04 Mar 22. Polish Navy chooses Arrowhead 140 design for new frigates. Britain has further strengthened its defense industrial ties with Poland following the March 4 announcement that Babcock International’s Arrowhead 140 ship design was selected to equip the Polish Navy with a new class of frigates.
The London-based company said it concluded a series of strategic cooperation partnering agreements with the PGZ-Miecznik consortium responsible for delivering three frigates from shipyards in the Polish port city Gdynia.
Babcock’s decision means it turned down ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems’ Meko A-300PL proposal.
Key systems suppliers in the Miecznik program are also starting to be announced. Thales UK, alongside its local partner OBR CTM, will provide the TACTICOS combat management system, while MBDA UK’s Sea Ceptor missile will provide anti-air capabilities.
Both suppliers are already part of the Babcock-led team building five Type 31 general-purpose frigates for the British Royal Navy using the Arrowhead 140 platform.
The detailed design and systems integration planning process for the Polish frigates is expected to conclude later this year, with construction starting next year and completion of the first ship in 2028.
The Arrowhead design is based on Danish company OMT’s Iver Huitfeldt frigate in service with the Royal Danish Navy.
“Poland is one of our oldest and closest allies, and we continue to strengthen our partnership to help deter future threats,” U.K. Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said in a statement following the design choice. “The Arrowhead 140 frigate will be a formidable addition to Poland’s fleet, providing world leading capabilities to Poland’s growing naval presence.”
This is the second export market success for Babcock in quick order. Indonesia last year selected the Arrowhead 140 for an upcoming frigate program.
Babcock was also on track to undertake a significant rebuilding of Ukraine’s military and industrial capabilities before Russia launched an invasion of the country last week. In mid-2021, the company signed a tripartite agreement with the British and Ukraine governments to pursue a program upgrading existing military ships, build new vessels and regenerate industrial capabilities in the Eastern European state.
A spokesperson for Babcock declined to comment on the current status of the program beyond confirming the company had no employees in Ukraine at this time.
The two deals represent a continuing renaissance of British maritime exports, with Australia and Canada recently purchasing anti-submarine frigates based on BAE Systems’ Type 26, which were ordered by the British Royal Navy.
A continuing export drive is expected to be a key element in a refresh of the British government’s national shipbuilding strategy, expected to be published shortly.
In both the Polish and Indonesian agreements, the ships will be built locally. For Poland, that means assembly of the ships will take place in its shipbuilding hub in Gdynia.
The selection of the Arrowhead 140 design is the second major defense industry deal between the two nations in a matter of months. In November, the British and Polish governments announced a multibillion-pound agreement to develop a ground-based air defense system dubbed Narew. It will use the same missile proposed for the frigates. (Source: Defense News)
02 Mar 22. France and Spain launch Tiger MkIII programme. OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation), on behalf of the French and Spanish Armament General Directorate, the DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) and the DGAM (Dirección General de Armamento y Material) has awarded a contract to Airbus Helicopters for the development, production, and initial in-service support of the Tiger MkIII attack helicopter upgrade programme. The contract includes the upgrade of 42 aircraft for France (with the possibility to add another 25 helicopters) and 18 for Spain. In addition, the contract provides the possibility for Germany to later join the Tiger MkIII programme. The first prototype is scheduled for an inaugural flight in 2025. First delivery to the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) will take place in late 2029 followed by a first delivery to Spain in 2030. Development and upgrade work will be conducted in Airbus Helicopters facilities in Albacete (Spain), Marignane (France) and Donauwörth (Germany).
“The Tiger MkIII programme will provide a European answer to the need for a state-of-the-art attack helicopter for the decades to come. With this upgrade, the Tiger will remain an essential and modern asset to its armies and reinforce defence cooperation in Europe,” said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. He added: “The Tiger MkIII will have no equivalent in the world for high intensity operations and will further improve the connectivity, precision, and fire power capabilities of the current Tiger”.
Tiger MkIII is a comprehensive upgrade of the European attack helicopter’s systems. Proven in combat, the Tiger is difficult to detect, highly agile, and highly survivable, something operators will continue to benefit from with the MkIII upgrade. The new standard will allow the platform to be connected to the digital battlefield in order to perform manned-unmanned teaming as well as share tactical information in real time. It will also provide an unrivaled range of weapons (turret gun, laser-guided rockets and missiles) and renewed detection and targeting capabilities. The integration of state-of-the art avionics will reduce the crew’s workload and enable them to be fully focused on mission execution.
The Tiger MkIII standard configuration will include the integration of the Safran Strix NG sights, the Thales FlytX avionics suite, the Topowl DD helmet-mounted sight display, an Indra IFF upgrade, Thales GNSS, and Safran’s inertial navigation system. The communication suite will be upgraded with Thales’ Contact/Synaps radio and data links dedicated to manned/unmanned teaming. Moreover, for Spain Link16 and SATCOM functionalities will be included. The Spanish Tiger MkIII will be equipped with a battlefield management system and countermeasures provided by Indra, whereas the French Tiger MkIII will be equipped with a battlefield management system by ATOS and countermeasures provided by Thales. The new weapon package for France will include the MBDA MAST-F (Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile) and Mistral 3 air-to-air missile. For Spain, new capabilities will include 70mm guided rockets and a new air to ground missile.
Airbus Helicopters is fully committed to supporting the Tiger fleet. In 2019, a tri-lateral Global Support Contract was signed with OCCAR. It aimed at boosting the availability rate of the Tigers in service in the French, German, and Spanish Armies. Thanks to this contract, the availability rate for the French Army Tiger fleet has been significantly progressing over the past couple of years. Further positive results are expected in the coming months in Spain, Germany and France.
02 Mar 22. Thales on board the Tiger attack helicopter.
- Under the Tiger Mark III programme, the Tiger attack helicopter is to receive a major mid-life upgrade to extend its operational effectiveness beyond 2040.
- Equipped with Thales’s leading-edge technologies, the new Mark III standard will be capable of completing the most demanding combat missions in a connected, collaborative environment, enabling the French and Spanish armed forces to achieve operational superiority in high-intensity engagements.
- This major French/Spanish programme will upgrade a total of 60 Tiger helicopters – 42 deployed by French Army Light Aviation (ALAT) and 18 in service with the Spanish Army Airmobile Force (FAMET) – to the Mark III standard.
The Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), on behalf of the Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) for France and the Dirección General de Armamento y Material (DGAM) for Spain, has awarded Airbus Helicopters the development contract for the new Tiger attack helicopter standard. The Thales technologies on board the platform will provide French and Spanish forces with innovative, high-performance connected systems.
The Tiger attack helicopter is currently capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions, supporting ground troops and striking ground targets, both day and night, in all weather conditions. The upgrade will provide new detection, recognition and identification (DRI) functions to further boost the helicopter’s offensive capabilities. It will also provide enhanced mission support and enable Tiger crews to operate in the collaborative combat environments of tomorrow. Connected to the French Army’s Scorpion system and to UAV systems, the Tiger Mark III will benefit from significantly enhanced communication, mission management and self-protection capabilities.
The upgrade builds on operational feedback from French troops deployed in Afghanistan and Libya, and against armed terrorist groups in the Sahel. The new technologies on board the Tiger will allow armed forces to stay one step ahead of the adversary, even in high-intensity conflicts, extending the helicopter’s operational effectiveness beyond 2040.
Developments by Thales’s technical and industrial teams include an upgrade of the head-up display avionics. The new helmet-mounted TopOwl Digital Display incorporates more sophisticated technologies that will allow crews to cope with highly complex flight conditions while optimising the use of the helicopter’s onboard sensors and weapon systems. The FlytX avionics suite will interface with a tactical battlefield data management system, significantly improving the pilot’s interactions with the cockpit systems and enhancing situational awareness so that aircrews can focus on their core mission tasks. As for crew protection, it will benefit from a complete upgrade with a new self-protection system built around the Thales CATS-150.
At the weapon system level, Laser Guided Rocket System will meet the operational needs of aircombatants. During air operations, the new-generation radio communication system (CONTACT) will enable secure integration with the Army’s SCORPION bubble, as well as communications with other airspace users. It will also be equipped with two Micro-TMA data link terminals: one enabling the guidance of the new MHT missiles, the other providing a video link with UAVs paving the way to the collaborative deployments that will form the cornerstone of air combat systems over the next twenty years. Finally, the Tiger Mark III will also be equipped with a dual-constellation (GPS and Galileo) satellite navigation system.
The Tiger Mark III will operate alongside mission helicopters such as the Caiman and Caracal, and the Guépard joint light helicopter scheduled for delivery from 2027 (HIL program).
“The imminent arrival of the Tiger Mark III, which will be ready for collaborative combat and provides helicopter crews with new offensive capabilities, will allow French and Spanish forces to maintain strategic superiority in combat and air support operations by army aviation units. As a long-standing partner on Europe’s largest combat helicopter programme, Thales is providing a coherent range of mature, scalable avionics equipment that will enable the Tiger attack helicopter to meet the challenges of tomorrow.” Yannick Assouad, Executive Vice-President Avionics, Thales.
01 Mar 22. Poland eyes rapid Reaper drone buy as Russia’s war on Ukraine drags on. Amid increasing concern over Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, Poland has decided to buy an undisclosed number of MQ-9 Reaper drones from the United States under a special, accelerated procedure. With the planned procurement, the Polish Armed Forces would become the first military on NATO’s eastern flank to purchase the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV.
“We want to urgently acquire these unmanned aerial vehicles, and we’re currently in talks with our American partners,” Lieutenant Colonel Krzysztof Płatek, a spokesperson for the Armament Agency of the Polish Ministry of National Defence, told Defense News. The forthcoming purchase “is related to the situation on Poland’s eastern border” with Ukraine.
The value of the planned acquisition was not disclosed by the ministry. Poland aims to buy the drones “as soon as possible,” according to Płatek.
The latest development marks another purchase of combat UAVs for the Polish military. Last May, Warsaw bought 24 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey. The contract covers four sets of UAVs equipped with anti-tank missiles. Deliveries are scheduled for the years 2022 to 2024, according to data from the ministry.
Meanwhile, Warsaw is also planning to acquire new mid-range UAVs under the Gryf (Griffin) program, and further MALE drones under the Zefir (Zephyr) program. Manufactured by General Atomics, the MQ-9 Reaper offers an endurance of 27 hours, and it can operate at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), as indicated by figures from the manufacturer. (Source: Defense News)
24 Feb 22. Netherlands defence ministry issues tender for static and mobile counter drone equipment. The Dutch Ministry of Defence has issued a tender for the supply and maintenance of Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) with the following capabilities:
- Means for Detection
- Means for Classification
- Means for Identification
- Means for Neutralization
- Command and control
The procurement is also modular in nature to accommodate expansion and module replacements.
The scope of delivery includes:
- Fixed scope of delivery: 3 x movable C-UAS and 2 x static C-UAS
- Optional systems: 3 x movable C-UAS and 6 x static C-UAS
The Maintenance Framework Agreement will have a period of performance of 10 (ten) years and will be concluded simultaneously with the Delivery Agreement on the understanding that both the Delivery and the Framework Agreement will be concluded with the same Tenderer.
This procurement concerns the delivery and maintenance of Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (acronym: C-UAS)
The Netherland Armed Forces are looking for a modular capacity that include the following means and functions:
- Means for Detection
- Means for Classification
- Means for Identification
- Means for Neutralization
- Command and control
The term modular is used to describe that the system is expandable with new modules or that old modules easily can be replaced. This modular approach is facilitated by a robust and flexible command & control (C2), that enables communication between the system and its subsystems, sensors and effectors and that supports the operator in performing his/her tasks.
Closing date: 14.3.2022 – 18:00
Tender reference: 2022/S 032-083272
For more information visit: www.ted.europa.eu (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
02 Mar 22. Rafael subsidiary gets classified clearance to work in US. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency granted facility clearance to Rafael Systems Global Sustainment, an American subsidiary of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, in February, according to company president and CEO Joseph Anderson. RSGS is the only US-based subsidiary of Israeli defense company Rafael to receive the clearance, Anderson, told Defense News in a Feb. 28 interview. Rafael is known for technologies in the realm of missiles, air defense, artificial intelligence, radars, sensors and communications and network capabilities.
The U.S. Army alone has already purchased a variety of critical capabilities from Rafael including Spike missiles for its Apache attack helicopters, two Iron Dome batteries as an interim cruise missile defense capability and the Trophy Active Protection System for its Abrams tanks.
In addition to the Spike family of missiles, the Iron Dome Air Defense System and the Drone Dome Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System, RSGS is also focused on technologies such as AI enabled combat vehicle suite technology, sensor-to-shooter integration software and makes the BNET family of advanced, tactical broadband IP-MANET (Mobile AD Hoc Network) radios. Rafael is partnered with Raytheon on Iron Dome development and production. The team has plans to open up a production facility to build the systems in the U.S.
The process to receive the clearance took multiple years. RSGS became a Limited Liability Company in September 2019 and received an employer identification number in November. RSGS signed a lease to establish its headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, in January 2020. The process for the clearance began in earnest in April 2020 and hit snags during the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the process required the handling of classified documents, which meant the need for in-person work in a controlled office space.
Receiving the capability allows RSGS to “Americanize” its technologies, Anderson said.
“It now gives Rafael, as a foreign company, via their American subsidiary, a means to work classified programs within Rafael without having to rely on a joint venture or some other partnership or business agreement,” he said, while noting that he expects those types of relationships to continue as RSGS is considered a small, startup American company and those arrangements are still beneficial.
For instance, Rafael is a sub-contractor on Oshkosh Defense’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle design team, bringing artificial intelligence technology to the effort.
The OMFV program is in a preliminary design competition phase where five teams are competing to develop an initial design of what will replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
“As we work on programs like OMFV, when it gets to the classified phase of a program, RSGS can now do that for Rafael as part of Rafael versus either being excluded from it or relying on another partner who is not the same company,” Anderson explained.
Being able to participate in classified portions of the competition means RSGS will be able to provide a deeper level of information on Rafael’s technologies and will be able to translate that into how those technologies meet program requirements, Anderson said.
Rafael hopes with the new clearance to be able to expand its missile, air defense and base defense, counter-UAS, lethality, AI and machine learning, situational awareness, sensing, force protection, lethality and communications and networking portfolios in the U.S., Anderson listed.
“Along the modernization priorities for the Army, along with the joint-counter UAS office, just think of the programs that are aligned with those different offices and how that changes the ability to work in those portfolios where before we could not,” he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
25 Feb 22. DoD Seeking Information for Public-Private Microelectronic Commons. The Department of Defense issued a federal register notice requesting information from academia, startups, small businesses, government labs, and domestic semiconductor manufacturers in pursuit of a public-private partnership that will create regional hubs of microelectronics innovation.
This Microelectronics Commons idea, envisioned by an Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering-led cross functional team, aims to:
- Create “Lab-to-Fab” testing/prototyping hubs to build a network focused on maturing microelectronics technologies
- Provide broad access to these prototyping hubs, potentially through augmented academic facilities (i.e. a local semiconductor company or a Federally Funded Research and Development Center)
- Facilitate microelectronics education and training of students at local colleges and universities, and provide a potential pipeline for an engineering workforce to bolster the local semiconductor economy
“Microelectronics are vital to every aspect of our lives from delivering power to our homes to securing our nation’s infrastructure,” said Under Secretary (R&E) Heidi Shyu. “They also support nearly all DoD activities, enabling capabilities such as GPS, radar, and command, control, and communication systems.”
To supplement substantial U.S. investments in disruptive research and development, DoD must establish and facilitate a national network of academic and small business research entities by reducing barriers and enhance existing infrastructure. Many restrictions exist for introducing new materials and processes into tightly controlled high-volume fabrication processes that rely on maintaining high yield to accommodate large facility operation costs.
New models, science, and technology must be leveraged to create a different manufacturing paradigm based on proven process tools in agile fabrication facilities. These enhanced manufacturing capabilities could allow cost-effective ways to capture and incentivize domestic research and development and provide a low-volume production environment for a high mix of technologies as they are incubated and nurtured for DoD and commercial market applications. To learn more about how to submit ideas, read the full request for information at www.cto.mil.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E) is the Chief Technology Officer of the Department of Defense. The USD(R&E) champions research, science, technology, engineering, and innovation to maintain the United States military’s technological advantage. Learn more at www.cto.mil, follow us on Twitter @DoDCTO, or visit us on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/ousdre. (Source: US DoD)
REST OF THE WORLD
04 Mar 22. Singapore’s frigates to get more bite. The 114 metre-long frigates, which were commissioned between 2007 and 2009, will be retrofitted with an enhanced command and control system featuring advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and improved sensors, enabling their crew to detect and react faster to potential threats. Upgrades will also be provided to the vessels’ weapons and communication systems. While MINDEF did not provide details of the weapon upgrades, there is speculation that Blue Spear, new anti-ship missile jointly developed by Singapore’s ST Engineering and Israel’s IAI but marketed globally by a joint venture firm called Proteus Advanced Systems, could be a contender to replace the frigates’ Boeing RGM-84C Harpoon, a weapon that was first introduced in the early 1980s. Their communication systems will also be updated for greater networking capacity with the wider Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), while a Fleet Management System will be incorporated to gather platform and combat systems usage data for preventative maintenance purposes to boost operational readiness. Upgrade work will performed in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and DSO National Laboratories.
“Since the commissioning of the first frigate in 2007, the frigates have pushed the operating envelope for the RSN across all dimensions – air, surface and underwater – in the maritime domain,” stated MINDEF.
The frigates had earlier been upgraded with the Thales STIR 1.2 EO Mk 2 radar and electro-optical fire-control directors as well as Rafael Mk 38 Mod 2 Typhoon 25 mm guns between 2013 and 2015. The STIR 1.2 EO Mk 2 system is designed to detect and track targets in densely cluttered environments, such as littoral waters and provide fire-control for the frigates’ Oto Melara 76/62 Super Rapid main gun. (Source: AMR)
03 Mar 22. Singapore discloses procurements, reorganisation plans in pursuit of ‘SAF 2040′ vision. Singapore has disclosed several procurement and upgrade programmes that the republic has undertaken or will be undertaking in the next few years in pursuit of its ‘SAF 2040′ target. The country will also be establishing a fourth service branch for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to better defend the country against threats in the digital domain.
Information on these were provided by Singapore‘s Minister of Defence, Ng Eng Hen, during his parliamentary speech on 2 March. The speech is part of the Singapore parliament’s Committee of Supply debates, which is part of a process to approve the budget that has been proposed for the next financial year. As reported by Janes in February 2022, Singapore has proposed a defence budget of SGD16.36bn (USD12bn) for 2022, an increase of 6.5% over the allocation in 2021. (Source: Janes)
28 Feb 22. Ukraine “asks NATO countries for urgent supplies of counter-UAS equipment.” Counter-UAS equipment is at the top of the list of military requirements reportedly sent by Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov to the Belgian counterpart Ludivine Dedonder in a letter of February 23, just hours before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The list, published in the Belgian edition of Business AM and shared on Linkedin by Tim De Zitter, features requirements for anti-drone guns and jammers along with counter electronics directed energy weapons.
According to the news report the list is generic and has been sent to all NATO countries.
For more information https://businessam.be/lijst-gelekt-met-materiaal-om-russen-te-stoppen-dat-vivaldi-weigerde-te-leveren/ (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
25 Feb 22. Armscor evaluating bids for most SAAF aircraft maintenance contracts. Many of the maintenance contracts for South African Air Force (SAAF) aircraft have either expired or are about to, and Armscor is currently evaluating fresh bids for a number of aircraft support contracts.
In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on 16 February, Armscor detailed the status of SAAF aircraft maintenance contracts, and revealed that only 46 of the SAAF’s 217 aircraft are serviceable.
Denel Aeronautics, as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the Rooivalk and Oryx helicopters, has a number of support contracts. However, its maintenance, repair and overhaul contracts for the C-130BZ Hercules, Oryx, and Rooivalk either expired on 31 December 2021 or will expire at the end of next month, and Armscor has issued Request For Bids for these. Denel has requested the extension of the Request For Bids to allow them to respond.
With regard to the VIP fleet, South African Airways Technical has a R160m contract (1 April 2020-30 November 2022) to maintain the Presidential Boeing Business Jet (BBJ). The aircraft underwent a C Check and is due back in service by 28 March. Armscor notes the BBJ is only funded until 31 March 2022 and “if the Financial Authority (FA) is not approved on time this poses a risk as at 1 April 2022. The lack of multi-year funding remains a challenge on the Product Support System contracts especially for the BBJ.”
FlyHigh Aviation received a R160m contract to maintain the Falcon 50 and 900 aircraft (1 April 2019 to 31 March 2022). At present, one Falcon 50 is serviceable and available to the SAAF while another Falcon 50 and the Falcon 900 are undergoing maintenance. Armscor’s Request For Bid for a new maintenance contract closed on 4 February; the order is expected to be placed in the 2022/23 financial year.
Armscor noted that Project Moagi, to acquire new VIP aircraft, remains unfunded, resulting in the SAAF continuing to fly ‘vintage’ VVIP aircraft.
The other VIP aircraft in the fleet is the Pilatus PC-12. FlyHigh Aviation received a R22m contract to support the PC-12 between September 2020 and August 2022 but the aircraft will become unserviceable on 25 February 2022 “due to a scheduled replacement of life limited components.”
Used mainly for personnel transport, the SAAF has four King Airs in its fleet. Their support contract expires on 31 March 2022 and Armscor is busy with the procurement process to appoint a new contractor. Aircraft Maintenance At Work was given a R24m contract to maintain the aircraft between April 2019 and March 2022. Lack of funding has resulted in the SAAF only maintaining three out of four aircraft. Additional funds are required to service the other King Air 300 aircraft; the budget is insufficient to complete the avionics upgrade of the King Air 300 as well as to standardise the engine.
Armscor stated that the deferred Project Kiepie needs to be funded to ensure the fleet is replaced with cost-effective modern utility aircraft. Similarly, Project Metsi, for new maritime patrol aircraft, needs to be funded – it is currently deferred. Project Metsi was planned to replace the C-47TP fleet.
There is currently no C-47TP support contract in place and Armscor is currently busy with the procurement process to appoint a contractor. The defence materiel agency notes that the C-47 fleet has been in SAAF service since 1943 and requires major upgrades to cater for obsolete avionics.
Also on the fixed wing side, Armscor is currently evaluating bids for Cessna Caravan maintenance contracts, with a decision expected in April. This is after the R22m contract with Aircraft Maintenance at Work came to an end on 31 December 2021.
Out of eight Caravans, five are serviceable, two are in storage and one is unserviceable, according to Armscor. Lack of funding has resulted in the SAAF only maintaining six aircraft. Additional funds are required to service the other two aircraft, Armscor notes. “The budget is insufficient and allocation per year has to be revised to be in line with the maintenance planning requirements.”
The CASA 212 maintenance contract with Airbus South Africa expired on 31 Dec 2021. Airbus requested an extension of the Request For Bid and Armscor is busy with the contractor source selection process, with an order expected to be placed in the new 2022/23 Financial Year. Two out of three aircraft are serviceable while one aircraft is undergoing maintenance.
The contract for the support of the PC-7 Mk II turboprop trainer fleet expires in January 2023. Pilatus received a R61m support contract for these aircraft for 2020-2023 but reduced funding has resulted in the SAAF only maintaining a few aircraft. Additional funds are required to service the fleet to increase availability. Out of 35 aircraft, 16 are in long-term storage, around ten are awaiting spares and five are serviceable.
On the rotary wing side, none of the four Lynx naval helicopters are serviceable, although a R151m contract is in place with Leonardo Helicopters and LHTEC until early 2023. Armscor said COVID-19 affected the operations of the airframe OEM (Leonardo UK) and engine OEM (LHTEC USA) in servicing the SAAF requirements and as a result the fleet is unserviceable. “The Lynx aircraft are awaiting spares. Due to the late Financial Authority (FA) approval, the long lead items will not be delivered in the 21/22 financial year but mid 22/23 financial year.”
The Agusta A109 fleet support contracts expired in 2021 and Armscor is currently evaluating bids received. Leonardo Helicopters previously received a R250m airframe maintenance contract from December 2018 to December 2021 while Safran Helicopter Engines received a R60m maintenance contract for August 2018 to September 2021. At present, three A109s are serviceable; 21 are undergoing maintenance, five are beyond economical repair and one is being rebuilt.
“Lack of multi-year funding has made it difficult to plan and undertake repairs/overhauls of long lead items (e.g. tail gearboxes, floatation gear, engines). The budget is insufficient and allocation per year has to be revised to be in line with the maintenance planning requirements,” Armscor stated. Of general concern is that the fleet is 20 years old and requires a midlife upgrade to cater for mandatory engine maintenance as well as avionics upgrades.
The BK 117 Product System Support contract expires on 31 March 2022. There is currently no order/extension beyond 31 March as there is insufficient budget for maintenance. Airbus Southern Africa currently has the BK 117 maintenance contract, worth R171 m between April 2018 and March 2022. Out of six aircraft, three are serviceable, two are awaiting spares and one is unserviceable.
Armscor is currently negotiating with Saab on a more affordable support contract for the 26 grounded Gripen fighter jets as the current offer is “unaffordable”.
A product system support contract for the Hawk lead-in fighter-trainers is in place and remains valid until 30 August 2024 – this is with BAE Systems and is worth R250 m. However, the current funding provided by the SAAF is to maintain nine aircraft – additional funding will be required to maintain the full complement of 24 aircraft that was procured. Of the 24, 12 are in long-term storage, three are beyond economical repair, two are grounded and seven are operational. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
23 Feb 22. General Atomics working to save SkyGuardian deal with UAE. UMEX 2022: Despite the United Arab Emirates withdrawing its letter of acceptance on a US weapons package that included 18 MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aerial vehicles, General Atomics remains hopeful that a deal can still happen. The goal, a top company official said Wednesday, is to get the larger Foreign Military Sales (FMS) package broken up into individual offerings, which would split the GA drone sale from the F-35 joint strike fighter package — the latter of which has emerged as a flashpoint as the US tries to get the UAE to abandon a 5G deal with China.
“We are here to display the aircraft and keep the negotiations moving forward,’ David Alexander, GA’s president for aircraft systems, told Breaking Defense Wednesday at the Unmanned Systems Exhibition and Conference (UMEX) in Abu Dhabi.
“We are at a stage of negotiations where we are going over the configurations that they (UAE) want, because this can be configured in so many styles to do various missions and so it comes with different capabilities plus a large ground infrastructure,” Alexander said of the SkyGuardian.
The UAE decided last December to withdraw its letter of offer acceptance after the Biden administration froze an agreement, cleared by the Trump administration in its last few weeks in office, for the sale of F-35 fifth generation fighters, along with a significant number of precision strike weapons plus 18 MQ-19B aircrafts.
The $23bn package was halted while the Biden administration pushed the UAE to abandon the use of Chinese firm Huawei’s 5G communications network. In deciding to cancel the LOA, the UAE appeared to be playing hardball with the US and saying they can take their business elsewhere — a move that reignited concerns that rigid US export policies could pave the way to China to increase its footprint in the UAE and the region.
“So, it is either you can buy from the US, or you can buy from somewhere else, and I think that reality is sinking in, and once you go with another country and buy the hardware, then that’s just the beginning,” said Alexander.
“The real program is all the support and of the logistics that is behind it that goes for 20 or 30 years. Once you missed out on that opportunity, you missed it, and not for that sale but you missed it for tens of years. We have to be careful not to give up.”
As a result, GA is working to keep the lines of communication open with UAE officials. The company certainly didn’t hide its presence at UMEX this week. A full-size model of the SkyGuardian occupied nearly half a hall, attracting lots of attention at the three-day exhibition.
One argument GA hopes will work back home is one that advocates of relaxing drone sales have used for years: that if the US blocks itself out of a market, that market will simply look elsewhere, and China is ready to pounce.
“There is a connection between the heated competition from the Chinese side and the US government decision to ease the export controls. There was a time when this aircraft was so ahead of the game that it was not available anywhere else, but this is not the case anymore,” added Alexander.
Alexander argues that even though there are benefits in acquiring all the platforms in one go, breaking up the F-35 package into smaller and separate deals might be the right way forward.
“We think it would be simpler to separate the products, because each one has its own limitations and constraints and concerns,” Alexander said. “We have encouraged the UAE government to break them apart. It is a political decision by both parties, UAE and US, to have them all tied up.”
The UAE is not the only regional player interested in procuring the SkyGuardian.
“There has been an interest in Saudi Arabia in SkyGuardian for years. Each country in the region has an interest in maritime applications,” added Alexander.
He argued that the sensors and technologies on the SkyGuardian put the aircraft 20 years ahead of its foreign competitors, which will make it very appealing to many customers and ensure the survivability of the platforms for years to come.
“We are excited about the future of this aircraft in the region. Where we are at with respect to export policy from the United States is easing up on the controls, and we see a bright future for this aircraft in this area,” Alexander concluded.