30 June 22. Greece submits letter of request for F-35. Greece’s plans to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) have taken a step forward, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying on 30 June that a letter of request (LOR) had been sent to the United States. According to Reuters, Mitsotakis made the disclosure at the NATO Madrid Summit in Spain, saying that Greece intends to buy 20 F-35As to equip two squadrons, and that further procurement batches may follow.
With the LOR now submitted, Mitsotakis said that, subject to the usual processes, deliveries are expected to begin from 2027 or 2028.
The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) is looking to acquire the F-35A as part of a wider ramp-up of its combat aviation forces, which has seen delivery of Dassault Rafales from France and upgrades to its existing fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons.
28 June 22. German arms companies fear for their slice of defence windfall. Bosses warn sector’s revival threatened by bureaucracy despite Berlin’s pledge to vastly increase military budget. In a hangar that blends into the German port of Kiel’s industrial wharf, Thyssenkrupp engineers are testing the steel hull of a submarine to ensure it can withstand more than 50 bars of water pressure. But the vessels built in the country’s largest shipyard will not be delivered to Germany’s navy. Instead, they will go to the likes of Israel and Singapore, which placed orders with the group even as the German government shunned its homegrown manufacturer by awarding a €4.6bn contract for MKS 180 frigates to a Dutch company. The 2020 snubbing of Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), which had been haemorrhaging cash, came to encapsulate the parlous state of Germany’s defence sector. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the German government’s subsequent commitment to vastly increase military spending has suddenly turned TKMS into an asset. “Now we have a recalibration,” said TKMS’ new chief executive Oliver Burkhard. Since chancellor Olaf Scholz announced he would set aside €100bn to modernise Germany’s armed forces, and committed to spending 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product on defence, TKMS has expanded. Originally set to be sold by parent Thyssnkrupp, it has become a buyer, snapping up the insolvent MV Werften, based in the nearby city of Wismar, whose Asian owner had run out of cash midway through building a giant cruise ship.
Yet behind the scenes, German industry still “fears nothing will happen”, according to a former defence official who now advises the sector. “There was virtually no domestic market for German arms companies,” the person said, referring to the fact that at least three-quarters of local arms production is exported. “There is no playbook.” Several German defence companies have been banking on rapid growth as a result of closer collaboration with Scholz’s coalition government. Within days of the chancellor’s speech in February, Rheinmetall, the country’s largest listed weapons-maker, presented Berlin with a list of products worth €42bn that it could deliver over the next decade. The majority of its orders for tanks, armoured vehicles and ammunition had previously come from outside Germany, from the likes of the UK and Hungary. Hensoldt, an Airbus spinout backed by KKR and partly owned by the German government, is also expecting a windfall. “We will be part of every large procurement programme,” said a person close to the company, which specialises in advanced radar and sensor systems.
Concerns that Scholz’s spending plans would not pass through parliament without being watered down were abated when the vast majority of the Bundestag voted them through earlier this month. So far, however, the large orders made by Berlin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have consisted of 35 American-made F-35 fighter jets, as well as 60 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters from Chicago-based Boeing. Procurement from Germany’s own weapons producers has largely been limited to ammunition and clothing from existing stocks. Longer-term projects worth more than €25mn currently have to go through a lengthy tender process run by a division of the defence ministry in Koblenz that in some instances has taken several years, and then be approved by two parliamentary committees — by which point additional production capacity could be reserved for other countries, representatives from public and private companies told the Financial Times.
Hensoldt board member Celia Pelaz, a Spaniard, agreed that “we need to look at the acquisition processes of the German government”, which are mired in bureaucracy, warning that otherwise it was “going to be difficult actually to put that money to use”. Berlin has since pledged to speed things up. In an attempt to entice the government into further accelerating its decision-making, TKMS has said it could secure up to 1,500 jobs in Wismar if it gets picked to build more submarines and battleships. “I made a formula saying the more you order, the more people we can employ,” Burkhard said of his discussions with Scholz’s administration. “Sometimes they need a bit of pressure just to act.” Rheinmetall’s boss has also dangled a carrot in front of policymakers. “In the next 12 to 18 months, we will hire 1,500-3,000 people, depending on what contracts we get,” Armin Papperger said. But lobbyists for the sector privately concede that it is not significant enough to apply pressure on the government by pledging to create new roles. Germany’s defence companies account for fewer than 57,000 jobs in the country, according to the German Economic Institute in Cologne, while France’s armaments industry directly employs 165,000 people. “In the past, if the car industry had a headache the chancellor would probably run and hold their hands. If the defence industry struggled, so far not many cared,” said Claudia Major, a security expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP. “Economically speaking, it’s not important.” There is also public sentiment to contend with. “In Germany, the defence industry is seen as one of those unpleasant, dirty things almost nobody wants to show up with,” Major added. Indeed, Germany’s aversion to the sector almost forced the sale of TKMS, as its parent group was told banks would no longer finance Thyssenkrupp if the unit exceeded 10 per cent of annual revenue, falling foul of lenders’ environmental, social and governance criteria. Consolidation among Germany’s patchwork of defence contractors — especially when it comes to shipyards — will also be needed to offer value for money to the government, TKMS’ Burkhard said. The choice for his company, he added, is “to be lunch or to have lunch”. Yet even those with unparalleled technology have found it hard to attract the interest of Berlin.
At its manufacturing site in Ulm, Hensoldt builds cutting-edge passive radar systems that can detect enemy objects without emitting a signal. The devices, which when stowed away are roughly the size of an airline drinks trolley, were initially produced for Egypt. The tech developed at a former army barracks in the heart of Bavaria has not yet been ordered by Germany itself. The lesson from the invasion of Ukraine is that “we need an industry, we need a technology base”, Hensoldt’s Pelaz said. “We shouldn’t now say: ‘well, because we need it quickly, we don’t care where it comes from’.” Some new contracts have come through. On Thursday, Rheinmetall was awarded a €13mn contract for air start units from the German Air Force. But with order books at the likes of TKMS already full, the sector is mostly “in a holding pattern”, according to one senior executive, waiting for concrete commitments before making large investments. Recommended News in-depthBoeing Co Air Force One: how Boeing’s prestige project became its albatross Looking out over the Baltic Sea from his office in Kiel, TKMS’ Burkhard sees the potential for a wave of new business. “A commander told us that everything that floats is out at the moment,” he said of the German Navy’s current fleet. The next global conflict could well occur in the South China Sea, making submarines and frigates all the more important. A test of whether the German government will embrace its own arms industry is coming up. Two more MKS 180 frigates — now called F126s — are on the military’s recently compiled “wish-list”. If those contracts are not awarded to Thyssenkrupp, Burkhard said, “the signal would be not a great one”. (Source: Google/FT.com)
27 June 22. European interest in contractor-supplied helicopters. The ongoing war in Ukraine is driving Eastern European interest in acquiring contractor-supplied light attack and transport helicopters, a provider told Janes on 23 June.
Speaking at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Lukas Hollnsteiner, International Defense and Aerospace Group (IDAG) director of sales, said that with many Eastern European countries operating Warsaw Pact-era helicopters, hostilities between Ukraine and Russia mean that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain these helicopters in an airworthy condition.
“Ukraine has certainly changed things, with the Mi-8 and Mi-17 types flown across Eastern Europe being in limbo [in terms of their sustainment and support],” Hollnsteiner said.
Based in Titusville in the US, Budapest in Hungary, Prague in the Czech Republic, and Košice in Slovakia, IDAG is the exclusive supplier to Eastern Europe of the MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) MD 530F light helicopter, and also provides surplus US Army UH-60 Black Hawks.
Having provided civil variant MD 530s into the region, Hollnsteiner said that IDAG has also registered growing interest from potential military customers. Hollnsteiner noted that IDAG has three MD 530s at its partner Košice facility, while aircraft originally earmarked for the former Afghan Air Force that are now in storage in the US could also be made available. IDAG is able to provide complete support, including the training of pilots and mechanics, and the delivery of spares via its European Union Aviation Safety Agency-approved maintenance facility. (Source: Google/Janes)
01 Jul 22. Competition to replace Bradley vehicles enters design, prototype phase.
The U.S. Army has opened up the competition to design and build prototypes for its Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle replacement, releasing a request for proposals to industry July 1 on the government contracting website Sam.gov.
The details of the RFP covering both a detailed design (phase 3) and prototyping (phase 4) are not yet publicly available.
Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the Army’s program executive officer for ground combat systems, offered some insight into what will likely be required for the design of the vehicle at the Eurosatory defense trade show last month in Paris.
The requirements approach taken for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, “is fundamentally different” than those taken in the past, he said.
The Army awarded contracts last year to five teams to develop preliminary designs: Point Blank Enterprises, Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and American Rheinmetall Vehicles.
Starting out with nine characteristics, industry teams have been coming up with design options over the course of the past 12 months and have continuously revised them.
The Army has been through several revisions that “have resulted in a slightly greater level of detail but, frankly, we’re not done,” Dean said.
The requirements in the RFP are not considered final because of the continued design efforts that will go on in the third phase of the program.
At the highest level, the Army wants a tracked vehicle that is considered “medium-weight” – between 40 and 50 tons – that has at least a 30mm cannon with an objective requirement of a 50mm gun, Dean said.
The vehicle would accommodate a two-person crew with six dismounted infantry, balanced with a greater application of autonomy on the platform, he said. The entire platform will be built using a modular open systems architecture.
“That’s mandatory and key because we see that as our growth for the future,” according to Dean.
The Army wants a “silent watch” and “silent mobility” capability, meaning the vehicle can move with the engine off, which translates to a need for a hybrid-electric solution, Dean said. All five teams designed a hybrid-electric vehicle during the last phase.
Reducing the logistics footprint for the vehicle is also important, something a hybrid drive capability could help accomplish, he noted.
The competition is full and open and the plan is to select up to three teams to participate in the detailed design phase followed by the prototyping phase. Written proposals are due in 120 days.
“During the next two phases, the Army will conduct activities to mature OMFV designs and will verify prototype performance during test activities, to include a Limited User Test,” the Army said in a July 1 statement.
The detailed design phase will take place in fiscal 2023 and 2024 and the prototyping phase will begin in 2025. The Army plans to choose three teams in the third quarter of FY23 to build up to 11 prototype vehicles, two ballistic hulls and turrets, armor coupons and provide digital engineering data, the Army statement notes.
The Army expects to select in the fourth quarter of 2027 one company to build low-rate production vehicles. The first unit equipped is planned for FY29 and full rate production is expected to begin in 2030.
The OMFV competitive approach has changed drastically from nearly three years ago, when the Army required physical bid samples to enter the competition. The Army received just one physical bid sample from GDLS by its set deadline in October 2019. Defense News broke the news that the only other entry — the Lynx 41 from a Rheinmetall and Raytheon team — was disqualified because it wasn’t delivered to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, on time.
The writing was already on the wall that the OMFV’s development schedule and requirements had doomed the program when BAE Systems, which manufactures the Bradley, bowed out of the competition months before the deadline.
Instead of moving forward with just one option, the Army canceled its OMFV competition, and took a step back to come up with a plan that would better foster a robust competition over a more reasonable timeline.
The Army dropped the plan to require a physical bid sample at the outset and instead mapped out a five-phased effort that begins with an initial design phase then moves into a detailed design phase, followed by prototyping, testing and production.
(Source: Defense News)
01 Jul 22. US Army interested in enhanced M-SHORAD capability for ground threats. The US Army wants soldiers using the Stryker-based Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) weapon to also be able to target ground threats and is seeking information about “state-of-the art” ammunition cartridges to help make that a reality. On 27 June the service issued a sources sought notice for a potential 30×113 mm Multi-Mode Proximity Airburst (MMPA) requirement that calls for more accurate, lethal, and reliable cartridges than the currently fielded XM1198 High Explosive Dual Purpose with Self Destruct design. More specifically, a future MMPA would provide M-SHORAD vehicles with the ability to “rapidly transition” to defeat both ground and air target sets, instead of just the latter.
“MMPA will integrate with the XM914 weapon system utilising a United States government contact fuze setter and will require advanced proximity fuze and airframe/propulsion components to meet performance goals,” the army wrote. (Source: Janes)
28 June 22. Top military space buyer eyes fixed-price contracts. Frank Calvelli, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, said “fixed-price contracting is not a bad approach for space things” and could help keep acquisitions on time.
Frank Calvelli, the new assistant secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, said “fixed-price contracting is not a bad approach for space things” and that “the worst thing you want to be is a cost-plus program inside a factory that has everything going through a fixed price because you will end up paying the bills, you end up being late and you will end up behind schedule.”
It’s one of many approaches that Calvelli plans to bring to military space acquisitions from the National Reconnaissance Office, where he served as the principal deputy director and deputy acquisition executive.
“They’ve gotten really good over the last few years of really pushing for cost realism and schedule realism in their competitive [requests for proposals]. And one of the biggest challenges we have today is when we get an RFP that we award that’s not executable, and that ends up causing re-baselining and…slows things up,” Calvelli said during a virtual Mitchell Institute event on June 24.
“So they’ve gotten really good at driving costs and schedule realism and I’m gonna probably borrow those techniques.”
Calvelli added that while additional or unexpected costs weren’t totally avoidable, companies bidding on space contracts should take factors such as supply chain and inflation into account when bidding instead of offering the lowest possible rate.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson,told senators in May that cost-plus contracts were a “plague” on the agency’s major projects which have suffered from cost overruns.
“We have been moving to the fixed price where we can under procurement law,” Nelson told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and Related Agencies on May 3. “In those that we can’t do cost-plus, we are moving to really crack down on them.”
Calvelli made his intentions to improve space acquisitions known during his Senate confirmation hearing, saying a “culture of a program management discipline” could help the Space Force “to go a little bit faster.”
On Friday, Calvelli stressed that he was not against cost-plus contracts but that fixed-price helped speed acquisitions along.
“We want to go fast, which means if we’re smart, we use existing technology where we can, and take a page out of [the Space Development Agency’s] playbook, which is use what you can get and go off and build on to your centers,” Calvelli said. “And so when you start using existing technology capabilities and you want to go fast, fixed price helps in that as opposed to cost plus.”
Calvelli added that long development cycles spanning five to seven years make it difficult to refresh technology.
“You get these things up there and they last a long time, which is awesome. But, you know, the technology’s changed so quickly on the ground if you do more smaller systems with shorter design lives, as well, because launch has become so much more affordable…then you can take more advantage of technology faster.”
Calvelli added that he was also eyeing NRO techniques around system engineering, cloud computing, mission frameworks, and mission applications, while also noting that he wanted to better sync space and ground systems.
“We seem to have a disconnect with space and ground systems where we’ll launch something but the ground is just not ready yet or user terminals [are] just not ready yet,” he said, adding that the priority is “to ensure that the space and ground systems come together as an integrated system so that when we launch the systems, we can take full advantage of them.” (Source: Defense Systems)
23 June 22. AFMC releases $8m for multiple projects under We Need initiative. The AFMC’s initiative is managed by the Commander’s Accelerated Initiatives Office (CDX). The US Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) has released $8m to support various innovation initiatives across the enterprise, under its ongoing ‘We Need’ efforts. Launched in 2019, AFMC’s We Need is a command-wide initiative to identify challenges and opportunities related to mission requirements, as well as suggest ways to address the challenges for future. The allocated fund and initiative are managed by the Commander’s Accelerated Initiatives Office (CDX).
AFMC CDX team Lindsay McNeely said: “All of the projects that were funded have a direct impact on our airmen. For projects that were submitted but not funded this round, our CDX teams are continuing to work with the innovators and intrapreneurs to help them further develop ideas and find resources to support.”
In 2020, AFMC released around $20m to support some of the We Need projects. It was followed by a $10m allocation last year to expedite change across the mission. The projects under the latest round include Project FoX, which involves establishing a government-owned open software enclave on fielded weapon systems to provide advanced combat capabilities to warfighters. Furthermore, the command allocated $2m for wearable sensors and to provide heat injury prevention, continuous fitness and fatigue risk assessment to the airmen. Another $400,000 was allocated for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Centre (AFLCMC) Contracting Directorate Remote Desktop Protocol to replace out-of-warranty computers with a virtual machine environment.
AFMC earmarked $75,000 for the Spark Cells project, $106,000 for upgrading CCTVs in dormitories at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB) and $4.8m for purchasing around 4,100 laptops to replace old computers used by AFMC’s airmen. The CDX team is tracking additional projects that may receive funding later this year. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
23 June 22. US Army lacks plan to modernize Apache helicopter, lawmakers say. The U.S. Army has no clear plan for modernizing its AH-64E Apache attack helicopter, leaving the House Armed Services Committee concerned, according to the chairman’s mark of the fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill, released this week. The Army requested $10 m for an “Apache Future Development program,” as the helicopter is expected to continue to be in service until at least 2050, the committee notes, but “the service has no comprehensive, budgeted plan to modernize the aircraft over the next 30 years.” Even so, the committee wants to authorize an additional $25 m for the effort in FY23 to conduct engineering analysis and address near-term modernization needs. The Army has conducted remanufacturing efforts for the aircraft every 12 to 15 years, but has not said anything about future modernization beyond plans for it to receive the new Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) engine. The first ITEP engine is in government testing that will continue throughout most of 2022. The service also recently outfitted the aircraft with Rafael-manufactured Spike Non-Line-of-Sight missiles for a longer range precision munition in the interim before it finds an enduring weapon with a bit more range.
The HASC wants the Army secretary to provide a briefing no later than Dec. 1 on a plan to enable its capability until the end of its service life.
“The briefing should include, at a minimum, major capability requirements necessary to meet the objectives of the most recent National Defense Strategy and the estimated costs and schedule associated with these requirements,” the mark states.
The Army is preparing to enter its second multiyear contract for the AH-64E, a variant that entered the fleet in 2012, and asked Congress this week to move forward on the deal. The multiyear contract would end in FY26.
The service is expected to soon enter into a multiyear contract for UH-60 Black Hawks as well. In February 2018, the Army stopped taking receipt of the Apache helicopter from Boeing, its manufacturer, after Army safety inspections of the fleet found the aircraft’s strap pack nut, which holds very large bolts that keep the rotor blades on the helicopter, had cracking and corrosion due to climate and stress.
Boeing had to redesign the strap pack nut, and the Army resumed acceptance of the aircraft in September that year.
The HASC is also asking for assurances the supply chain for the ITEP engine remains stable as it moves from first tests into actual aircraft in the coming years.
ITEP will be installed in Black Hawks and Apaches as well as the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft. The ITEP is slated to be integrated into the prototypes of two teams competing to be chosen to build the new aircraft by the end of the year.
The committee wants a report from the Army secretary by April 1, 2023 “analyzing the supply chain for ITEP.”
The report should include information on the supply chain now as well as each engine component made in the U.S. and at international locations and imported into the U.S. It should also offer an assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the supply chain.
The ITEP, developed by General Electric Aviation, is already delayed due to pandemic supply chain issues, Defense News previously reported.
The report is tasked with identifying potential defense supply chain vulnerabilities “through analysis of the scope of foreign control over critical military supply chains.” And the analysis should provide courses of action that can be taken to minimize vulnerabilities resulting from foreign control of materials and to restore domestic control over those materials. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
REST OF THE WORLD
29 June 22. CSIRO launches cyber security program for SMEs. Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is providing free research and development support to businesses working in the cyber security sector. CSIRO’s Innovate to Grow: Cyber Security program, commences 26 July and is available for 20-25 Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). Applications close 11 July: Innovate to Grow: Cyber Security
Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) working on new cyber security solutions can join the free, 10-week online Innovate to Grow program, offered by CSIRO, to support their commercial idea with research and development expertise. Upon completion of the program, participants will be able to access facilitation support, through CSIRO, to connect to research expertise nationally, along with dollar-matched R&D funding.
CSIRO’s SME Collaboration Lead Dr George Feast said the COVID-19 pandemic had led to an increased risk of cyber security attacks.
“Just like many other parts of the world, Australia’s dependence on the internet saw a big increase during the pandemic, with many services moving online and more people working from home than ever before,” Dr Feast said.
According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre, there was an annual increase of 13 per cent of cybercrime reports in the 2020-21 financial year.
“To stay ahead of these cyber attacks, new solutions are required, and much of this is driven by SMEs developing new products and services through R&D,” he added.
“SMEs make up 99.8 per cent of all businesses in Australia. However, R&D can be an expensive undertaking for businesses and risky for those without the right guidance and support.”
“Participants will be given help to refine a new idea they want to explore and to better understand their idea’s business and scientific viability. They will also be exposed to industry knowledge, hear from innovation and industry experts, and work with an R&D mentor. Companies will also tap into CSIRO’s own cyber security expertise through Data61, CSIRO’s data and digital specialist arm ,” Dr Feast said.
“Even though collaboration is key in driving good R&D outcomes, research we released last year found that less than 15 per cent of Australian businesses engage universities or research institutions for their innovation activities – our goal through this program is to up that percentage.”
CSIRO’s Innovate to Grow: Cyber Security program, commences 26 July and is available for 20-25 Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). Applications close 11 July: Innovate to Grow: Cyber Security. (Source: Rumour Control)
30 June 22. Giant Leap for Space Industry R&D in NSW. Technologies that aim to enhance our space-based defence surveillance capabilities, improve the performance of computers in space and deliver sovereign production of communication systems are among projects funded under a landmark new program. The NSW Space Research Network (SRN) will fund seven projects through its first Research Pilot Program, with two additional projects receiving seed funding.
Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology Alister Henskens said NSW already has an incredible depth of talent in the space industry and this investment will accelerate local R&D opportunities.
“With many industries looking to increase their output and improve efficiency through space-enabled technologies, the value of the global space sector is forecast to reach more than US$1 trillion by 2040,” Mr Henskens said.
“Collaboration between government, industry and our universities is essential to successful commercialisation of our world leading research. This investment is another example of our commitment to turbocharging local R&D opportunities so that our State remains at the forefront of this innovative and rapidly growing industry.”
The SRN is a university-led initiative, funded by the NSW Government, designed to enhance the local space industry through collaboration with government and academic research institutions.
NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said the SRN was at the forefront of NSW’s push to play a significant role in the global space industry.
“NSW boasts world-leading space R&D, and is home to the largest concentration of space-related activity in Australia, with more than 40 per cent of the country’s space businesses and more than a third of its space startups,” Professor Durrant-Whyte said.
SRN co-director Professor Stefan Williams from The University of Sydney said the Network will develop and support a comprehensive strategy to grow space research and industry capacity within NSW.
“This will be achieved through a focus on supporting collaborative projects, knowledge exchange, educational opportunities and community outreach,” Prof. Williams said.
29 June 22. RAN ‘extremely optimistic’ 2030 SSN delivery. The Defence Minister has acknowledged the Royal Australian Navy is unlikely to assume ownership of a nuclear-powered submarine before 2030 but has again committed to exploring alternative options to fill the capability gap.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles has shed new light on the expected delivery timeline for Australia’s next-generation fleet of nuclear-powered submarines promised under the AUKUS technology-sharing agreement.
The Minister has cooled speculation over early delivery, amid speculation boats could be purchased off-the-shelf, hitting Australian waters before 2030.
“I think that is optimistic in the extreme,” he told the ABC.
Minister Marles, who is currently serving as acting Prime Minister during Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s tour of Europe, said the former Morrison government set the project on a path for SSN delivery in the 2040s.
“Now, we will be looking at every option available to try and bring that time forward. I think bringing it forward to eight years from now would be extremely optimistic,” he added.
This follows former defence minister and federal opposition leader Peter Dutton’s recent backing of the selection of the US-designed Virginia Class platforms.
According to Dutton, the Virginia Class submarine — currently under consideration by the Nuclear-Powered Submarine Task Force, along with the UK’s Astute Class platforms — became the “obvious” choice.
Notably, Dutton touted the possibility of an off-the-shelf purchase of two Virginia Class submarines before 2030, in addition to a further eight vessels built in South Australia, taking the total size of the prospective RAN fleet to 10.
Instead, Minister Marles is exploring alternative options to fill the capability gap.
“[If] there is a gap which arises, we’ll have a solution to plugging it. But let’s be clear, there is a big mess that’s been left to this government,” he said.
“We will clean it up.”
He said the government is “open minded” regarding a stop-gap solution, adding “all possibilities are on the table”.
The deputy PM did not rule out proceeding the life-of-type extensions (LOTE) for the Collins Class fleet, promised by the former government.
“I think life-of-type extensions will play an important part here. But we are very open minded about whatever options there are in terms of closing the capability gap,” he said.
The Collins LOTE program would involve rebuilding each submarine once it achieves 30 years of service, with each upgrade scheduled to take approximately two years. The submarines would reportedly be rebuilt by ASC in Adelaide, with the work to be supported by Saab Kockums, the original co-builder of the fleet. (Source: Defence Connect)
29 June 22. RoK backs proposal to acquire additional F-35s. A defence subcommittee of the South Korean government has backed a proposal to purchase additional Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jets. Speaking to Janes, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) confirmed the proposal. DAPA said that the proposal is under way and did not provide additional details at the time of publication. South Korean media reported on 29 June that the project was approved on 9 June by a subcommittee of the Defense Project Promotion Committee. This second F-35A project is expected to cost KRW3.9 trillion (USD3 bn), according to media reports.
The potential acquisition of these aircraft is in line with previous announcements by Seoul about its interest in acquiring 20 additional aircraft. However, in May, a supplementary budget law approved by the South Korean National Assembly reduced the country’s defence funding for 2022 by more than KRW1.5 trillion (USD1.2 bn). The largest cut was to the aircraft acquisition budget, which sees KRW228.6 bn in reductions. (Source: Janes)
29 June 22. UN encourages SA companies to bid for aviation services contracts. One of the largest acquisitions of services by the United Nations is for air transport, and South African companies are being urged to bid for these contracts as local companies have the necessary capabilities and experience.
This is one of the outcomes that emerged from the United Nations Procurement Summit hosted at the CSIR in Pretoria last Friday, where senior UN officials unpacked UN procurement processes and requirements.
In 2021, the UN Secretariat spent nearly $3 bn on procurement, with the largest single item ICT ($418 m), followed closely by air transport ($394 m), with building and construction coming in third at $331 m. Fuels, including aviation fuel, was number five at $234 m.
In 2021, 14.5% of all UN Secretariat spend was on aviation contracts. As spend was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN pointed out that aviation is usually the number one spend category, as was the case in 2019, when the Secretariat spent $478m on air transport, followed by ICT at $418m, and fuels at $372m.
Commercial aviation expenditure dropped slightly during the pandemic, but is on the rise again. For example, commercial aviation spend was $461m in 2018, $478m in 2019, $371m in 2020, and $394m in 2021.
On average, annual expenditure for long term air charter services amounts to 70% of all aviation spend.
There are five main pillars of the UN’s aviation procurement: long term air charter for the transportation of cargo and passengers in mission areas; aeromedical evacuation; long term air charter agreements for the strategic movement of troops in and out of missions; ad hoc/VIP requirements; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
As of June 2022, the UN had 173 fixed and rotary wing aircraft on commercial contracts and military letters of assistance around the world. This is as follows: MINURSO in Western Sahara (5); UNSMIL in Libya (1); UNFICYP in Cyprus (3); UNIFIL in Lebanon (7); UNAMI in Iraq (2); UNAMA in Afghanistan (2); UNMHA in Yemen (2); UNITAMS in Sudan (3); UNSOS in Somalia (23); UNISFA in Abyei (11); UNMISS in South Sudan (26); MONUSCO in the DRC (41); MINSUCA in the CAR (21); UNOWAS in Senegal (1); UNVMC in Colombia (2); and MINUSMA in Mali (49). Of these missions, MINUSMA, MONUSCO and MINUSCA operate a combined 26 unmanned aerial vehicles, including Aladdin, Luna, Heron I, Orbiter 2/3 and Falco Evo aircraft.
The majority (67%) of UN aerial assets are rotary wing, with 20% fixed wing and 13% unmanned. Rotary wing assets include Bell 212, CH-146/147, MD500, Mi-17, Mi-24, Mi-26, Mi-8, Oryx, Puma and Rooivalk helicopters. Fixed wing aircraft range from large to small, and include C-130/L-300 Hercules, Saab 340s, Il-76s, Beech 1900s, ATR 72, An-26s and others.
Procurement Assistant Jean Murphy and Remy Raul, Procurement Officer with the aviation division of the UN’s Procurement Division, told Summit attendees that the UN is shifting from guaranteed air ambulance contracts to more on-call (not dedicated) requirements and is also shifting to standby/not guaranteed contracts for ad hoc passenger transport. It expects to issue more ISR requirements in the coming few months.
Current opportunities include multiple solicitations for mission air assets; requests for proposals (RFPs) for UAVs and ISR services, with upcoming opportunities including fixed and rotary wing services in support of UN peacekeeping operations; fixed and rotary wing services in support of UNITAMS in Sudan; global strategic troop movement flights; regular heavy cargo flights for UNMISS and MONUSCO, and ISR services for multiple missions. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
27 June 22. DIP opens Round 6 of Collaborative Research Fund in July.
Round 6 of the Defence Innovation Partnership’s (DIP) Collaborative Research Fund will open on 11 July 2022, offering up to $150,000 to support collaboration for defence-relevant research and development.
The Fund aims to support genuine collaboration across government, universities and industry, as a catalyst for defence-relevant research, development and innovation. Assessment criteria are based on:
- Viability and Feasibility
- Alignment to DIP objectives
For further information go to the Fund’s web page.
To date, the Collaborative Research Fund has provided almost $3m to 20 South Australian based projects from a range of disciplines, with a number of completed projects which have been successful in securing funding from other sources such as the Defence Innovation Hub to continue their work.
Be sure to follow the DIP on social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) to keep up to date on our funding calls and announcements.
Consultations are happening now. Contact the DIP team to secure a consultation about your idea today. (Source: Rumour Control)
27 June 22. Northrop Grumman positions Fire Scout to meet RAN needs. Northrop Grumman is positioning its MQ-8C Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to compete for future phases of the Royal Australian Navy’s Project SEA 129 Ph.5. A few weeks ago former Minister for Defence (and now Opposition Leader) Peter Dutton announced that the RAN would buy up to 40 Schiebel S-100 Camcopter Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) UAVs to equip its ANZAC-class frigates and Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Boats under Tranche 1 of SEA 129 Ph.5.
However, the service has maintained that the project will see the Navy’s UAV capability refreshed multiple times over the coming 30 years at an estimated cost of around $1.6 bn, so there are plenty of potential on-ramps for companies who missed out on the first tranche. As the RAN develops both its expertise and its expectations, Northrop Grumman Australia believes the Australian potential for Fire Scout will grow, according to Jake Campbell, the company’s Canberra-based Project Director for Fire Scout.
“Navy has shown a real drive towards uncrewed systems,” he told EX. Indeed, the service’s Warfighting Innovation Navy (WIN) section, which forms part of Navy Capability, released the RAN’s RAS-AI Strategy 2040 late last year – RAS-AI stands for Robotic and Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence and the RAN is determined not to be caught wanting in this emergent area.
The RAN’s principal need at present is for ISR rather than another weapons platform. A mix of Fire Scout and MH-60R Seahawk, using Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T), would be effective in both Anti-Surface vessel and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASuW and ASW) across a wide enough area and long enough range that concealment and counter-targeting by an enemy would become extremely difficult.
Periodic technology ‘refreshes’ would see upgrades (and possibly complete replacement) of the sensor suite, weapons fit and flight control system, leaving the platform largely unchanged.
For that reason, the MQ-8C employs a modular payload concept that can accommodate new payload and sensor combinations such as the US Navy’s AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block II mine warfare system. It can also carry 48 G-sized sonobuoys for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) work.
With a nominal five-year refresher rate, the window of opportunity re-opens for maritime UAV and payload manufacturers with an RFT around 2026. The MQ-8C Fire Scout that Northrop Grumman will offer for later tranches of SEA 129 is used by the US Navy principally as an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform equipped with the AN/ZPY-8 radar – Leonardo’s Osprey 30 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) sensor – along with the FLIR Systems Inc. BRITE Star II EO/IR sensor and laser rangefinder/designator, and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) to help track and identify surface vessels.
The Fire Scout system has been deployed to the Indo Pacific region for the first time aboard a US Navy Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), USS Jackson, which will be based in Singapore for the remainder of this year. The likelihood is that it will take part in exercises, and possibly even operational deployments, alongside RAN ships.
Based on the proven Bell 407 helicopter, itself a derivative of the long-lived Bell 206 JetRanger, the MQ-8C is powered by the 522kW Rolls-Royce M250-C47E engine which bestows an operational take-off weight of about 6,000lb, a cruise speed of about 115kt and a 11-hour endurance when carrying a 300lb payload. Its maximum payload is 700lb, the company says, and it has a service ceiling of about 16,000ft. The system achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2019 and the US Navy plans to acquire 38 at present.
The Fire Scout’s ferry range is 1,000nm, though the company claims a maximum operating radius of 150nm – this is due to the range limitations of the Line of Sight Tactical Data Link (TADIL) by which the UAV is controlled and through which it downloads its sensor feed. However, if you add 150nm to the 150-200nm range claimed by Leonardo for the Osprey 30 radar, the ability to integrate AIS data, track up to 1,000 surface contacts and then partially identify some using its Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) mode, then you have added a significant over-the-horizon surface surveillance capability to whatever surface ship the Fire Scout launched from.
The current concept of operations is that the aircraft would launch, climb to its optimum cruising altitude of about 16,000ft, and then fly out to its operational area. It would remain on station for 8-12 hours, depending on its role equipment fit and mission requirements, and then return to base. The 150nm range limitation may disappear if the company goes ahead with its plan to implement a Satellite Communications (SATCOM) link for the Fire Scout.
Greater range and payload
The MQ-8C is a significant departure from its predecessor, the MQ-8B which is based on the Schweizer 330SP helicopter. The US Navy had 20 MQ-8Bs in service and these are being replaced by the ‘Charlie’.
Although the B-model uses a similar Rolls-Royce engine, the newer ‘Charlie’ model has twice the range and payload, says Lance Eischeid, Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout Project Director for the US Navy. Furthermore, he says, it is based on an airframe/powerplant/transmission combination that is in production and proven over several years in military and civil service, so the platform risks associated with this capability are low.
The Fire Scout has achieved nearly 20,000 flying hours and well over 6,200 sorties from multiple surface ships, most of these by the B-model, so the US Navy has addressed in depth the issues of integrating such a system with a surface warship and of operating it efficiently. The system is integrated with the US Navy’s FFG-7s and DDG51s (Block IIA and later) and the US Coastguard Bertholf-class National Security Cutter, has been deployed aboard the US Navy’s new class of Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ships which have large flight decks and hangars, and they will be integrated also with the new Constellation-class FFG-62 guided missile frigates which will start to enter service from 2026.
Looking at future tranches of Project SEA 129 Ph.5, the company says there is a strong argument for a large, robust airframe that can carry whatever payload the user requires to an acceptable range. The MQ-8C can be integrated relatively easily with the RAN’s major fleet units, the ANZAC and Hunter-class frigates, Hobart-class DDGs and the Canberra-class LHDs, says Northrop Grumman. These ships can support a UAV with greater Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) requirements and have the deck and hangar space to operate and support UAVs with more sophisticated payload systems than smaller ships. A utility capability enabling the Fire Scout to carry cargo and even casualties would probably be welcome, too, says Eischeid.
Aboard the US Navy’s Independence-class LCSs, there is a shortage of separate magazine space so the service hasn’t chosen to arm its MQ-8Cs with the 2.75in Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) with which the UAV is integrated. However, the APKWS remains an option as does the AGM-114 Hellfire with which the MQ-8C is also integrated. The RAN’s 36 MH-60R Seahawks also carry Hellfires.
But the Fire Scout is not a stand-alone system, says Eischeid. One of its key responsibilities is MUM-T – essentially, it is designed to operate in partnership with the US (and Australian) Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. In RAN service it would likely be used principally to support force manoeuvre by helping build and maintain Situational Awareness (SA) to help detect and identify surface and submerged targets for an offensive response, and conduct over the horizon targeting, sharing the target information with the mother ship as well as the manned helicopter.
The ability to deploy sonobuoys at a significant distance from a mother ship, with an MH-60R nearby to prosecute contacts with a Mk 54 lightweight torpedo, adds to the ASW capabilities of the ship and the area it can surveil.
The embarked ’footprint’ of a UAV is important. With blades folded the MQ-8C would occupy slightly less real estate on a ship than a manned helicopter – about 35ft x 8 ft with a hangar ceiling height of just under 12ft, says Northrop Grumman Australia, but wouldn’t require the same crew facilities. The embarked crew per UAV would consist, at minimum, of one Plane Captain and one maintainer.
Launch and Recovery of the UAV and then flight and mission management are undertaken by an Air Vehicle Operator (AVO) and a Mission Payload Operator (MPO) working in the ground control station. The launch and recovery phases use one of the UHF/VHF radios on the aircraft and in the ground control system – this is called the Recovery Data Link (RDL).
Once airborne, the operators use the Command and Control (C2) Link to manage the Fire Scout mission. Both the C2 and Payload Data Links can be switched to use the ship’s own Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) as the Primary Data Link (PDL). Both the SDL and PDL require Line of Sight (LOS) between the aircraft and mother ship; however, if equipped with SATCOM, the C2 and Payload links will no longer need LOS.
The ground control station can be a built-in ship system, says Northrop Grumman, or portable: the US Navy uses its own Mobile Mission Control System (MMCS) and the company’s own Expeditionary Mission Control System or MCSX is also available, and in both cases these systems are tied into the ship antennas. The current typical installation also requires the ship to be equipped with the US military’s UAV Common Automatic Recovery System (UCARS) and TCDL, though installation of an Optical Landing System on the Fire Scout can eliminate the need for UCARS on the ship.
The MCS-X has passed the US Navy trials stage; it takes all of the current functionality of the Fire Scout control system and repackages it into small, portable cases for rapid re-assembly at different locations – this could be aboard different ships or ashore, as the customer wishes.
The Fire Scout technology roadmap includes both SATCOM and Optical Landing and the company is already investing in these capabilities, it says. It is also preparing for the US Navy to adopt Link 16 on Fire Scout which in turn would enable in-flight targeting upgrades (IFTU) of missiles such as the Harpoon Bock II+ ER, Naval Strike Missile (NSM), Future Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) and Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST).
The RAN is a small service by regional standards but punches well above its weight thanks both to the quality of its training and the high technology it is able to deploy and use. It may take a couple of years for the RAN to refine its understanding of and then its operational requirements for the next generation of maritime UAVs, but the service has already embraced uncrewed technology across several separate mission areas and is committed to doing much more in the future – UAVs is just one of those areas, says Jake Campbell. This is where Northrop Grumman sees its opportunity in the longer term. (Source: Rumour Control)
24 June 22. Having visited Pakistan and China, is Argentina ready to buy the JF-17 jet? The recent visit to Pakistan by the head of Argentina’s joint military staff has fed speculation that a JF-17 fighter jet deal is on the horizon following more than a decade of interest by the South American nation. But despite China’s willingness to help fund an acquisition program, its unclear if any major progress was made.
Lt. Gen. Juan Martín Paleo visited with several military and government figures June 14-15 in Islamabad including Pakistan Air Force head Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu and Minister for Defence Production Muhammad Israr Tareen.
While Paleo is Argentina’s senior military officer, he is not the key decision-maker on the selection of a new fighter jet. That role belongs to Gen. Xavier Isaac, the head of the Air Force.
In May, a delegation of Air Force pilots and technicians evaluated the JF-17 in China. This included a full technical evaluation, use of a simulator and evaluation flights. In the more recent trip to Pakistan, officials discussed collaboration on defense materiel production during a visit to the Ministry of Defence Production.
Neither the ministry, the Defence Export Promotion Organization nor the local Argentine Embassy responded to requests for additional information.
However, sources in Argentina told Defense News that officials discussed the possibility of having the FC-1 — the export variant of the JF-17 — assembled in the country, with parts and components supplied by China and Pakistan in addition to some produced locally. The country would eventually want to be able to make major modifications to its own FC-1 aircraft, said military officers and government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of concerns over job security.
April 26, 2022, at the country’s Defense Ministry. (Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Argentina)
Andrei Serbin Pont, who leads the Argentina-based think tank CRIES and was previously an adviser at the country’s Strategic Affairs Secretariat, is unconvinced Paleo’s trip implies a deal for the JF-17 Thunder is imminent.
“In my experience, nothing in [the] Argentine defense sector is set [in] stone until contracts are signed and Argentina actually starts paying,” he said, especially given the country’s ongoing economic crisis is “quite profound, with reserves running dangerously low and possibilities of default.”
The government is also unlikely to make large defense investments with no political benefit; elections are a year away, which isn’t enough time for the ruling party to “harvest the political capital gained from any successful military purchases.”
The government’s preference to balance suppliers by nationality may also hinder JF-17 acquisition efforts, as it prefers “to express a certain degree of equidistance with China and the United States, hoping not to damage the relationship,” Serbin Pont explained.
Argentina’s Army is currently considering an eight-wheel drive armored fighting vehicle from China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, also known as NORINCO. If selected, “this will likely reduce the chances of the Air Force going for the JF-17, and vice versa,” he said.
Why choose the JF-17?
Since retiring its last Mirage aircraft in 2015, the Argentine Air Force has lacked high-performing, supersonic interceptors. Its current operational inventory includes at least 10 A-4 fighter-bombers, which are supplemented by armed IA-63 Pampa jet trainers.
In September 2021, Argentina’s Defense Ministry allocated $664 m for the acquisition of 12 fighter aircraft, having received offers from Russia for the MiG-29 and MiG-35 Fulcrum as well as and China and Pakistan for the JF-17, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Plans to acquire aircraft from other sources have foundered in recent years, reportedly as a result of pressure from the UK,” the London-based think tank wrote in its latest “Military Balance” report.
It’s likely Argentina is specifically considering the JF-17 Block III variant, which is currently under production for Pakistan, said Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based International Assessment and Strategy Center think tank.
The Block III features an active electronically scanned array radar as well as advanced weaponry like the PL-15 long-range air-to-air missile and supersonic anti-ship missiles. Consequently, Fisher said, the variant would “be the most competitive against British F-35B and Typhoon fighters,” and Western and Russian subsystems and components could easily be swapped for Chinese versions, potentially neutralizing the threat of sanctions.
“Argentina appears to be seeking the best capability for the lowest expenditure,” he said, and this “augurs well for the JF-17.″ The aircraft is facing off against a Danish offer of a dozen surplus F-16A/B MLU fighters.
Based on statements made by several Argentine military and government officials, there is interest in basing future interceptor jets at Rio Grande in the province of Tierra del Fuego to defense the southern tip of the country. Other possibilities include Tandil in the province of Buenos Aires, Reconquista in the province of Santa Fe and Villa Reynolds in the province of San Luis.
Asked whether the aircraft would meet operational requirements, Serbin Pont said the Air Force is effectively out of options. “So the JF-17, even with limitations in comparison to other fourth- and fourth-plus-generation fighters in the market, would be an upgrade for [Argentina’s Air Force].”
Assembly and funding
Fisher noted Argentina’s hopes to locally produce the JF-17, and wondered “whether Pakistan would approve and contribute to a competitive Argentine co-production capability,” as the South American country wants to become “a regional combat aircraft provider, with the JF-17 as its main product.”
Currently, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has a 58% work share in the JF-17 program, meaning even aircraft exported to Myanmar by Chinese partner Chengdu Aircraft Corp. were partially manufactured in Pakistan, with final assembly by the corporation.
While the Pakistani complex would lose work due to Argentine production, it would still receive royalties. And local assembly would still see the aeronautics specialist make the same percentage of each aircraft before parts are shipped to Argentina.
Final assembly of the aircraft and the production of parts could take place at the Fábrica Argentina de Aviones “Brigadier San Martín” in Cordoba, but work would likely involve other subcontractors spread across in the country. A center for the maintenance of engines and subcomponents could be set up at the Air Force’s Área Material Río Cuarto, also in Cordoba.
It’s also possible the program would involve INVAP, a business based at Bariloche in the Patagonia region that specializes in developing radars and optronics, and has the capability to develop indigenous systems or adapt foreign systems for aircraft integration.
Fisher said Pakistan “baulked” at Argentina’s co-production plans a decade ago, but that Paleo’s visit “is a strong indication that a future Argentine acquisition of JF-17 will be done with full Pakistan cooperation and inclusion in possible co-production deals.”
Additionally, Chinese-backed local assembly and production “would add political incentive to Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and perhaps Cuba to consider this low-cost fighter,” he added.
Fisher believes this would aid China’s regional ambitions, noting China offered Argentina the more capable F-10C Firebird “around 2014 to 2015.″ However, “it appears that it was too expensive,” he noted.
This is unlikely to be an issue for the more affordable JF-17, as “very concessionary” Chinese funding of “all major weapons purchases” will be forthcoming, he added.
Military sources told Defense News that China offered a government-to-government loan for an eventual order of the jet, and is willing to accept partial payment in beef and other commodities produced by Argentina.
“If China wants to upend the strategic balance in Latin America with the eager help of Argentina and others who will fight with her, China is going to have to subsidize the weapons purchases to start those events,” Fisher said. (Source: Defense News)
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