to decommissioning older ships as the Navy tries to grow.
But with the new administration pushing for the divestiture of older systems to invest in new ones, the Navy is gearing up for a renewed debate on cruisers in 2022, the service’s top officer told a roundtable of reporters April 5.
“Does it make more sense to hang on with the cruises that are that are well past their 30-years service life, continue to pour millions of dollars into upkeeping those vessels, [while] the White House has directed that we divest of legacy and invest in new platforms?” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday asked. “For the Navy, we know that’s a distributed maritime operations concept that is driving a smaller, more distributed fleet [with fewer] large vessels, and more lethal, smaller vessel. That means frigates. So we should have that debate over whether we should put that next dollar into a 33-year-old cruiser, or whether we should invest in the Flight III DDG.
“We ought to have that debate because, in the end, hopefully what’s driving it are some of those attributes that I talked about before: lethality, survivability, operational reach, total ownership costs, maintenance requirements, technical risks, industrial-base capacity.”
The Navy is facing a VLS tube problem, however. Decommissioning the cruisers, along with other high-capacity VLS ships such as the Ohio-class guided missile submarines, means the Navy has fewer missile tubes coming into the fleet than it has leaving, a troubling trend in the light of China’s investments in anti-surface missiles.
A Defense News analysis from January found that if the Navy is on a course to decommission around 70 ships with nearly 5,500 VLS cells, replacing them with 65 ships and submarines that have anywhere from 1,800 to more than 2,000 fewer VLS cells by the early 2030s.
The VLS tube debate, while important, shouldn’t drive the whole discussion, Gilday said. “We can’t just be counting VLS tubes and satisfying ourselves that that’s the sole metric we’re going to look at.”
The Navy would likely be better served buying new ships instead of throwing more money at cruisers, said Bryan Clark, a retired submariner and senior fellow with the Hudson Institute.
The reason is simple: Modernizing older ships is difficult because you never know what you are going to find when you start working on the ship. That means labor costs will almost certainly grow, making the job and the associated costs more difficult and less defined than would be the case with a newly purchased ship.
“With these service-life extensions, it’s open ended: You get inside of [it and] you don’t know what the work is going to be, and the materials may not be that expensive, but the labor is really expensive,” Clark said. “And then the dry dock time is really expensive.
“So it’s an open-ended process and the costs of being open-ended. It ends up that taking these older platforms and trying to extend their lives is oftentimes a more expensive, less valuable or less cost-effective option than simply buying a new thing to replace it.
“It’s not unreasonable to say: ‘Well, why don’t I spend $1.7bn to get a ship that will last 40 years instead of upwards of $500m to get a ship for 10?’”
But that is going to run into Congress’ effort to drive up the number of ships in the fleet, he added.
“I think the discussion is going to be: Are we willing to accept a slight reduction in the size of the fleet for a time because we’re going to let these ships leave until DDG numbers pick up? There’s an optics question there.” (Source: Defense News)
REST OF THE WORLD
13 Apr 21. Ukraine Turns To West For Fighters; Plans To Drop MiG Fleet. Ukraine, faced with Russian troops on two fronts, has gone public with plans to buy combat aircraft that are not Russian-made. The vulnerable NATO partner plans to become independent of Vladimir Putin’s military in a crucial domain.
Unlike Poland, which has been operating a “mixed” fleet of US and Russian-made aircraft, Ukraine is evaluating wholesale replacement of all its Soviet-era MiG-29s and Su-27s. This would make Ukraine a more effective NATO partner, but defense analysts caution there are critical short-term issues which should be a top priority for Washington’s policy-makers.
Buying US aircraft would enhance Ukraine’s interoperability with NATO, critically important for a nation that has the longest border with Russia. But, say retired western military personnel currently advising Ukraine’s armed forces, DC policymakers will have to commit to an unprecedented level of support for this beleaguered former vassal state of Moscow.
“The first step is that the US transferring a large tranche of hardware to Ukraine ASAP,” one former UK officer here said. “Then, there is even more potentially politically unpalatable decision of placing a contingent of US military personnel here in Ukraine to conduct a years-long training program in how to utilize this new hardware – the proverbial ‘boots on the ground.’ Could this provoke Moscow? Yes. But with this country being surrounded by legions of troops and heavy equipment and the Kremlin acting like it is prepping for an invasion, how much worse could the reaction from the Russians be?”
Arming Ukraine with the latest variants of US fighter aircraft will take a long time. A recent op-ed by a long-time US analyst of the Russian military, Stephen Blank, proposes sending Ukraine F-15C/D, E-2C-2000 Hawkeye AWACS, and KC-135R airborne tankers immediately. There are Excess Defense Articles (EDA) aircraft now in storage in the US. The older F-15s could be upgraded (as they are being done for Japan) and later supplemented with new-build F-15EX models.
Ukraine lacks the required financial resources not only to procure these aircraft. It also needs support equipment, smart munitions, cruise missiles such as JASSM. Weaponry would have to be supplied right off a production line or from existing stocks in order to be delivered in an effective time frame. Such a package of materiel provided to Ukraine gratis also might be a hard sell.
A parallel dilemma is the US effort to prevent sale of the Ukraine’s Motor Sich aircraft engine business in Zaparozhiye to a Chinese firm, Beijing Skyrizon. US intelligence estimates that if China’s defense sector acquires this strategically important technology it would significantly aid their efforts to build more capable fighter aircraft. China still depends on engines imported from Russia. To date the PRC has failed to design reliable power plants on its own.
US industry officials tell Breaking Defense that Washington officialdom has pushed them to buy the Motor Sich and take it off the market. But, said one executive, “the same bureaucrats are unaware of the labyrinth of export control regulations that US industry must comply with — regulations that prevent an American firm from acquiring and working with a Ukrainian company.”
The French Connection
A solution for Ukraine to this knotty policy problem may lie in France’s aerospace sector The French are moving faster than Washington and are reportedly ready to propose a tranche of Dassault Rafale fighters to Ukraine. French media have say this sale will be at a priority agenda item when President Macron makes a state visit to Kiev later this year. “The French president believes in the Rafale’s chances of winning in this former bastion of Russian industry,” reported the French news site Aerotime Hub. “Paris has an advantage: its commercial system capable of supporting such a contract is already in place.” The Rafale would be “85 per cent guaranteed by France, and the French Ministry of the Economy and Finance reportedly already earmarked a budget of €1.5bn for this purpose.”
Despite the Ukrainian Air Force’s preference for the US F-15EX, a purchase of the Rafale could carry the day – and solve a vexing problem for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. There are rumors that Ukraine would be rewarded for buying the Rafale with An acquisition of the Rafale is rumored to be coupled with a pledge that the French aerospace and defense group SAFRAN would acquire Motor Sich. This would keep the business running and its personnel employed, averting a major unemployment headache for the Ukrainian President – and would also please Washington by keeping the company out of Chinese hands.
Ukraine’s need for new weaponry has been brought into stark relief by recent Russian troop movements in Ukraine’s Donbas region and in Crimea, both invaded and illegally occupied by Moscow more than seven years ago. The Kremlin bills them as exercises, but there are reports of these Russian units now training with groups of pro-Russian separatist forces.
“As Putin prepares for 19 September parliamentary elections, threatening the invasion of Ukraine takes on added importance,” a former NATO headquarters official told me. “This is attacking NATO’s weakest link – nations (like Ukraine) where there are still many officials with links to Russia.”
A US failure to make a firm stand in the face of these Russian moves does more than just potentially undermine the credibility of the alliance, a Polish defense analyst says: “It would also disrupt Washington’s efforts to sell American-made hardware to these nations. If Ukraine and others can operate and support US aircraft it becomes markedly easier for a US-NATO force to deploy into these forward areas. Having that infrastructure here in Poland and elsewhere in the region has a deterrent effect all its own.”
This is not lost on Moscow. Another nation that has signed to procure US aircraft, Bulgaria, has just broken up a Russian spy ring charged with collecting technical data for Russian intelligence and has booted some of Moscow’s diplomats –a total of five expulsions since October 2019.
According to sources in Bulgaria, the data included information on the F-16V Block 70, the latest-generation model of the F-16 fighter, and its AN/APG-83 AESA radar previously selected for procurement by the Bulgarian Air Force.
“If Ukraine can be destabilzed by military action before it re-arms, or Bulgaria’s trustworthiness brought into question, Putin can cause immeasurable problems for the Biden administration,” the former NATO official said. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
12 Apr 21. Cyber the focus of Defence ICERA grants for SMEs. The Department of Defence has awarded the first $3.6m batch of ICERA grants to 12 Australian SMEs, with a strong focus on cyber security.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price launched the Industry Competitive Evaluation Research Agreement (ICERA) initiative in August last year. The ICERA grants will provide $36m over six years, funded through Defence’s Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF). Six of the 22 successful ICERA grants focused on creating innovative cyber security capabilities.
The other research projects cover Enhanced Human Performance, Integrated ISR, Quantum Technologies and Advanced Sensors.
“I am particularly pleased to announce that two of these initial ICERA partnerships are with businesses new to Defence,” Minister Price said. “The ICERA program aims to support small-to-medium businesses that are critical to enhancing our tactical and strategic edge as Australia’s strategic context continues to evolve.”
Twelve ICERA partners will receive up to $300,000 each:
- Breakaway Consulting Pty Ltd, NSW
- InfoSect, ACT
- Insight Via Artificial Intelligence, SA
- Jaywick Group Pty Ltd, NSW
- Mentum Systems, ACT
- Spinlock Security, NSW
- Critus, NSW
ENHANCED HUMAN PERFORMANCE
- Quantitative, NSW
- Biosensis, SA
INTEGRATED INTELLIGENCE, SURVEILLANCE & RECONNAISSANCE
- Fivecast Pty Ltd, SA
- Safran Electronics & Defence Australasia Pty Ltd (SEDA), NSW
- Cryoclock, SA
The remaining ICERA outcomes will be announced as arrangements are finalised.
For more information regarding the NGTF visit https://www.dst.defence.gov.au/NextGenTechFund.
12 Apr 21. DSI Hazardous Agent Challenge now open. The Defence Science Institute (DSI) is calling for proposals from industry and academia in support of a $1m initiative to advance the development of prototypes for enhanced resilience against chemical and biological threats. Successful proposals could win grants of between $50,000 and $500,000 for collaborative projects lasting 6-18 months.
Working with DST Group’s Operating in CBRN Environments STaR Shot, the DSI Hazardous Agent Challenge (DSI-HAC) is designed to help develop prototype solutions for the ADF, enabling it to respond faster and more flexibly and be more resilient to CBRN threats and achieve enhanced situational awareness of contaminated environments for prolonged periods of time.
Funded by DST Group through the NGTF, this initiative leverages existing NGTF priority themes in advanced sensors and enhanced human performance to support the development of prototype demonstrators in two principal areas:
- Sensing (Wearable Sensors and Deployed Surveillance)
- Warfighter Resilience
The DSI-HAC is intended to help with the formation of multidisciplinary teams and is open to industry and academia from across Australia.
Deadline for submissions is 12 May, 2021.
For further information go to the DSI web site.
12 Apr 21. Moon to Mars Trailblazer Program – public consultation opens.
The Australian Space Agency has opened the Public Consultation phase of its flagship Trailblazer Program. Submissions close on 2 May.
The Agency aims to grow a globally respected national space industry that lifts the broader economy and improves the lives of Australians by creating 20,000 new jobs and tripling the sector’s turnover to $12bn by 2030. The Trailblazer program is the flagship element of the Moon to Mars initiative, a $150m investment over five years to drive the growth of Australia’s space sector.
The Trailblazer program supports NASA’s space exploration program and especially Project Artemis, its plan to return to the Moon and then go on to Mars. It will contribute flagship Australian space capability within an international space exploration program. The program will also leverage Australia’s competitive strengths in space and showcase Australian capabilities to the world.
Its Public Consultation program is designed to inform the Trailblazer program; the Agency is seeking feedback on:
- the proposed objectives and outcomes of the program
- Australia’s exploration vision and potential missions
- the proposed implementation of the program.
The space sector’s comments and feedback during the consultation phase are welcomed.
The Consultation paper can be downloaded here:
Moon to Mars initiative – Trailblazer program: Consultation paper [PDF 1.1MB] [DOCX 35MB].
To support the consultation process, the Agency will be hosting an information session on 22 April to discuss and answer questions on the Trailblazer program.
Register for the information session
While the Agency will note common themes of discussion during the information session, submissions to the consultation process must be made in writing. For further information contact the Australian Space Agency on 02 6276 1166 or
Australian Space AgencyMoon to Mars
12 Apr 21. Raytheon helps to improve SME capability and competitiveness. Raytheon Australia is involved in defence capability delivery across multiple ADF domains and its Capability Plus program aims to extend this presence locally and globally to Australian SMEs also. too: Raytheon Australia
Raytheon Australia has selected ten local SMEs to participate in its recently launched industry engagement program designed to help small businesses win defence work at home and abroad under its Capability Plus program.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price welcomed the Raytheon initiative, which offers the selected businesses an opportunity to partner with Raytheon Australia to grow their businesses and support delivery of capability for our Defence Force.
“Raytheon’s Capability Plus program will support local businesses to improve their competitiveness to win defence work here and overseas,” Minister Price said. “It will support their long-term sustainability and our goal of building supply chain resilience and self-reliance.
Minister Price congratulated the Australian businesses selected for the inaugural Capability Plus program:
- AOS Group (Melbourne, Australia)
- archTIS (Canberra, Australia)
- Calytrix (Perth, Australia)
- Coherics (Adelaide, Australia)
- Daronmont (Adelaide, Australia)
- JEDS (Sydney, Australia)
- Plexsys (Williamtown, Australia)
- Redarc (Adelaide, Australia)
- Silentium (Adelaide, Australia)
- Willyama (Canberra, Australia)
Programs like Capability Plus are a great example of how large defence contractors can provide pathways for smaller Australian businesses to improve capability and competitiveness through opening opportunities, mentoring and training, the Minister said.
The tailored program will support the local enterprises in leadership, engineering, project management, cyber security and quality and ISO certification. It will also create pathways for local businesses to access Raytheon Technologies’ global supply chain. (Source: http://rumourcontrol.com.au/)