UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
21 May 21. Fleet Solid Support ships competition launched. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has launched a competition to build three new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships to provide vital support to Royal Navy operations across the world. These crucial Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will provide munitions, food, stores and provisions to support carrier and amphibious based Task Groups at sea.
Building on the commitment made in the recent Defence Command Paper to create a shipbuilding renaissance, the competition will help revitalise British shipbuilding by requiring a significant proportion of the build and assembly work to be carried out in the UK.
With a £24bn multi-year settlement to modernise our Armed Forces, the competition is an exciting moment for UK industry to design and deliver a world-leading capability, securing highly-skilled jobs and boosting homegrown skills.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
As Shipbuilding Tsar, I am delighted to launch the competition for these crucial Fleet Solid Support ships.
These vessels embody our commitment to a truly global presence by supporting the Royal Navy’s operations around the world.
The competition reaffirms our dedication to invest in shipbuilding and support jobs across the UK maritime industry.
Designed to challenge the shipbuilding industry, Defence Equipment and Support have issued the contract notice inviting companies to register an interest in participating in the tender for the design and build of the ships, which will incorporate next-generation technology.
The successful bidder can work in partnership with international companies but would be required to integrate the ships in a UK shipyard. The Government has already pledged to double the investment over the life of this Parliament to more than £1.7 billion a year, providing a pipeline of work to sustain jobs and skills around the UK.
This will be further supported by a refresh of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, to be published this summer setting out the Government’s commitment to the UK shipbuilding enterprise and its supply chain.
DE&S’ Director General Ships, Vice Admiral Chris Gardner, said, “The launch of the Fleet Solid Support competition presents a really exciting opportunity for the shipbuilding industry to support the design and build of a new class of ship that will primarily resupply our Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
It is also another step in implementing the National Shipbuilding Strategy and increasing our domestic maritime construction capacity and capability alongside the Type 26 and Type 31 programmes already underway.”
The FSS ships will join the QEC Task Group, carrying out replenishment at sea to supply stores and ammunition to sustain operations, which is essential to meeting the UK’s defence commitments. To do this the ships will be able to transfer loads of more than two tonnes at a time while at high speed.
Interested companies are now invited to register their interest to receive a pre-qualification questionnaire. Successful respondents will be invited to tender for Competitive Procurement Contracts.
These contracts will allow potential suppliers to develop designs and delivery plans, with a particular focus on providing UK social value through, for example, supply chain development, the creation of new jobs and skills, and contributions to carbon emission reduction targets, as outlined in the new Defence and Security Industrial Strategy.
The manufacture contract award is expected to be made within two years, following approvals. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
14 May 21. Leonardo pitches M-346FA as Polish ‘Fitter’ replacement. Leonardo is pitching its M-346FA as a potential replacement for Poland’s ageing fleet of Sukhoi Su-22 ‘Fitter’ aircraft, the company announced on 14 May. Declaring its intention to bid its M-346FA light attack aircraft as a replacement for the Polish air force (Inspektorat Sił Powietrznych: ISP) fleet of nearly 30 Warsaw Pact-era Su-22M4 aircraft that have been in service since 1985, Leonardo noted the synergies that the ISP could reap given that it already operates the baseline M-346 Master trainer version.
“The M-346FA is a new, high-performance light combat aircraft that could replace the Su-22. The aircraft provides enormous operational benefits, and has many similarities to the training version M-346 used by the Polish air force,” the company said on its official Leonardo in Poland Twitter account.
As noted by Janes World Air Forces, Poland operates 27 Su‐22M4s, of which 12 are earmarked for service life extension along with all six Su‐22UM3K trainers that are in service. However, the combat capabilities of these aircraft are very low, and the entire Su‐22 fleet is due to be phased out of service by 2024–26.
Besides the Su-22, the ISP currently operates 48 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 50+ Fighting Falcon and 21 MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ fighters. Both the Su-22 and MiG-29 are slated to be replaced by 32 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) under Poland’s Harpia programme. While no separate Su-22 replacement programme currently exists, Leonardo no doubt sees an opportunity for its low-cost M-346A as a supplement to the more capable but much more expensive F-35A. (Source: Jane’s)
18 May 21. These five firms could build a new armed overwatch plane for US Air Force special operators. U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command has tapped five companies to compete in its armed overwatch program for a new attack aircraft, awarding $19.2m in contracts among the vendors.
The selected companies will now build and fly prototype aircraft in a series of demonstrations at Eglin Air Force Base, Floria. Those competitors include:
- Leidos’ Bronco II
- MAG Aerospace’s MC-208 Guardian
- Textron Aviation Defense’s AT-6E Wolverine
- L3Harris Technologies’ AT-802U Sky Warden
- Sierra Nevada Corp.’s MC-145B Wily Coyote
Demonstrations are set to occur through March 2022, according to a solicitation on SAM.gov. Afterward, AFSOC will determine whether any of the aircraft meet its requirements. If so, “the contractor may be requested to provide a production proposal for a follow-on production award,” the solicitation stateed.
In February, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. James Slife said he was hopeful procurement of a new platform could start in 2022.
“I think we can do [the program] at relatively low risk based on what we’ve seen from the vendors who have indicated that they intend to bring platforms to demonstrate for us in the coming months,” Slife said.
AFSOC plans to buy up to 75 armed overwatch platforms to replace the U-28 Draco, and the command is looking at nondevelopmental, multimission aircraft that can be reconfigured to collect intelligence and perform close-air support for ground forces.
Like the Draco, the new overwatch aircraft should be tailored for missions in uncontested environments like that of Africa, capable of operating in austere conditions with only a minimal logistics footprint.
“The whole reason we’re doing this is because the National Defense Strategy talks about the need to do cost-effective [counter-violent extremist organization] operations, cost-effective irregular warfare,” Slife said. “So the operating environment where we currently operate U-28s is about the same operating environment where we would envision operating armed overwatch platforms.” (Source: Defense News)
REST OF THE WORLD
13 May 21. New Zealand is seeking industry info to build Antarctic patrol vessel. The New Zealand Defence Force has issued a request for information on design and build solutions for an eventual ice-strengthened offshore patrol vessel that the Royal New Zealand Navy would operate in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic’s Ross Sea for at least four months per year.
Independent defense consultant Gordon Crane told Defense News that several ship-building companies are likely to respond to the RFI, including Dutch company Damen and Fincantieri subsidiary Vard Group. Though its parent company is Italian, Vard has its headquarters in Norway.
“Both have supplied similar ships to western navies for Arctic and Antarctic duties. The former recently delivered a 526-foot [160-meter] icebreaker to Australia, and the latter company has supplied ships for Arctic duties to the coast guard[s] and navies of the U.K., U.S. and Canada and in the Southern Hemisphere to Chile and South Africa, plus the RNZN’s existing offshore patrol vessels,” Crane said.
“Their expertise in providing ships capable of operating in polar regions gives them a distinct advantage,” Crane added.
The RFI anticipates the ship will be 295-377 feet in length, with accommodations for 100 people, including 60 crew members, 30 scientific staff and a military helicopter flight crew of 10. The RFI cautions that the ship will traverse “one of the roughest seas in the world.” Waves in the region regularly exceed 33 feet and some are more than 66 feet high.
To be capable of at least 16 knots, the vessel, equipped with a hangar, is required to travel 12,000 nautical miles at an average speed of 14 knots without having to refuel.
Roles will include research, search and rescue, maritime interdiction, and maritime resupply to the Auckland Islands and other sub-Antarctic islands. The closing date for submissions is June 14, 2021, and enquiries can be directed to . (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)