24 Jun 15. France says Saudi Arabia to order H145 helicopters. Saudi Arabia plans to order 23 Airbus H145 light helicopters as part of a series of deals worth USD12bn, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on 24 June. Fabius said the helicopter deal would be worth US500m, but did not say which branch of the Saudi state would operate them. The announcement came during an official visit by Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince and defence minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The H145 is in widespread service with security forces around the world and is used by the US Army in non-combat roles. An armed version was developed for the US Army’s now-cancelled programme to replace its OH-58 Kiowa. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
24 Jun 15. Russia sets out ship plans to substitute for Mistrals. Key Points:
* Russia’s plans for renewing its amphibious fleet include ships to replace two Mistral-class helicopter carriers which may not now to be received from France
* Moscow is also building two 5,000-tonne Ivan Gren-class landing ships, but the future of the class is uncertain
The Russian Navy (VMS) is planning to renew its amphibious fleet “almost entirely” by 2050, according to a statement by chief of the navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov on 11 June, and preliminary steps have been taken towards developing a domestic substitute for two Mistral-class ships.
The navy appears to have set out a requirement for a future large amphibious platform. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
23 Jun 15. If Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev keeps to his stated intention, the scheduled cabinet meeting on June 24 could see a proposal tabled on the long-standing issue of the country acquiring new military fighter jets. The issue has been unresolved for more than a decade, since Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004, and even now prospects are not certain given Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s stated reluctance to commit to spending on military aircraft acquisitions when his priorities are pensioners and the education system. But it has become ever more pressing, especially given the large question marks regarding Bulgaria’s ageing Soviet-made MiG-29 fighters, which are hugely expensive to repair and maintain, and about which a maintenance contract with Russia’s RSK-MiG – Nenchev repeatedly has signalled his reluctance to renew it – and which are, in any case, not up to NATO compatibility standards. The maintenance price tag on the MiGs is enormous. Nenchev told Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament, the National Assembly, in March that keeping them going until 2029 would cost 1.6bn leva. For that kind of money, Nenchev told MPs, Bulgaria could buy a 16-fighter squadron of new or hardly used fighter aircraft which would meet NATO standards and cost much less to maintain. The Russian-made aircraft are not the only problem facing Bulgaria’s air force. Nenchev told Parliament that there are problems with pilots’ training (while there also have been media reports about pilots leaving the air force, disappointed by low pay and diminishing opportunities for flying hours), an overall lack of financial resources that in turn causes difficulties in getting spare parts, and the maintenance of existing radio-location, which in turn also needs replacing. (Source: defence-aerospace.com)
22 Jun 15. Israel details F-16 ACE bid for Croatia. Israel is offering Croatia surplus Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs upgraded to the ACE configuration, as replacements for its Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters. The Israeli air force is phasing out its F-16A/B-model trainers, ahead of deliveries of the new-generation Lockheed F-35A, which are expected to begin in 2017. Conducted by Israel Aerospace Industries, in co-operation with several other Israeli companies, the F-16 ACE upgrade provides an Elta Systems EL/M-2032 fire control radar with synthetic aperture radar mapping modes. Updated cockpit equipment includes a trio of 5 x 7in colour displays and an Elbit Systems helmet-mounted display system. The aircr