UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
02 Mar 23. DASA seeks AI innovations to solve defence challenges.
This IFA seeks innovative proposals that apply AI to defence challenges and help overcome common barriers to implementing AI within defence
- DASA has launched a new Innovation Focus Area (IFA) called Artificial Intelligence for Defence
- This IFA is run on behalf of the Defence AI Centre (DAIC), which seeks to exploit innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) research at pace
- This IFA seeks to harness many types of AI innovations to deliver significant benefits to defence, such as autonomous logistics, machine-speed decision making and human-machine teaming for military effects
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) and the Defence AI Centre (DAIC) are pleased to launch a new Innovation Focus Area (IFA), Artificial Intelligence for Defence. This IFA seeks proposals for innovative research projects that apply AI to defence challenges and / or aim to overcome common barriers to implementing AI within defence.
Applying AI to overcome common defence challenges
The Defence AI Strategy (DAIS) sets out the UK’s vision to adapt and exploit Artificial Intelligence (AI) at pace and scale for defence advantage. This IFA aims to generate the best ideas from a diverse range of innovators and offers the opportunity for innovators to suggest AI projects to defence.
The application of AI to defence challenges will enhance military capability, allowing the UK and its allies to maintain an advantage in defence and security. Defence also wants to harness the efficiency benefits that AI is bringing to a wide range of other sectors. Examples of desired outcomes from AI include changes in:
- the quality and timeliness of intelligence data available to military commanders
- the effectiveness in planning and conducting operations
- reducing the risk to life of armed forces personnel through the use of uncrewed, autonomous platforms
- automating routine tasks to free defence personnel up to do higher value activities
- achieving better value for the taxpayer by making the business of defence more efficient
Do you have a novel idea or concept? Read the full IFA document and submit a proposal.
DASA and DAIC are interested in funding proposals that harness all types of AI to deliver significant benefits to defence. For example:
- autonomous logistics and any research with the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of the logistics chain or increase availability
- exploiting operational data, e.g. to support intelligence analysis, or to protect the force. This could require using open source data or classified data from any source, including sensors; if the exploitation of the innovation is likely to use classified data, your proposal would benefit from considering how this could be achieved (please note that no classified data will be provided)
- human-machine teaming for military effect (including the use of autonomous systems within the force, and the coordination of multiple crewed / autonomous systems)
- machine-speed decision making (e.g. to support operational planning and command and control)
- increasing efficiency, or how defence manages and supports its people and its systems
For a more detailed breakdown of this IFA’s challenge areas, read the full IFA document.
Is your innovation suitable for this IFA? See DASA’s other AI competitions.
Please note that proposals addressing the application of AI to either sub-threshold activity in the information domain, or understanding and analysing audiences should apply to different DASA competitions. These particular themes will be will be the focus of the competitions, Machine Speed Strategic Analysis (MSSA) and Understanding Audiences.
See Competitions in our Pipeline for more information: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/apply-for-funding
Please speak to your Innovation Partner if you have any questions: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contact-a-dasa-innovation-partner
Submit a proposal
Do you have an AI innovation that applies AI to defence challenges and / or aims to overcome common barriers to implementing AI within defence?
Read the full IFA and submit a proposal: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/defence-and-security-accelerator-dasa-open-call-for-innovation/ifa039-ai-for-defence
01 Mar 23. Upgrades to DASA proposal submission service. Some areas of DASA’s proposal submission service will be temporarily unavailable while we undertake necessary upgrades.
- Work to implement upgrades to our online proposal submissions service is due to complete by 16 March 2023
- During this time you will not be able to apply for DASA’s Open Call, Innovation Focus Areas or Themed Competitions
- Relevant competition documents, proposal guidelines and a locked PDF version of our new application form will be made available enabling submissions to be started offline.
Following feedback from innovators and assessors, DASA is working to make improvements to our application process. As this work is being undertaken, we will need to temporarily close the online submissions service for the Open Call for Innovation (including Innovation Focus Areas) and Themed Competitions until 16 March 2023. This is a later date than previously advertised and we apologise for any inconvenience.
The updates to the submission service will include:
- Improvements to the application form to make it easier to complete and assess
- Clearer application guidelines for innovators
- Clearer assessment guidelines for assessors and moderators
Open Call for Innovation (including Innovation Focus Areas) and Themed Competitions
To minimise disruption, the DASA Open Call for Innovation will reopen on 2 March as planned and we will continue to launch new Themed Competitions. However, you will not be able to submit applications to these competitions online until 16 March. A locked PDF version of the application form will be made available so that proposals can be started offline. Once the portal has reopened, information can be transferred to the online application form.
Defence Innovation Loans/DTEP
You may still submit applications for Defence Innovation Loans and the Defence Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP) using the submission service.
Completion of work
The submissions service is due to fully reopen on 16 March 2023. We will publicise this on the DASA website, social media and through our mailing lists.
If you have any questions during this time, please contact your local Innovation Partner.
Not signed up to for updates? Email to be added to our mailing list. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
27 Feb 23. Timeline for new UK Chinooks extends to the right. New transport helicopters that will benefit UK special forces now expected to achieve initial operational capability by 2028. The UK’s ability to conduct tactical battlefield airlift, particularly among the country’s special forces operators, will be constrained until 2028 when initial operational capability (IOC) of the first of 14 new CH-47 Extended Range (ER) transport helicopters is expected to be achieved.
Detailing the status of key equipment programmes for the British Army, senior officials from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) told the UK Defence Committee on 21 February that the revised timescale was a result of issues on the US Government’s side, which is managing the export through its foreign military sale (FMS) programme.
At the time of the FMS agreement, it was anticipated that deliveries would begin in 2026, with IOC coming one year later. However, deliveries will now only take place from 2027.
The UK MoD had hoped to move the timeline for the programme forward, but it has been unable to do so with the adjusted timeline the latest setback for the British Army as it struggles with key platform acquisition programmes.
It was also revealed that 14 older CH-47 airframes will be retired from the fleet of approximately 60-70 at present, as the ER variants are inducted into service. With the 14 ER platforms predominantly dedicated for special forces, this means regular forces will see a reduction in available aircraft numbers.
UK transport fleet feeling the pinch
In addition, UK tactical airlift, of which the CH-47 platform one element, will be further hit as the C-130J transporter begins to leave service this year. As reported in October 2022 by Airforce Technology, the UK’s Defence Equipment Sales Authority will make the C-130J fleet available for acquisition as they are removed from service in the 2023-2025 timeframe.
UK special forces traditionally utilise the C-130J as an insertion platform due to its ability to conduct operations on unprepared airstrips. The CH-47(ER) would offset some of this loss, with the larger A400M transporter also expected to conduct such operations, although UK military certification of the A400 has not been completed.
Baseline modernised CH-47 helicopters are capable of speed in excess of 300km/h, with a fuel capacity of around 4,000 litres. The Block II programme, which the ER variant is derived from, is understood to have a maximum gross weight of 54,000lb or just under 25,000kg, or an empty weight of around 13,000kg. (Source: army-technology.com)
27 Feb 23. UK companies to provide services for future Moon missions. The UK Space Agency has announced over £50m for UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for missions to the Moon.
The new funding is part of the European Space Agency’s Moonlight programme, which aims to launch a constellation of satellites into orbit around the Moon, from 2028.
This will allow future astronauts, rovers, science experiments and other equipment to communicate, share large amounts of data including high-definition video, and navigate safely across the lunar surface.
The UK is one of the two leading international investors in the programme, alongside Italy, placing the UK space sector at the heart of this new frontier.
Independent research suggests more than 250 missions to the Moon are due to launch over the next decade alone, generating almost £90bn in global economic returns and thousands of new jobs.
The UK space and satellite sector currently employs 47,000 people across the country and is set to grow further, with increased government support.
Minister of State in the UK Department of Science, Technology and Innovation George Freeman said:
Space and satellite science and technology are at the forefront of our Science Superpower mission, which is why we have set out a 10-year Industrial Strategy for Space to attract the bns of commercial investment now coming into this sector, already worth £16.5 bn to the UK economy.
This new funding will help UK companies provide satellite services for the fast-emerging lunar communications economy for years to come, deepening our international collaborations through ESA, kick-starting the lunar economy and inspiring a new generation of scientists and explorers.
NASA plans to send astronauts to the Moon in the coming years and, working with ESA and other partners, intends to put a new space station called the Gateway with living quarters for astronauts in lunar orbit. The UK space industry is making important contributions to the Gateway, including the refuelling module.
Reliable navigation and communication capabilities are essential for these missions, and others like it, to succeed, supporting a future sustainable human presence on the Moon. Creating a shared telecommunications and navigation service can reduce some of the complexity and reduce overall costs.
Companies involved in Moonlight will be able to create a telecommunication and navigation service for ESA, while being free to sell lunar services and solutions to other agencies and commercial ventures.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
This is an incredibly exciting time for space exploration, with the successful Artemis I mission paving the way for humanity’s return to the Moon in the coming years.
These endeavours are more international and more commercial than ever before – and by playing a leading role in the ESA Moonlight programme, we are opening up significant opportunities for UK companies to build on their extensive expertise in satellite technology and benefit from the new lunar economy.”
The UK already leads the Lunar Pathfinder project to provide initial communications services to the Moon, which will also help to prepare for the next stage of Moonlight. The Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft, designed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), will include a navigation payload demonstrator to allow positioning and navigation on the lunar surface using satellites for the first time, similar to how we use satellite navigation on Earth. It is due to launch from 2025.
Science missions using Moonlight will be able to live stream high-quality video, increasing the volume of data and the speed of transfer, vastly improving the potential science outcomes.
Lunar rovers equipped with Moonlight receivers will be able to navigate autonomously with high accuracy on the lunar surface, enhancing mission opportunities and potential applications, and lowering their associated risk and cost.
UKspace Chair, John Hanley, said: “By investing in UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for the Moonlight Programme, the Government is not only supporting innovation and technological advancement, but delivering a critical component of the forthcoming vibrant and thriving lunar economy. We have seen previous lunar endeavours stimulate a range of unexpected technologies and processes used to enhance life on Earth, such as in food safety protocols or reflective insulation. This Moonlight investment will contribute to the next generation of advancements in lunar exploration that will lead to further scientific discoveries and technological improvements – all of which have the potential to benefit our lives on Earth.”
As a founding member of ESA, which is independent of the EU, the UK space sector plays a leading role in international missions and innovative commercial programmes. The UK committed £207 m to ESA telecommunications programmes during the Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris in November 2022. The £51 m announced today for Moonlight is part of that commitment.
If you are interested in taking part in Moonlight please contact the UK Space Agency at . (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
02 Mar 23. On May 10, 2023, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) will host the latest iteration of its “Blue Magic Belgium” event. This year’s event, which will be held in Charleroi, Belgium, near Brussels, will again bring together Belgian businesses and aerospace industry leaders. But this year’s event will grow to include more companies and a broader base of technologies that will vie for capital investment. Joining GA-ASI this year will be Lockheed Martin Ventures and Belgium-based technology facilitator A6K.
“We want to build on our successful Blue Magic concept to foster a collaborative environment for technology ideation and add even greater value to our suite of products and to advance our thrust towards information dominance,” said Brad Lunn, Managing Director-Strategic Finance at GA-ASI. “For this year’s event, we will broaden our concept by bringing in additional partners and ideation space. We will hear technology pitches, a lively panel discussion and host a networking event where participants can meet with other high-tech businesses and leaders to see if their capabilities can be leveraged in new and useful ways.”
Areas of focus for Blue Magic Belgium 2023 will be Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Autonomy, Advanced Materials, Sensors, Advanced Manufacturing and Space.
GA-ASI held its first Blue Magic Belgium event in 2019, with subsequent events held in 2020 and 2021. Since the inception of BMB, GA-ASI has commenced work with a broad range of Belgian businesses, including AeroSimulators Group; Airobot; ALX Systems; Coexpair; DronePort; Hexagon’s Safety, Infrastructure & Geospatial division; ScioTeq; SABCA; Thales Belgium; and ST Engineering. In 2020, the Belgian Ministry of Defense announced that it will acquire GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft.
Businesses interested in participating in the BMB 2023 event should visit
www.ga-asi.com/blue-magic-belgium-2023 for additional information and event registration. Deadline to submit pitch applications is March 27, 2023.
28 Feb 23. Poland eyes 1,400 new fighting vehicles to replace Soviet-era rides. In a major push to modernize the Polish land forces’ tracked vehicle fleet, Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak today signed a deal with a consortium led by Huta Stalowa Wola, a subsidiary of Poland’s defense giant PGZ, to acquire some 1,400 Borsuk (Badger) infantry fighting vehicles.
“The approval of our contract, the framework contract to order 1,400 Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles for the needs of the Polish military was described by one of the online news services as the largest project of the Polish defense industry in 50 years,” Błaszczak said at the official signing ceremony.
The government is expected to announce pricing information once individual task orders are negotiated with suppliers.
Błaszczak said the military will get the first four vehicles by the end of this year.
The Borsuk is fitted with a ZSSW-30 turret armed with a Mk44 Bushmaster II S 30 mm chain gun. The vehicle also carries a UKM-2000C 7.62 mm machine gun, among other weaponry, according to data from the Polish Ministry of National Defence.
The forthcoming procurement will enable the country’s military to replace its fleet of outdated BWP-1 vehicles, a variant of the Soviet-designed BMP-1. The move comes as Poland is intensifying efforts to replace Warsaw Pact-era gear with new weapons and equipment in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine.
On the battlefield, the new IFVs are expected to closely cooperate with the South Korean K2 Black Panther tanks Warsaw ordered for the nation’s armed forces last year. In total, the Polish Army is to receive some 1,000 tanks, of which 180 units will be produced by Hyundai Rotem in South Korea, and a further 820 tanks in the K2PL variant are to be jointly manufactured by the two countries’ defense industries. The first batch of the ordered K2s was delivered to Poland in late 2022.
In addition to South Korean tanks, in the coming years, Poland also intends to base its modern tank fleet on U.S. M1A2 Abrams. Huta Stalowa Wola will lead the industry efforts to develop a second IFV model, which will be heavier than the 28-ton Borsuk, that is specifically meant to cooperate with those tanks, according to Błaszczak. (Source: Defense News)
24 Feb 23. German Army looks to bolster combat power through LAH acquisition. In light of the Russia-Ukraine war, the German Army is now looking for a new fleet of light attack helicopters (LAHs) to augment its rotary-wing combat power. Speaking at the IQPC International Military Helicopter (IMH) 2023 conference held in London from 20 to 23 February, Lieutenant Colonel Torsten Kasper said that in the past few weeks, the army had updated its pre-existing requirement for a light utility helicopter (LUH) to a requirement for an LAH, which it envisaged would work in conjunction with the existing Airbus Tiger UHT attack helicopter fleet. (Source: Janes)
28 Feb 23. US Army chooses 5 companies to compete for Army’s future tactical UAS. The U.S. Army said it selected five companies to build prototypes in a competition to ultimately provide the service with a Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System.
Aerovironment, Griffon Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Textron Systems were each awarded contracts between $1 m and $25 m to participate in five development phases and four option periods over the next three years, according to a Feb. 28 Army statement.
The Army began considering requirements for a replacement for its Textron-made Shadow drone in 2018 and by 2019 had narrowed the pool of competitors to a Martin UAV-Northrop Grumman team, Textron Systems, L3Harris Technologies and Arcturus UAV. Aerovironment purchased Arcturus in 2021. Shield AI bought Martin UAV in the same year.
The service evaluated the four drone offerings over a year with operational units, culminating in a spring 2021 rodeo at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Army awarded Aerovironment an $8 m contract in August 2022 to provide the Jump 20 UAS as an interim FTUAS capability that will go to a single brigade.
The service reopened competition in October 2021 with a request for white papers, which resulted in a bigger pool of bidders, Maj. Gen. Rob Barrie, the Army’s program executive officer for aviation, told Defense News in an interview last fall.
The new cast of bidders contain all of the old ones, except for L3Harris. Sierra Nevada and Madison, Alabama-based Griffon Aerospace are newcomers; neither participated in the FTUAS Increment 1 competition. Boeing’s Insitu also told Defense News it had submitted a bid for the second increment of the competition last fall.
The Increment 2 effort will include a series of design reviews through the base period of the contract and two option periods, according to the Army. The remaining competitors will demonstrate capabilities in actual flight demonstrations and will go through third-party verification of modular open system architectures during the third option period of the contract.
If competitors pass through the gauntlet into the fourth option period, each team will provide air vehicles, mission systems packages, payloads and ground controllers among other tools and manuals in order to go through qualification testing and operational assessments, the Army stated.
“These systems will undergo numerous evaluation activities such as environmental testing, electromagnetic environmental effects testing, MOSA verification, and flight qualification testing” conducted at both company and government test facilities, the Army said in its statement.
The Army primarily wants its FTUAS to be a vertical take-off and landing aircraft, in order to be runway independent. Additionally, the service wants the system to have improved maneuverability and the capability to control the UAS on the move. Other attributes include a reduced transportation and logistics footprint and a quieter system than is offered today to avoid enemy detection.
The FTUAS should “improve the brigade combat team’s ability to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations that collect, develop, and report actionable intelligence information about the enemy in degraded Global Positioning System environments,” the statement adds.
While the Army did not detail its timeline for the contract and when it will exercise options as part of that in its announcement, according to fiscal 2023 Army budget documents, the service plans to wrap up its competitive prototyping effort in the first quarter of FY25.
The Army is then slated to make a rapid fielding decision in the second quarter of FY25 and to hold an operation evaluation in the third quarter of FY25. The system is planned to then enter full-rate production in the second quarter of FY26. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
28 Feb 23. USN reviews cost-saving design changes before resuming amphib buys. U.S. Navy is taking a “strategic pause” from buying amphibious ships, and using that time to study not just how many ships it wants but also the capabilities they should have when the service resumes buying them. The Navy in its fiscal 2023 budget request last spring truncated the San Antonio-class amphibious ship production line. It asked to buy LPD-32 in FY23 and then would not buy any more LPDs for the foreseeable future, according to its budget documents.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has called this a strategic pause, noting at a defense industry conference last week that the service would “probably” resume buying these medium-sized amphibious ships after a pair of studies: a battle force ship assessment and requirement that considers the quantity of ships, and a capabilities-based assessment that focuses on the ship design and capabilities.
“I think, as we look forward to the future, there’s always going to be a need for amphibious capability in order to take Marines forward,” Del Toro said Feb. 22 at a National Defense Industrial Association conference.
But in making similar remarks earlier in the month at the West naval conference in San Diego, California, Del Toro referred to “a continuing need to build more LPD-like ships well into the future,” once the studies are done.
Asked about the “LPD-like” terminology, Brig. Gen. Marcus Annibale told Defense News that “there is a study being done right now to look at the medium-sized amphib ship cost-saving opportunities, and I would be getting ahead of anybody to say what the outcome would be.”
Annibale serves as the Marine Corps’ director of expeditionary warfare on the chief of naval operations’ staff.
The Navy in 2014 decided to take its San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock design, built at Ingalls Shipbuilding, and use it as the basis for a Flight II ship that replaces the aging Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships. These Flight II vessels are less capable than the original San Antonio ships — and cost about $400 m less apiece — but are significantly more capable than the Whidbey Island ships.
Annibale said this is the trade space the Navy and Marine Corps are eyeing to see if there are additional changes that could be made to lessen the cost of buying Flight II LPDs.
Speaking to Defense News following a panel presentation at the NDIA conference, Annibale noted the first Flight II ship is under construction, meaning the Ingalls production line has been unable to prove how much it can reduce cost ship-over-ship.
Still, he said, “we’re taking a look at other opportunities for cost savings.”
During Annibale’s panel, Capt. Judd Krier, the amphibious warfare branch head in the expeditionary warfare directorate, said: “We are doing a capabilities-based assessment in fiscal year ’23, really looking at the requirements for what the future amphibious force needs for presence, deterrence and crisis response.”
Krier added that the assessment was not designed “necessarily just to design a ship, although that is certainly possible and a potential outcome.” More broadly, though, the assessment would question what the sea service needs for “the future amphibious force to maintain its lethality and survivability and sustainability in support of all the range of operations.”
A key unknown amid the talk of reassessing LPD Flight II capabilities and design is how long the effort will take. The Navy will buy LPD-32 this current fiscal year. To keep the production line at peak efficiency, it would have to buy the next ship in FY25.
An industry source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the individual was not authorized to talk abut the Navy’s deliberations, said the shipbuilding industry has heard the battle force ship assessment and requirement study might end sooner, but that the capabilities-based assessment could last longer and threaten the service’s ability to resume buying LPDs or LPD-like ships in FY25.
Ingalls Shipbuilding leadership has consistently expressed a need to keep LPDs on two-year intervals, which allows the company to maintain a stable workforce and engaged suppliers.
Ingalls spokeswoman Kimberly Aguillard told Defense News that, with 12 San Antonios delivered and three under construction today, including the first Flight II ship, “this Navy-industry team is performing at maximum efficiency on two-year construction intervals. Continuing this cadence enables the most affordable approach to meet the nation’s minimum 31 amphibious warship requirement.”
Annibale, from his perch as the resource sponsor for the amphibious ships, also told Defense News that “we’re concerned because we want to keep LPD on two-year centers, and we think that’s important to keep doing that.”
The Navy is expected to release its FY24 budget request on March 9, with additional details coming out March 13. However, that budget request may not reveal much about the plans for the LPD program, as FY24 was meant to be an off year for buying the ships on a two-year cadence. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
28 Feb 23. Army greenlights Electric Light Reconnaissance Vehicle prototype buy in 2024.
Both fully electric vehicles and hybrid-electric contenders will be considered for program.
Army leaders have approved the requirements to buy Electric Light Reconnaissance Vehicle prototypes next year, but despite their name, those vehicles may not be fully electric at all, according to a senior service official.
The Army has been eyeing ways to field EVs to soldiers for several years and even tested out potential eLRV candidates. While challenges remain for acquiring such vehicles, the service is now ready to move forward with the eLRV prototyping competition and the forthcoming fiscal 2024 budget request includes funds to pay for the program, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Sustainment Timothy Goddette.
“There is money for prototyping and working the early stages of the program, the requirement was approved,” he told reporters at a National Defense Industrial Association conference.
“I don’t think the requirements says it has to be pure electric…it says a range from hybrid through electric, depending on where the technology is,” Goddette added. If lawmakers approve that funding and the project stays on track, the Army expects to begin receiving eLAV prototypes in 2025, and then, based on testing with those vehicles, decide how to proceed.
Additional details about this upcoming competition will likely emerge once the service issues a solicitation to industry and companies offer up their prospective vehicles.
Meanwhile, Goddette said the Army plans to leverage findings from initiatives like eLAV and other efforts such as the hybrid-electric Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to influence its path ahead for larger vehicles.
“On the tactical wheeled vehicle side, it’s probably unlikely that we’re going to have EVs until 2050 and that’s not just because the technology is not ready, we also have the reality of how long it takes to turn the fleet over,” he added.
For such larger vehicles, he added that it simply does not make sense to have a 5-ton electric truck weighed down with 4.5 tons of batteries because that “doesn’t leave a lot of room for cargo.” The other part of the equation revolves around recharging these batteries in austere environments. Both parts, he said, are going to take more time to sort through, leaving the shift toward hybrid-electric more realistic near term.
“Even if you have an electric vehicle, you still have to ask the question under the concept of the operation… Where do batteries have to go so that I can now have that right balance? And how am I going to recharge an electric vehicle in the places that we’re going to be?” Goddette said.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense.com)
26 Feb 23. USAF gets moving on redo of $12bn missile support recompete. Step one is extending BAE Systems Inc.’s incumbent contract to continue its support of nuclear weapons. Step two — making a new award decision — will take a while.
For the past four months, the Air Force has been well aware of a Government Accountability Office recommendation to reconsider the award of a $12 bn systems engineering and integration contract.
BAE Systems’ U.S. subsidiary had won the contract during the summer, which would have meant a significant recompete win for that company. Two protests quickly followed out of Guidehouse and Jacobs, both of which GAO sustained in an October decision that still remains sealed.
The Air Force is taking GAO’s recommendation into account with two actions as described in contracting documents posted Monday to Sam.gov. Step one is extending BAE’s contract for another two option years to Jan. 31, 2025, in a move that increases the ceiling by $651.6 m to around $1.9 bn.
BAE is the incumbent on the Integration Support Contract it first won in 2013 to act as the lead software and systems integrator for the U.S.’ fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The scope of work also includes assessing deficiencies and providing solutions for them, data management and knowledge transfer.
Step two regarding the ISC 2.0 recompete is naturally more complicated. The Air Force estimates its corrective action will take between six months and one full year to work through, after which the branch intends to request cost proposals with updated rates that may precede discussions.
After those discussions complete, the Air Force will then ask all bidders for updated final proposal revisions to evaluate. Those could include potentially amended decision documents for a new best-value decision.
Following an award, the Air Force believes the transition from ISC 1.0 to ISC 2.0 could take up to six months. The idea is that the extended timeline will enable the work to continue in case of further delays or new protests. (Source: washingtontechnology.com)
REST OF THE WORLD
02 Mar 23. Australia cancels special forces light helicopter requirement. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has decided against acquiring 16 light helicopters to support special forces operations, Major General Stephen Jobson, the commander of the Australian Army’s Aviation Command, has disclosed. Speaking to journalists at the Avalon 2023 international airshow on 1 March, Maj Gen Jobson said that project Land 2097 Phase 4 had been cancelled owing to forthcoming overlapping capabilities.
These involve programmes to procure the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian, Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk, and an expanded fleet of Boeing CH-47F Chinooks.
Forty Black Hawks are set to replace the Australian Army’s 41 in-service Airbus MRH90 Taipan multirole helicopters, with the first of type expected in Australia in the second quarter of 2023.
“The UH-60M will come into service as an aircraft system that will provide dedicated support to Australia’s special forces,” Maj Gen Jobson said. All 22 Airbus Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters will be replaced by 29 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters later in the decade, and the CH-47 fleet has already been increased from 10 to 14 aircraft, he said. (Source: Janes)
01 Mar 23. Australia losing interest in British nuclear submarines, says ex-defence minister. Australia is reluctant to acquire British nuclear submarines, instead opting for those made in America, according to the country’s opposition leader and former defence minister.
Peter Dutton, who was defence minister until ten months ago and led the decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, said this week that he had been advised there were a range of problems with choosing a British submarine.
A lack of production capacity in the UK and concerns about how compatible a British-designed submarine would be with those operated by Australia’s closest defence ally, the US, are among some of the issues. The rival is America’s larger and latest operational nuclear-powered submarine, the Virginia-class.
There has been widespread speculation that Australia, which is not expected to take delivery of its first nuclear-powered submarines until the late 2030s, has been closely examining the UK’s latest Astute-class submarine, which became operational in 2014.
However, there have also been indications that a design based more on the UK’s planned next generation submarine, dubbed SSNR, has been finding favour with Australian defence chiefs.
Dutton’s remarks came as Anthony Albanese, the prime minister, prepares to travel to Washington this month to reveal, alongside President Biden and Rishi Sunak, the “optimal pathway” for Australia to replace its ageing fleet of locally built diesel-electric submarines.
Under the Aukus defence pact Australia signed with the UK and the US in late 2021, Australia will acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines of either US or British design and technology or possibly a combination of both. The vessels are expected to cost about $AUD100 bn (£56 bn).
Australia’s decision to tear up a contract with France for a new fleet of conventionally-powered submarines — made when Dutton was defence minister in 2021 — and instead acquire nuclear submarines was driven by rising fears over China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
Australia’s defence minister, Pat Conroy, accused Dutton of undermining confidence in the new submarine programme and suggested he had misused classified information he had received while defence minister.
“He [Dutton] is either being mischievous or he’s not privy to the latest information. I’ve just come back from Barrow in the United Kingdom where I’ve got a full briefing on what the UK is doing,” said Conroy. “I think those comments from Peter Dutton are incredibly irresponsible. This was a man who received classified briefings up until May 21 on this programme.”
Dutton’s comments followed an article he wrote last June revealing that while defence minister he believed the US government would sell Australia two Virginia-class nuclear submarines from its Connecticut production line by 2030, with a further eight to be built in Australia.
He added this week he was briefed before last May’s election that Rolls-Royce, which makes reactors for British nuclear submarines, had no available production capacity, while the UK’s submarine production facility at Barrow-in-Furness “didn’t have the ability to scale up”. (Source: The Times)
02 Mar 23. Defence contractors target Australia as it gears up to counter China.
- Advanced drones, long-range missiles on display at air show
- To make buys once strategic review made public next month
- Eyeing local production of key items
As close U.S. ally Australia gears up to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, global defence contractors this week showed off advanced drones, long-range missiles and military communications satellites at its biggest air show.
The firms are pushing for bns of dollars’ worth of purchases expected after Australia’s long-awaited defence strategic review (DSR) is made public next month, setting out the force structure and equipment required over the next decade.
Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said securing long-range strike weapons in three to five years should be the priority given China’s growing threat to Taiwan and the high likelihood of Australia joining the U.S. in a fight.
“When the DSR comes out there will be diplomatic language that doesn’t necessarily squarely target China by name, but I think everyone gets the reality this has been driven by China, its rapid growth and its military capabilities,” he said on the sidelines of the Australian International Airshow near Melbourne.
Like other countries, Australia is also focusing increasingly on securing more local production and supply stocks after observing the depletions caused by the war in Ukraine.
The government’s aim is to “speed up the acquisition cycle” and move as quickly as possible once the review is public, Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy told reporters on Wednesday. The federal budget is due in May and the defence allocation is expected to grow.
At the air show, some defence contractors privately expressed frustration that the tightly held review ordered last August, three months after a new centre-left government took office, had slowed down procurement and delivery times.
Major decisions in the balance from the review include whether to order another squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter jets, up to four more Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drones and a major military satellite contract being pursued by five groups, including Airbus SE (AIR.PA) and Boeing Co (BA.N).
“Everyone is reading the tea leaves, but we know a lot of capability will be coming out of that DSR,” said Stephen Forshaw, Airbus’s chief representative for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
Australia ranked 12th globally in military spending in 2021 at $31.8 bn, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It is a major buyer of U.S. equipment in particular, having operated alongside the U.S. in conflicts around the world. In 2021, it formed an alliance with the United States and Britain to buy nuclear-powered submarines.
The air show also highlighted how Australia’s smaller force is influencing U.S. purchases. Australia has operated Boeing E-7A airborne early warning and control planes since 2009, as the first customer for the type. The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday it planned to buy 26 of them to replace its ageing E-3s.
Boeing is also looking to sell the MQ-28 Ghost Bat fighter-like drone developed in Australia to the U.S. military, while the local arm of Britain’s BAE Systems (BAES.L) this week unveiled plans for a smaller armed drone it also hopes to export.
Lockheed was selected last year alongside Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) to accelerate the manufacture and delivery of guided weapons to Australia.
In-country assembly, and eventually manufacturing, are a focus of the project that aims to build local stockpiles, said Ken Kota, vice president of Lockheed’s Australian defence strategic capabilities office.
“Manufacturing guided weapons in particular has its own deterrent effect,” he said. “It is very important for Australia to have this from a strategic standpoint.” (Source: Reuters)
01 Mar 23. Peru: Spain confirms sale ban for riot control equipment, increasing reputational risks for firms linked to security forces. On 25 February, Peru’s Minister of the Interior confirmed that Spain had suspended the sale of tear gas and other riot equipment to the National Police, citing the country’s ongoing domestic unrest. Spain has been the main European supplier of arms to Peru with sales worth USD 195 m in the past five years. Roughly 20% of all Spanish arms exports were riot equipment. Protests in the country started in December 2022, following the ousting of President Castillo and the deployment of police and military forces to suppress protests that resulted in over 60 deaths. A large protest is scheduled to take place in Lima on 1 March to demand the closure of Congress, the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and an early general election. The actions by the Spanish government indicate there are elevated reputational risks for firms linked to the Peruvian security forces or the wider government. (Source: Sibylline)
01 Mar 23. Boeing commits to expand Apache opportunities for Aussie industry. Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy and Boeing have announced an expanded industry footprint and opportunities for Australia’s defence industry as part of the Australian Industry Capability (AIC) Deed for the Apache Program with the Boeing Company.
Minister Conroy made the announcements at the Australian International Airshow 2023 at Avalon, Victoria, where both the Apache and the Ghost Bat are on display for the Australian public — the Ghost Bat for the first time — which will see Boeing engage Australian companies to supply parts for the planned AH-64E Apache fleet and all new Apache attack helicopters.
The deed will underpin Australian industry contribution to the production of the Apache fleet, creating new opportunities, expected to bring ms of dollars to local defence industry companies.
These Apache helicopters will be equipped with some of the most advanced technologies, sensors and equipment, making them one of the most formidable helicopters for the Australian Defence Force.
Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy welcomed the impact this deal would have for Australian industry, saying, “The Albanese government is ensuring that opportunities are maximised for Australian defence industry as we move to build the Defence capability our nation needs for its future security.”
Boeing said Australian companies Cablex and Thomas Global Systems, respectively, will manufacture cabling, and design and manufacture cockpit avionics components for the global fleet of Apaches. For the Australian fleet of Apaches, four companies — Cablex, Ferra, Axiom Precision Manufacturing and Mincham — were selected to supply wire harnesses, electrical panels, vertical spar box, machined parts, fairings and composites.
The supplier contracts are part of an agreement signed by Boeing and Defence Australia — the agreement also acknowledges the benefit of the Australian Global Supply Chain (GSC) Program that delivers export opportunities into Boeing’s supply chain.
“I was proud to attend the Avalon Airshow today as we work closely with defence industry to deliver critical capabilities in support of Australia’s national interests. It’s wonderful to see strong Australian industry involvement in producing the Ghost Bat — the first Australian-designed, developed, and manufactured military combat aircraft in half a century,” Minister Conroy said.
Major General Jeremy King, head of Defence’s Joint Aviation Systems Division said, “Defence has worked diligently with US Army, Boeing, and local industry to ensure we are providing the best capability for the Australian Defence Force.
“We look forward to continuing to work together through this agreement signed today to seek further opportunities for local industry involvement in both the production of Australia’s Apaches and the broader global fleet product and support activities,” MAJGEN King added.
These production opportunities set a foundation for longer term Australian industry support to the Apache program, enabling the growth of the rotary wing industry and embedding Australian companies in global supply chains.
In another significant milestone for Australian defence industry, the number of Australian suppliers involved in building Australia’s uncrewed autonomous aircraft, the Ghost Bat, has increased by almost 60 per cent, from the first aircraft build.
LAND 4503’s program of delivery aims to support the Australian Army and is designed to contribute to the creation of the modernisation and development of a “networked and hardened” Army.
The acquisition is broken down into three delivery stages, beginning with projected IOC in 2026 and FOC in 2028, including:
- Up to 24 aircraft would be based at one primary location and another five are intended at a training location. The aircraft fleet may also be co-located in one primary location; however, this is yet to be determined.
- IOC for LAND 4503 is based on a squadron of up to 12 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating a deployable troop of four aircraft, continued force generation of four aircraft, and an initial build-up training element of four aircraft. IOC will be supported by trained personnel and support systems.
- FOC for LAND 4503 is based on a regiment of up to 24 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating multiple concurrent deployed forces of up to squadron size. FOC will also be supported by a mature training system of up to five aircraft, with trained personnel and support systems.
The government has brought the LAND 4503 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Replacement program forward and aims to acquire a proven and mature, off-the-shelf manned armed helicopter to deliver armed reconnaissance effects in the close and deep contested battlespace in support of the Australian Defence Force. (Source: Defence Connect)
28 Feb 23. Lockheed Martin hopes to deliver more F-35s to Australia.
Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) hopes Australia wants to buy more of its F-35 fighter planes after the country completes a defence review, an executive at the U.S. manufacturer said on Tuesday.
“We hope for the opportunity to deliver additional F-35s beyond” the 72 Australia has on order, Executive Vice President of Aeronautics Greg Ulmer said on the sidelines of the Australia International Airshow.
Ulmer also said Lockheed has talked with Australia about teaming the F-35 with Boeing Co’s (BA.N) MQ-28 Ghost Bat fighter-like drone.
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Boeing’s defence division head Ted Colbert said during the air show that a partnership would be “great news”.
In a crewed-uncrewed teaming situation, the F-35 could serve as the “quarterback” and focus on accurate targeting while other aircraft deployed weapons, said Steve Over, Lockheed’s director of international business.
Australia has purchased 72 Lockheed F-35A jets to form three squadrons, with all aircraft scheduled to be fully operational this year. It had initially expressed interest in buying 100.
A defence strategic review considering Australia’s future force posture – including the possible purchase of a fourth squadron of F-35 jets – was handed to the government on Feb. 14.
Defence Minister Richard Marles, in a pre-air show speech on Monday, said the review and the government’s response would be made public in April.
He said the review comes against a backdrop of increased strategic competition between nations in the region.
“In the Indo-Pacific, China is driving the largest conventional military build-up we’ve seen anywhere in the world since the Second World War. And much of this build-up is opaque,” Marles said.
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, has joined the United States in pushing back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.
Lockheed’s Over said it would take about four years for Australia to receive more F-35s if it placed an order this year. (Source: Reuters)
24 Feb 23. Decision on preferred vendor expected soon for UAE satellite project. A decision on the preferred vendor for the UAE’s satellite programme, which seeks two geostationary (GEO) satellites, is expected in 2023. UAE-based company Yahsat is currently in the process of evaluating bids, with a decision expected, following government approval, in 2023 to determine which preferred supplier will manufacture the Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 satellites, Eisa Al Shamsi, general manager at Yahsat Government Solutions, told Janes at IDEX 2023 in Abu Dhabi. The satellites, intended for both government and commercial users, will be an off-the-shelf solution to minimise risk and must be launched by 2026. This is because the Al Yah 1 and Al Yah 2 satellites will reach their “initial end of life by 2026”, he said. However, the existing satellites will remain operational for several years as their in-service life will be extended, he added. Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 will have increased capacity and double the bandwidth compared with the existing systems, he said. (Source: Janes)
24 Feb 23. German submarine pitch to India provides hope for joint deal.
Germany is reportedly set to pursue the bidding process for six P-75I submarines, with work to be carried out in India for the Indian Navy (IN) under a project worth $5.2bn, as New Delhi explores possible alternatives to Russian military hardware.
Cutting ties with Russia imports
India has agreed to start talks with Germany over the acquisition of six submarines to bolster its maritime defence capabilities, with New Delhi possibly moving away from its dependence on Russia for naval hardware. The submarines will be constructed in India in partnership with foreign defence manufacturers.
India’s indigenous goals and China’s threat
France’s Naval Group had pulled out of the construction of the submarine project a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Paris in May 2022, citing its inability to meet conditions listed by the Indian government in 2021.
The project is taking place in India as part of the Make in India initiative.
In India, the submarines are to replace its ageing submarine fleet, with its four diesel-electric submarines and one nuclear-powered attack submarine being the only submersibles to be acquired or manufactured in the last two decades, as it seeks to counter China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean.
India has also witnessed China’s constant maritime expansionism in the Indian Ocean and has seen the country develop ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, leading to significant concerns for the Indian government.
The Indian non-nuclear submarine market, inclusive of diesel AIP submarines (SSP), diesel electric submarines (SSK), and midget Ssbmarines (SSM), is collectively valued at $9.93bn between 2023 and 2033.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wants India to manufacture more weapons at home in collaboration with foreign partners after decades of being one of the world’s largest arms importers.
India has allocated $72.6bn to the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), a body which oversees the research and development process in the country’s defence sector. This submersible project, P-75I, is said to be the county’s most significant ‘Make in India’ initiative.
The last bidder standing
In August, when India announced that they would procure six submarines for the Navy, Naval Technology reported that the Defence Ministry of India shortlisted five foreign companies. These included ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Navantia and Naval Group as foreign partners.
However, since then, Naval Group has withdrawn, and Reuters has reported that Spain’s Navantia Group is no longer in contention. This has left the submarine project for Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems as the last international bidder on the shortlist.
The company will also need to transfer a niche technology for fuel-cell-based air independent propulsion (AIP), a clause that has been a sore point for most foreign firms.
Abhijit Apsingikar, aerospace, defence, and security analyst at GlobalData, said: “The German government’s decision to pursue the $5.2 bn deal during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Indian visit between 25-26 February 2023 is likely to encourage competitiveness and resuscitate the P-75I submarine programme.
“However, the explicit nature of the Indian RFI, which calls for a submarine with an operational fuel cell along with rather stringent technology transfer requirements, has thus far deterred contenders, compelling Sweden’s Saab, France’s Naval Group, Russia’s Rosoboronexport and even Spain’s Navantia Group to withdraw from the competition.”
Last week, India’s HAL began talks with Egypt and Argentina to export the Tejas Aircraft contract. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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