UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
07 Sep 23. Puma support agreement raises questions about UK’s new helicopter programme.
The UK Ministry of Defence extends its contract with Airbus Helicopters UK Ltd for Puma Mk2 AC support through 2028, raising doubts over the UK’s New Medium Helicopter programme.
To secure ongoing support for the Puma Mk2 AC, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced an extension of its contract with Airbus Helicopters UK.
The decision to extend this contract has far-reaching implications, particularly for the UK’s New Medium Helicopter programme, which is intended to replace the ageing Puma fleet.
Valued at £320m ($400m), the contract will span up to three years, providing maintenance and support for this military asset. This decision is to ensure the continued readiness and reliability of the Puma Mk2 AC in the service of the UK MoD.
The contract, which falls under the “Repair and maintenance services of military aircraft, missiles and spacecrafts,” has a closing date for submission of 20 September, 2023.
The unresolved transition
The current contract, known as the Puma follow-on support arrangement, is an extension of support for an additional three years, starting from 1 April 2025, and concluding on 31 March 31, 2028.
The extension of support for the Puma Mk2 AC raises questions about the future trajectory of the New Medium Helicopter programme. Will this extension affect the MoD’s timeline and objectives for transitioning to a new helicopter platform?
According to GlobalData’s “UK Defence Market 2022-2027” report, the New Medium Helicopter programme is for the defence platform acquisition of transport and utility helicopters in a planned deal worth $1.3bn. The agreement is planned but is undisclosed and has yet to be awarded.
In a GlobalData Analyst Briefing, titled “From four to one: the UK must choose carefully for its Future Medium Helicopter”, defence analyst James Marques emphasised that the decision to be made on the UK’s decision on what direction it will take on the medium helicopter programme is not an easy one.
“Leonardo, Airbus, Sikorsky and Bell have all put forward strong platforms, but the decision goes beyond measuring capability – the UK must consider the benefits their choice can bring to the British economy through involving domestic industry and manufacturing.”
A complex decision
With the new medium helicopter requirement, Army Technology understands the UK Ministry of Defence will likely fly the helicopter into the mid-2040s. Therefore, It is not a decision to be taken lightly, hence the extension of the Puma HC2 and mitigation of what is expected to be the delay of the decision on which supplier to choose from for the new medium helicopter programme. Army Technology reported in 2021 that the Puma was expected to retire by 2025.
Airbus Helicopters UK has confirmed that no licenses for Puma Mk2 support shall be granted outside the Airbus Helicopters Group. This assurance reinforces its position as the provider of support for the Puma Mk2 AC.
The extension of this contract safeguards the operational readiness and reliability of the Puma Mk2 AC, ensuring that it continues to serve as a asset for the UK MoD as the New Medium Helicopter programme shows delays.
The intersection of this extension with the New Medium Helicopter programme adds complexity to the MoD’s strategy.
Airforce Technology has approached the UK MoD for comment regarding the future of the New Medium Helicopter programme. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
05 Sep 23. DASA seeks technologies to detect airborne pathogens.
New Innovation Focus Area seeks generation-after-next biosensing technologies.
- DASA has launched an Innovation Focus Area called Revolutionising Biosensing: Instant Detection within Aerosol Collector Substrates
- Funding provided by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)
- Up to £150,000 funding available for Generation-After-Next (GAN) proposals, which can detect and identify biological threats on or within filters.
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is pleased to launch a new Innovation Focus Area (IFA) called Revolutionising Biosensing: Instant Detection within Aerosol Collector Substrates. This IFA seeks innovations that will help contribute to the development of generation-after-next biosensing technologies.
This IFA is run on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
Do you have a biosensing solution? Read the full requirements and submit your proposal.
Background: the importance of biosensing
Timely detection and identification of airborne pathogens or hazardous materials is crucial for an integrated systems-based response to a malicious release. This allows for quick implementation of measures to ensure safety. One common method for collecting airborne materials is via the capture of air samples onto filters, followed by removal and the specific detection of nucleic acids or surface antigens (e.g. PCR, ELISA). However, the downstream (i.e. off filter) processing step(s) increase burden for the user and delays actionable response, such as donning respiratory protection or taking medical countermeasures. Specific identification to species level is therefore critical to ensure timely intervention. Capacity to perform the assay while the sample is still on the filter would be a significant step-change in capability.
The vision of UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Security Partners Across Government (PAG) is to develop generation-after-next biological sensing capabilities that will sustain strategic advantage and contribute a decisive edge. The MOD is currently investing in several projects developing future platforms for which filter-based collection of airborne material will remain a favourable technology option. This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) Innovation Focus Area (IFA) is supporting efforts to leverage novel advances and techniques in the fields of sensing and filtration to understand and open the exciting potential to integrate biological sensing assays onto filters for UK defence and security applications.
This IFA is seeking proposals that present novel solutions that facilitate detection and identification of biological threat materials on or within a filter substrate. Submitted proposals must:
- demonstrate evidence of an innovative and unique approach with practical experimentation
- incorporate assays supporting species level specificity with good sensitivity (detect at concentration of 100 microbes per litre of air)
- use microbe(s) to demonstrate functionality (preferably in aerosol phase)
- reduce downstream processing burden for filter-based collection techniques
- provide a readily discernible signal to a positive event in a rapid time frame (preferably equal to or less than 60 min)
- reach between Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 1 and 4 by the end of contract
- consider at onset the real world challenges to prototyping concepts across TRL 5 to 7
- have project values of ideally between £50,000 to £150,000
- have a project duration of no more than 12 months, including reporting
Submit a proposal
Do you have a solution or novel approach that may help Dstl develop new biosensing techniques?
Read the full competition document to learn more and submit a proposal: IFA041 – Revolutionizing Biosensing: Instant Detection within Aerosol Collector Substrates – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
05 Sep 23. £880k available for proposals to help reduce cyber risk across defence.
DASA has launched a new Themed Competition to help quantify and reduce cyber risk across defence and enhance digital resilience.
- DASA has launched a new Themed Competition: Reducing Cyber Risk Across Defence
- Funding provided by the Cyber Resilience Programme (CRP) in Defence Digital, a part of Strategic Command
- Up to £880k is available (excluding VAT)
- This competition is looking to fund up to 5 proposals
- Additional funding for further phases to increase TRL may be available
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is pleased to launch a new Themed Competition Reducing Cyber Risk Across Defence. Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, with potentially more impact on military operations. This Themed Competition seeks proposals that will help to quantify and reduce the cyber risk across Defence, enhance digital resilience and enable Defence to be secure by default.
The risk of cyber attack is amongst the highest that is managed by the Defence Board and it requires a collective response to address it. Becoming cyber resilient is the first challenging milestone. Remaining resilient will require constant appraisal of our adversaries and ourselves. We are not alone in developing and exploiting technologies and will need to work together across industry, Government, Allies and Partners to maximise our collective capabilities.
The Cyber Resilience Programme seeks to address the need to build a cyber resilient Defence, in accordance with the Cyber Resilience Strategy for Defence, and comprises four themes:
- Awareness, Behaviour and Culture
- Resilient by Design
- Secure Digital Foundations
- Cyber Vulnerability Fixes
This competition is part of a broader suite of activity undertaken by the Cyber Resilience Programme that engages industry, academia, partners and allies, to build military capabilities with inherent resilience.
This competition seeks:
- novel tools that strengthen digital resilience across defence
- novel approaches that enable security by default
- novel ways to quantify Operational Technology risk
This competition is interested in support innovation projects that will deliver outputs at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 – technology model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment.
Challenge 1: Digital Resilience
This competition is seeking innovative ways to strengthen digital resilience across Defence.
Challenge 2: Secure by Default
This competition is seeking to develop capability to enable Secure by Default approaches to be implemented in the future, for Defence and its industry partners. We are looking for research activities that will investigate tools and approaches which support the implementation of a Secure by Default approach.
Challenge 3: Quantifying Operational Technology Risk
This competition is seeking innovative ways to quantify OT cyber risk across Defence. Proposals need to be able to work in an operational environment or in some way take operational scenarios into account.
Key Dates and Funding
- Up to £880k is available for this competition, and DASA expects to fund up to 5 proposals.
- Submission deadline: midday on Tuesday 31 October 2023
Do you have a novel approach that could help reduce cyber risk across Defence? Read the full competition document and submit a proposal: Reducing Cyber Risk Across Defence – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
19 September 11:00 -12:00pm
This dial-in session will provide further detail on the problem space and a chance to ask questions in an open forum. If you would like to participate, please register on the Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reducing-cyber-risk-across-defence-launch-webinar-tickets-3817281
1 – 2 – 1 Sessions
A series of 20 minute 1-2-1 teleconference sessions, giving you the opportunity to ask specific questions. If you would like to participate, please register on the links below. Booking is on a first come first served basis.
20 September 1-2-1 Sessions | 21 September 1-2-1 Sessions
Submit a proposal
Do you have an innovation that may help reduce cyber risk and increase cyber resilience across Defence? Read the full competition document to learn more and submit a proposal.
01 Sep 23. UK MoD seeking info on Type 31 frigate naval gun ammunition.
The five-ship Type 31 general purpose frigate class will uniquely feature a combination of a single 57mm main gun and two 40mm secondary Bofors.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a Request for Information (RfI) into the operational and training ammunition compatible with the BAE Systems 57mm naval weapon system and 40mm Bofors gun, which will be installed on the Royal Navy’s new Type 31 frigates.
Not since classes such as the initial Leander light frigate of the 1960s and 1970s has a Royal Navy warship been so gun centric, with the single 57mm main gun and two 40mm secondaries offering the Type 31 platform considerable kinetic effect at short ranges. The combination has likely been chosen with an eye on threats such as swarming crewed or uncrewed small boats and aerial threats.
Published on 31 August, the RfI is intended to “alert the market of an early engagement opportunity” relating to Type 31 57mm and 40mm operational and training naval ammunition”, according to the MoD notice.
The intention is to “grow the understanding of the medium calibre naval ammunition market, its readiness, supply chain resilience and competitiveness including key players”, gather knowledge of alternative options from potential bidders, and “understand the operational performance” of alternative ammunition.
A short deadline, which is due on 15 September, is the cut-off for industry expressions of interest.
Type 31 naval gun selection: the data
The BAE Systems Mk 110 57mm naval gun systems is relatively common across vessels operated by the US Navy (USN) and US Coast Guard, having been selected for use on the upcoming Constellation-class frigates being built for the USN, and currently fitted to the Freedom– and Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships. The 57mm main gun is also fitted to the 4,500 tonne Legend-class cutters operated by the US Coast Guard.
According to BAE Systems the Mk 110 is capable of automatic salvo fire at a rate of up to 220 round per minute and can feature a selectable fuze for each round as required, depending on desired effect.
Mk 110 57mm naval gun
Rate of fire: 220 rounds/min
Ammunition capacity: 120 rounds
Maximum range: >9nm
Loading time: 3-5 minutes
Elevation: −10° to +77°
Information courtesy of BAE Systems
The 40mm Bofors meanwhile can utilise the 3P all-target ammunition, programmed for optimised effect against targets, including airburst patterns for new threats “that were previously impossible to engage”, according to manufacturer BAE Systems.
Bofors 40mm naval gun
Rate of fire: 300 rounds/min
Ammunition capacity: 100 rounds
Maximum range: 12.5km
Muzzle velocity: 1012 m/s (3P)
Elevation: −20° to +80°
Information courtesy of BAE Systems
However, the issuance of the RfI by the UK MoD indicates that it is exploring what alternative ammunition options might exist for the Type 31 frigates, which are not due to enter service for several years.
Type 31 progress amid dispute and design changes
The first two ships in class, HMS Venturer and HMS Active, are currently in manufacture at Babcock’s Rosyth shipyard, with much of the hull and superstructure of the former completed. The class is also undergoing a slight design change to accommodate the integration of the Lockheed Martin Mk 41 vertical launch system, which could remove the initially planned Sea Ceptor ‘mushroom farm’ air defence system, mounted amidships.
In April this year Babcock began a dispute resolution process (DRP) with the UK MoD to determine liability for increased costs being sustained on the Type 31 frigate programme, with up to £100m ($126.7m) in additional funds needed.
Providing a 2023 financial year and Type 31 programme update on 20 April, Babcock said it recognised over £600m in revenue on the Type 31 programme, which remained on schedule and due to conclude in 2028. However, the programme’s production plan was described as “demanding”, given the impact felt by UK industry during the Covid-19 pandemic, and had seen an increase in actual and projected costs.
Continuing, Babcock said that despite having been in dialogue with the MoD as to who is responsible for the additional costs under the contract, it had been “unable to reach agreement” and as such, has seen a DRP commence. A DRP could result in arbitration to determine who should bear the increased costs of the programme.
The original contact was signed in November 2019 to deliver five Inspiration-class Type 31 general purpose frigates, at an average production cost of £250m per vessel.
The Type 31 class was born from the realisation by the UK MoD that it could not afford to acquire 13 Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates from UK defence prime BAE Systems, instead constraining that programme to eight hulls. A stop-start competition to determine an alternative five-ship frigate requirement was won by Babcock using its Arrowhead 140 design, heavily derived from the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates.
06 Sep 23. Germany forges pact for Leopard 2 successor in snub to Paris, Handelsblatt reports. Germany has signed agreements with Italy, Spain and Sweden on the development of a successor to the Leopard 2 tank, German business daily Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday.
If confirmed, the deal would be certain to upset France, which, in 2017, agreed with Berlin to develop a joint Franco-German tank to succeed the German Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc in a project beset by delays and disagreements.
The initiative is to take place under the leadership of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE), the German arms makers building the Leopard 2, Handelsblatt reported, citing unnamed industry and political sources.
The German defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Rheinmetall declined to comment on the report. A spokesperson for KMW could not immediately comment.
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The newspaper said the partners in the deal were planning to apply to the European Defence Fund for funding amounting to a three-digit m euro sum, adding the project would also involve Sweden’s Saab (SAABb.ST) and Italy’s Leonardo (LDOF.MI). It did not identify which Spanish company would be involved.
The delays to the proposed Franco-German project have strained ties already tested by differences over energy topics and the question to what extent Europe should become independent from the U.S. in its security policy.
Still, the defence ministers of France and Germany said in July they sought to give fresh impetus to the venture and had tasked their army chiefs to hammer out the rough outlines of the new tank’s capabilities, to have a basic document ready by the end of the year.
Handelsblatt, however, reported the countries had not been able to agree on the specifications of the tank, with France aiming for a rather light vehicle whereas Germany opted for a more heavily armoured tank.
The French military has been traditionally strongly involved in Africa where having a lighter vehicle that can be more easily transported by air makes sense. Germany, in contrast, sees the major threat as coming from Russia.
The defence ministry in Paris and the office of President Emmanuel Macron did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Handelsblatt said the new tank deal was a setback for the Franco-German cooperation in defence procurement, even though it was possible that both projects might be continued.
It cited French government sources as saying the topic would be raised at Franco-German government consultations scheduled for the start of October. (Source: Reuters)
31 Aug 23. Turkey seeks partners for TF-X fighter program amid fiscal uncertainty. The first aircraft of Turkey’s indigenous fighter program, the TF-X, sits in a hangar ahead of its maiden flight at the end of the year. But fiscal problems could stand in the way of its success, according to an analyst, even as the country’s president seeks partners for the program.
The Turkish economy is experiencing high inflation, and the country’s external debt reached nearly $476 bn in March. The international insurance company Allianz Trade reported the stock of total external debt due within the next 12 months has risen to about $250 bn.
“Inevitably, the TF-X program will face financial difficulties in line with the country’s economic situation,” Ozgur Eksi, a defense analyst in Ankara, told Defense News.
However, Turkey is seeking foreign partners, which could lessen its own financial burden in regard to the program.
Turkish Defence Minister Yasar Guler said Aug. 14 Pakistan was about to sign an agreement to participate in the development of the fifth-generation fighter. “Friendly and brotherly countries are also making efforts to become partners in this project. An agreement was signed with Azerbaijan. There are other countries that are also about to sign, like Pakistan,” Guler said.
If Pakistan joins the Turkish program, it would be its second international fighter partnership following a deal with China on the JF-17 built by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and Chengdu Aircraft Corp.
As for Azerbaijan, the government there signed a protocol with Turkey to explore involvement in the TF-X program.
“With the protocol, it is aimed to determine the working procedures and principles of cooperation with Azerbaijan on joint production issues, including the development activities of the 5th-generation national combat aircraft Kaan, which is being developed for the Turkish Air Force,” according to the Turkish Defence Industry Agency, using the government’s chosen name for the TF-X aircraft.
The agency, otherwise known as SSB, did not reply to Defense News’ questions on the TF-X and specifically Pakistan’s current status in relation to the program.
The Pakistan Air Force declined to comment on the status.
“Getting in foreign partners is like subletting part of your house: You share expenses, but disputes become inevitable and troubleshooting takes much longer than normal,” Eksi said. “Hydrocarbon-rich Azerbaijan has money. Pakistan does not but could transfer know-how. Once combat-proven, the Kaan could be an option for countries without access to Western-made fighter aircraft.”
Eugene Kogan, a defense analyst based in Tbilisi, Georgia, said Azerbaijan appears ready to bring money to the table.
“As for Pakistan, I wonder what exactly it can bring to the table. Not money, obviously. Technological know-how? More questions than answers,” he told Defense News.
The government wants to fly the planned aircraft this year, the centennial of the Turkish republic. Turkish Aerospace Industries said the TF-X will fly Dec. 27, 2023.
Under the program, TAI will deliver 20 TF-X Block 10 aircraft to the Air Force in 2028. The company said in March the per-unit price will be $100 m, but noted in May it could be “a little bit higher.” By 2029, TAI plans to produce two TF-X fighters per month, generating an annual revenue of $2.4 bn.
“In all probability, the aircraft will fly for political purposes before critical local elections [in March] but without most systems fitted into it,” a program insider told Defense News on the condition of anonymity, fearing prosecution for discussing the subject. “Most Turks will not know or care if the aircraft is ready for any mission. It will be a piece in [the] government’s showoff.”
Turkey launched the TF-X program in 2009. In October 2016, British firm Rolls-Royce offered a joint production partnership to Turkey with a view to powering planned Turkish platforms and potential sales to third parties. The company’s proposal, which still stands, would see a production unit in Turkey manufacture engines for the TF-X as well as helicopters, tanks and missiles.
In January 2017, the British company BAE Systems and TAI signed a deal worth more than £100 m (U.S. $127 m) to develop the Turkish fighter jet. Presently there are about 30 BAE engineers working at the TAI production unit for the TF-X.
Then in 2022, the Turkish government launched a competition for the local development of a turbofan engine to power the TF-X. Three competitors are in the running: Tusas Engine Industries; TRMotor; and TAEC, a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Turkish industrial conglomerate Kale, which owns 51% of TAEC.
TAEC has pitched an engine expected to fly the aircraft at a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet and help it reach a speed of up to Mach 1.8.
It’s unclear what TRMotor is offering. The company was founded in 2017 by SSTEK, a subsidiary of SSB. Tusas, which is the parent company of Tusas Engine Industries and Turkish Aerospace Industries, wholly owns TRMotor.
Tusas Engine Industries is developing TEI-TF6000 and TEI-TF10000 engines, referring to them as a prelude to what it will produce for the TF-X. TEI is a government-controlled business founded in 1985 as a joint venture involving the American firm GE Aviation (now GE Aerospace), Turkish Aerospace Industries, the Turkish Aeronautical Association, and the government-owned Turkish Armed Forces Foundation.
SSB plans to build TF-X prototypes using the American-made F110 engine. The General Electric F110 is an afterburning turbofan jet engine produced by GE Aerospace, and it uses the same engine core design as the company’s F101. The engine is also built under license by Tusas Engine Industries.
Turkey wants to use the F110 in serial production, but powering the TF-X with the engine may prove difficult because serial production could require vast amounts of investment and tests. Furthermore, this option would come with the same export license and intellectual property rights as Rolls-Royce’s offer, which the Turkish government dislikes.
Eksi said the government shouldn’t delay its engine choice any longer.
“Every [engine] proposal has advantages and disadvantages. Ankara must make a decision at once before it’s too late to move onto the serial production phase at feasible costs,” he explained.
Ultimately, the TF-X’s export potential is key to the program’s success, Eksi added.
“There are several countries that cannot buy Western-made aircraft for political reasons. Some of those countries also want to avoid Russian- or Chinese-made aircraft, also for political reasons. The Kaan could be what they’re looking for.” (Source: Defense News)
REST OF THE WORLD
04 Sep 23. New Zealand Anzac frigates upgraded with RF distribution system. British contractor SEA, the main communications systems contractor for the frigates, has subcontracted RF Products to deliver radio frequency system. After New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence announced it had awarded the UK supplier Systems Engineering and Assessments (SEA) a $32.9m contract to install a modern communications system in its two Anzac-class frigates, the contractor has recently subcontracted RF Products Inc to deliver a multi-mode, multi-band radio frequency (RF) system on the ships. The Navy commissioned its two Anzac-class frigates – Te Kaha (F77) and Te Mana (F111) – in 1997 and 1999 respectively.
Anzac has one eight-cell Mk41 vertical launching system for Nato Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles. Sea Sparrow is a semi-active radar missile with a range of 14.5km.
Radio frequency communications
Meanwhile, the new subcontractor RF Products has been in business with the Royal New Zealand Navy since 1991 and has over 100 years of experience in RF Tuning. The New Jersey-based company will be providing their VHF/UHF Multi-Mode, Multi-Band RF Distribution System to support the bespoke SEA system’s open architecture.
The system’s open architecture will also meet interoperability requirements, allowing the Royal New Zealand Navy to communicate with partner navies and support missions with friendly countries such as neighbouring Australia.
The system will allow FSC radio system operators to adapt platform external communications more easily to changes in mission focus.
Reducing further costs until Anzac replacement
The bespoke SEA system reduces through-life costs and associated maintenance of the frigate’s new communication capability. The flexible, modular system will enable the Navy to integrate equipment, including cryptos and radios, regardless of the manufacturer or supplier.
Reducing through-life costs will help until the Navy replaces its two ships in the near future. GlobalData expects the two Anzacs will be replaced as the navy procured them in 1997-1999. New Zealand’s frigate procurement will cost around $1.5bn; another planned programme for the Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel will cost approximately $400m.
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