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LOGISTICS AND THROUGH LIFE UPDATE

Sponsored by Hobson Industries

www.hobsonindustries.co.uk

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21 May 20. Supacat and Soucy team to offer world leading composite rubber tracks for UK armoured fleet upgrades.  Leading high mobility military vehicle developer, Supacat, with operations in Devon, UK, and Melbourne, Australia, signed a Teaming Agreement in March 2020 with Soucy International Inc., the Quebec, Canada, based global leader in Composite Rubber Tracks (CRT) for defence equipment.  The teaming offers Soucy’s market leading, high performance Composite Rubber Track systems to meet the requirements of the UK armed forces, and others, to upgrade their new and legacy armoured fleets from Steel Track to Composite Rubber Tracks.

The integration and support for Soucy tracks could be provided by Supacat, an established prime contractor to both the UK and Australian MoDs, thus securing high value jobs within local supply chains.  Supacat’s OEM engineering capability and experienced field support teams would ensure the long-term sustainment of vehicles fitted with Composite Rubber Tracks and a commitment to support troops in peacetime and during operations.

Soucy has been in the vanguard of Composite Rubber Track development to not only match but surpass the performance of steel track systems in all measurable areas, from mobility and traction to cost per Km.  Soucy provides defence tracks up to a GVW of 50mT and continues developing compounds for higher GVW.  Soucy tracks are approved by military forces worldwide and it has supplied Composite Rubber Tracks for platforms such as M113, Warthog, Bronco, BVS10, BAE Systems MPF, CV90 and Redback, with many more in development.

The value of the UK armed forces’ requirement is estimated at £500m in track sales over 25 years but deliver potential savings to the UK MoD of £330m from just four platform configurations transitioned to Composite Rubber Tracks, based on current track mileage allocations.

For the UK MoD, the Soucy – Supacat teaming enables it to acquire global market leading technology through an innovation led British SME and level up employment into South West England; and post Brexit, to further the UK – Canada trade partnership in helping Soucy expand its presence in the UK to create new job opportunities.  Other armed forces in Europe are planning upgrades but acceptance onto some of the British Army’s larger fleet is key to the UK-Canada team.

Composite Rubber Tracks reduce the noise and vibration levels generated by steel that impact the health of both vehicle system and user.  They significantly improve crew safety, durability and system life while lowering fuel and life cycle costs.  Rubber tracks also benefit programmes with weight restrictions, such as the Mobile Fires Platform (MFP).

Nick Ames, CEO of Supacat parent SC Group said, “We are delighted to be teamed with the world leading rubber track manufacturer, Soucy. We have had experience with tracks over the years for both military and civil applications, most notably the RNLI Launch and Recovery System. This teaming takes our exposure to rubber tracks to a new level and we look forward to working with Soucy on bringing the undeniable benefits of rubber tracks to the relevant UK and Australian vehicle fleets in the coming months and years ensuring the economic benefits are retained in both countries”.

Normand Lalonde said, ‘’ This teaming agreement between Soucy and Supacat is directly linked to the global positioning strategy of Soucy. It will allow us to enhance our value proposition offer of CRT to the UK MOD and to the different European and Australian armies while supporting local employment. It will allow the Armies to capitalize greatly on the benefits brought by the CRT helping them to increase their operational capabilities. Soucy is very honored to work with Supacat, both companies have the same values.’’

20 May 20. COVID-disrupted supply chains mean its time for a strategic industries act: Hastie. Influential Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie has called for the Australian government to embrace a holistic approach to the post-COVID recovery, working with key allies in the Five Eyes to develop a complementary and strategically viable Australian industry base.

Driven by an unprecedented economic transformation, propelling once developing nations onto the world stage, the region, the globe and its established powers, including Australia, have enjoyed a period of previously unseen economic prosperity and stability.

Australia in particular has been buoyed by the immense mineral and resource wealth of the landmass and the benevolence of the post-Second World War political, economic and strategic order, namely the tactical and strategic freedom enabled by the US to capitalise upon the immense economic opportunities, with little concern for national security and supply chains.

However, across the Indo-Pacific, competing economic, political and strategic interests, designs and ambitions are beginning to clash, flying in contrast to the projections of many historians at the end of the Cold War – further compounding these issues is the continued instability caused by COVID-19, economic disruption through the advent of automation and artificial intelligence and, of course, concerns about ecological collapse.

For Australia and comparable Western nations, like the US, UK and increasingly across the European Union, the outbreak of COVID-19 has only served to further hasten the economic decline, stagnation and political malaise experienced throughout the developed world, with many once-powerful, world-leading nations beginning to feel the pressure.

It has also given rise to an increased shift towards economic nationalism, with a focus on protecting individual national interests and restoring local manufacturing, industrial bases and economic opportunity in light of increasingly exposed and vulnerable global supply chains.

In particular, recent incidents of economic coercion, made by Beijing’s ambassador in Canberra, Cheng Jingye, combined with growing domestic sentiment about breaking Australia’s economic dependence on the rising power has prompted many within Australia’s public and strategic policy communities and the Australian media to begin expanding the debate.

Looking to the future

For example, John Coyne of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has penned a piece, titled ‘Making our own luck in the face of a pandemic’, calling for Australia to use the impact of the global pandemic to take advantage of the moniker of the ‘lucky country’ and establish a semblance of national resilience and security, learning the lessons of over-dependence on global supply chains and blind faith in ‘market forces’ to secure national interests.

“Australia, like many countries, failed to heed such warnings. Critical pandemic readiness policies were overexposed to short-sighted budget cuts underpinned by the dogged pursuit of efficiency. The long-term development of critical infrastructure was left to the whims of market forces. Nation-building efforts were underpinned by a user-pays model,” Coyne states.

“COVID-19 has already shown that market forces don’t promote adequate national resilience in myriad areas, from broadband bandwidth to the capacity to produce basic medical supplies, and that far too much of our preparation for pandemics, along with national resilience, was predicated on good luck.”

Additionally, Chris Uhlmann writing for The Sydney Morning Herald has stated, “we can’t return to business as usual with China”, prompting increased debate in light of the rapidly evolving geo-political and economic environment Australia finds itself in.

Uhlmann is scathing in his positioning of the argument, something that has been long overdue as the nation embodies the very definition of the Lazy Country, something Donald Horne, author of The Lucky Country, considered was a far more accurate descriptor of Australia.

“To date Australia’s business captains and university chiefs have shown they can’t handle the truth. As long as the rivers of gold flowed, they were happy to urge silence in the face of the militarisation of the South China Sea, industrial-scale cyber theft, the arbitrary arrest of our citizens, rampant foreign interference and the imprisonment of a million Uighurs in Xinjiang,” Uhlmann states.

Rising star calls for Strategic Industry Plan

Now, influential Liberal backbencher and chair of the influential parliamentary joint committee for intelligence and security Andrew Hastie has called for closer collaboration between the Five Eyes allies, the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, with a focus on developing and enhancing increased economic capacity.

Contributing an essay to the London-based Henry Jackson Society’s ‘Breaking the China Supply Chain: How the Five Eyes can Decouple from Strategic Dependency’ report, Hastie has revealed Australia’s startling dependency upon Beijing, thus exposing itself unnecessarily to economic coercion and further compromise.

Encapsulating this, Greg Sheridan writing for The Australian has quoted Hastie, saying: “Hastie’s most striking policy response is to call for the Morrison government to create a ‘strategic industry plan’. The purpose of this plan would be ‘to build self-reliance in key pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and other critical goods’. He advocates some departure from recent economic orthodoxy for this effort: ‘Encouraging firms to build and expand domestic production capacity will require government support, such as time-limited tax incentives. This should be a bipartisan effort.'”

This is particularly concerning as the Henry Jackson Society’s report reveals the startling level of Australian dependence upon Beijing, when compared with its Five Eyes partners:

  • Australia is strategically dependent on China for 595 categories of goods. 167 of these have applications in critical national infrastructure;
  • New Zealand is strategically dependent on China for 513 categories of goods. 144 of these have applications in critical national infrastructure;
  • The US is strategically dependent on China for 424 categories of goods. 114 of these have applications in critical national infrastructure;
  • Canada is strategically dependent on China for 367 categories of goods. 83 of these have applications in critical national infrastructure; and
  • The UK is strategically dependent on China for 229 categories of goods. 57 of these have applications in critical national infrastructure.

Hastie’s approach and concept of a ‘strategic industry plan’ is similar in many ways to the concept of a ‘National Strategic Industries Act’ suggested by Defence Connect, namely – using the legislative power of government to counter-balance industry development policies of allied, yet still competitor nations like South Korea.

Such an act would aim to leverage the industrial development policies of export-oriented industrialisation (EOI) to develop its economy into a major economic and modern, advanced manufacturing powerhouse.

Further supporting such an agenda would require significant policy initiative and structure to draw together the individual components, namely both private and public sector R&D programs driven by organisations like the CSIRO – traditional areas of high wage-costs and low productivity in Australia’s manufacturing industry, exemplified in the failure of Australia’s domestic car industry and in the series of cost overruns and delivery delays on both the Collins and Hobart Class programs, have characterised Australia’s reputation as a manufacturing economy.

Enter Industry 4.0 – the combination of additive manufacturing, automated manufacturing and data sharing, with a coherent national strategic Iidustry development policy can compensate and in some cases overcome the traditional hindrances faced by the Australian economy, with public-private collaboration essential to ensuring the long-term sustainability and success of Australia’s defence industrial base and broader manufacturing economy.

While industry largely provides the technological expertise, government policy provides the certainty for investment – particularly when supported by elements of Australia’s innovation and science agenda combined with grant allocation and targeted, contractual tax incentives (signed between the Commonwealth and the company as a memorandum of understanding) linked to a combination of long-term, local job creation, foreign contract success, local industry content, and R&D programs, which are critical components that can be used to empower and enhance the overall competitiveness. (Source: Defence Connect)

20 May 20. FoI Request from Julian Nettlefold, BATTLESPACE.

Babcock DSG Contract Extension.

  1. The formal start of contract delivery by Babcock was 1/4/15.
  2. The 10 year base agreement expires in 2025.
  3. There were 5 potential 1-year extensions to take it to 15 years, with negotiation of each extension to be done 5 years before the extension is due to be used based on contract performance to that date.
  4. The extension from 2025 to 2026 should be in negotiation now.

Have negotiations to extend this to 2026 commenced?

Have Babcock performed as per their contract?

Dear Mr Nettlefold,

Thank you for your email of 25 April 2020 requesting the following information:

Babcock DSG Contract Extension

  1. The formal start of contract delivery by Babcock was 1/4/15.
  2. The 10 year base agreement expires in 2025.
  3. There were 5 potential 1-year extensions to take it to 15 years, with negotiation of each extension to be done 5 years before the extension is due to be used based on contract performance to that date.
  4. The extension from 2025 to 2026 should be in negotiation now.

Have negotiations to extend this to 2026 commenced?

Have Babcock performed as per their contract?

I am treating your correspondence as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

A search for the information has now been completed within the Ministry of Defence, and I can confirm that information in scope of your request is held and is as follows.

I can confirm that negotiations to extend the contract do not need to commence at the moment. The contract allows for flexibility in the negotiation and award of any future potential extension years.

Babcock’s performance is actively and regularly assessed. At the most recent review, Babcock were assessed to be performing to plan.

If you have any queries regarding the content of this letter, please contact this office in the first instance.

If you wish to complain about the handling of your request, or the content of this response, you can request an independent internal review by contacting the Information Rights Compliance team, Ground Floor, MOD Main Building, Whitehall, SW1A 2HB (e-mail CIO-FOI-IR@mod.gov.uk). Please note that any request for an internal review should be made within 40 working days of the date of this response.

If you remain dissatisfied following an internal review, you may raise your complaint directly to the Information Commissioner under the provisions of Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act. Please note that the Information Commissioner will not normally investigate your case until the MOD internal review process has been completed. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information.

19 May 20. First two MMF tanker aircraft set to arrive in June, says NATO. The first two Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft to be purchased by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) will arrive in the Netherlands in June, NATO announced on 15 May. Under the European Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) programme, six NATO countries will jointly own and operate eight A330s, sharing flying hours and costs.

‘The new multinational tanker fleet will substantially enhance European air-to-air refuelling capabilities, but also support tasks such as medical evacuation and the transport of people and cargo,’ according to NATO.

MMF members include Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway. Under a fleet support partnership between NATO and the NSPA, the six countries will jointly acquire, sustain and maintain the fleet. All eight aircraft will be considered NATO property and will be stationed at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands.  Non-European operators of the A330 MRTT include Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. (Source: Shephard)

19 May 20. Lockheed slated to miss F-35 delivery target in 2020 as supply chain struggles to keep up. Lockheed Martin will throttle back the pace of F-35 production on May 23, leaving it anywhere from 18 to 24 jets short of the 141 scheduled for delivery this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for Lockheed’s supply chain to make components on time, and as a result the company is moving to an adjusted work schedule where production will slow over the next three months, said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president for the F-35 program.

Ultimately, Lockheed aims to accelerate production as soon as possible and hopes to decrease the number of aircraft that will delivered late. However, Ulmer said there are too many variables to say precisely how long buyers will be left waiting for their F-35s.

“If I have the ability to speed up or recover sooner, then I will do so,” Ulmer said. “If there are other unknown COVID-19 impacts that I don’t know about that come on the horizon — I don’t know that either. … As we go forward, probably late summer or early fall, we’ll have a pretty good sense of where we’re going to be.”

Beginning on May 23, Lockheed will divide the approximately 2,500 employees who staff the F-35 production line in Fort Worth, Texas, into three groups, moving them to new schedule where each group works for two weeks and then has a week off. After one three-week rotation, the company will determine whether the system is successful and can either alter the schedule or continue until Sept. 4, it said in a statement.

Rotating smaller groups of employees on the line allows Lockheed to move to a slower pace of operations while at the same time ensuring that workers retain their expertise and don’t need to be retrained when the production rate returns to normal, Ulmer said. “It really maximizes our ability to recover production on the backside and retain our workforce with no loss of learning.”

Lockheed Martin executives first disclosed that F-35 deliveries could be delayed during an April 21 earnings call with investors.

“There are local distancing requirements that are being more stringently applied across the globe. There is workforce disruption,” Kenneth Possenriede, the company’s chief financial officer, said at the time. “We’ve actually had some issues with shipping constraints.”

Most of the supply chain pressure on the program stems from constraints on low-tier suppliers that produce components that feed into larger portions of the F-35. While the production line tries to do as much work on each section as possible, workers are having to slow down and wait for missing parts to arrive, Ulmer said.

Lockheed has also had challenges getting connectors for the jet on time — another problem that makes it difficult for the company to merge F-35 sub-assemblies into a finished aircraft, Ulmer said.

Once aircraft are completed and go through acceptance testing, the sequence of deliveries will remain the same, he said.

The slowdown of the F-35’s production rate comes days after President Donald Trump voiced support for moving more of the jet’s production to the United States. Currently, international partners who helped fund development of the F-35 can compete for work on the jet, reducing the cost of the aircraft and giving foreign buyers an industrial incentive to support the program.

“The problem is if we have a problem with a country, you can’t make the jet. We get parts from all over the place. It’s so crazy. We should make everything in the United States,” Trump said on Thursday.

However, the industrial challenges currently faced by Lockheed do not appear to be caused by the international supply base. Ulmer said European suppliers, who were hardest hit before the United States, are now rebounding from the pandemic.

“I really see Europe kind of [on the] leading edge of the recovery side of this,” he said.

In particular, northern Italy struggled with high numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, leading Italian defense firm Leonardo, which runs an F-35 final assembly and check out plant in Cameri, to shut down operations over a two day period in March to clean the facility. With the number of new cases receding, Italy began reopening nonessential businesses this month.

“Leonardo today is north of 90 percent manned, fully operating. They’re pretty much back to normal operations,” Ulmer said.

The ongoing expulsion of Turkish suppliers from the F-35 program is also unlikely to be affected by the production slowdown at Fort Worth, as Lockheed has already identified companies to take over that work, he said. “With the vast majority of those, that alternate sourcing has been accomplished. I really don’t see this as an impact to that.”

Ramping production back up

Unless COVID-19 cases spike in the coming months, Lockheed believes it will be able to return workers to a normal production schedule in the late summer or early fall.

What will vary is timing for when suppliers can return to their usual production rates, and whether those suppliers have the capacity to expedite the manufacturing of key parts, Ulmer said. Once the supply chain has fully recovered, it will take the Fort Wort line two to three months to resume full rate production.

“There are 1,900 suppliers across the program” in the United States, Ulmer said. “So we take all that information in, we determine what rate they can deliver to, we determine if they have any kind of constraints we can help them deal with, and then we have to balance that into the production system to dial in the production rate we can execute.”

“I am optimistic that the majority of industry is on the backside. I’m reluctant to say that because there could be a rebound,” Ulmer said, “but we’re at the very back end of the impact.” (Source: Defense News)

15 May 20. AFU receives restored T-64 and T-72 MBTs. The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have received six restored MBTs from Lviv Armoured Plant (a subsidiary of Ukroboronprom). The work on four T-64s and two T-72s was carried out under a contract between the company and the Ukrainian MoD.

Victor Androschuk, director of Lviv Armoured Plant, said: ‘It is a long and laborious process of mastering new types of equipment, but we set ourselves ambitious tasks – mastering the repair and modernisation of all types of armoured vehicles… which are in service in the AFU.’

As well as the T-64 and T-72, Lviv Armoured Plant modernises the T-55 MBT and a number of other special engineering vehicles such as the BMR-2 and IMR-2. (Source: Shephard)

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About Hobson Industries

 

Hobson Industries is a private company established in 1987 by Peter Hobson, after serving as a Charge Chief Weapons Engineering Artificer in the Royal Navy. Hobson Industries is an innovative and highly technical engineering business operating to the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System which is complimented with our ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System.

Across the markets we serve in, the UK and globally, we establish close relationships with the people that trust and depend on us. We specialise in the through life support management and development of Land Rover heritage military and civilian platforms – in effect, the Land Rover need never die!

Hobson Industries offer four core services that we specialise in:

 

Vehicles:

We offer Land Rover vehicle builds to original specification or complete with modifications and upgrades at the customers request. All work is done in house using our bountiful facilities. In addition to vehicle refurbishment, reconditioning and homologation across all Land Rover models.

Powertrain and Transmission Units:

We offer new and reconditioned units, perfect for your Land Rover. All built using Land Rover tolerances and specifications. All for sale on our website. Additionally, we offer reconditioning services to your own units.

Parts Supply:

With over 16,000 part lines in stock, and the Asset Management programme pioneered by the company, we are able to provide a cost effective range of parts which may no longer be available. Additionally, we are offering Hobson Original branded parts to drawings for obsolete parts to help provide Land Rover owners the parts to keep them on the road. Our parts strategy ensures that all re-cycled, asset managed and reconditioned parts and units meet original equipment standards and specifications to ensure your safety while driving on or off road.

Amour – Design and Fabrication and Blast Protection

We offer armouring in steel, composite and ceramic of new and refurbished vehicles and fleets.

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