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10 Sep 19. Low-key opening at DSEI show as new frigate award is missing in action. Just a few days ago, British Defence Procurement Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s opening speech of DSEI was being touted by some as a possible show stopper, as speculation mounted she would name a Babcock International-led team as the winner of a competition to build a new class of general-purpose frigate for the Royal Navy.
The reality, however, turned out to be anti-climactic.
The Type 31e frigate destined for the Royal Navy barely received a mention. Instead, the procurement minister on Sept. 10 discussed a few minor contract awards that were less eye-catching than the long, red, suede leather boots she was wearing during her first keynote speech at the DSEI show in London.
What happened to the Type 31e announcement, no one is saying. Certainly Trevelyan wasn’t about to throw any light on the position — she exited the stage without taking questions.
One line of speculation among industry executives was that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hijacked the announcement and will say something later this week. Another theory is there won’t be an announcement on the matter during the show, which runs Sept. 10-13.
Babcock and its team that includes Thales UK and various shipyards appear to have been selected by the Ministry of Defence to supply five Danish-designed Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates to meet a requirement to replace aging Type 23 frigates starting 2023. If the deal is cemented, it will be the first time the Royal Navy operated a foreign-designed combat ship in decades.
The Babcock version of the warship, known as the Arrowhead 140, has been competing with rival designs offered by a BAE Systems-led consortium and Atlas Elektronic UK.
Trevelyan, who was appointed to her post July 27 as part of Johnson’s new government, turned to a number of smaller contracts to get the show rolling on a positive note. Among them was a £177m (U.S. $218m) deal awarded to five companies to service and support the fleet of small boats operated by the MoD and other government agencies.
Qinetiq scored a £67m contract to develop a new anti-jam GPS receiver as part of the U.K.’s robust global navigation system program. Elbit UK secured a £130m deal to deliver a joint fires synthetic trainer. The Type 31e deal is expected to be worth at least £1.25bn. (Source: Defense News)
10 Sep 19. Italy joins Britain’s Tempest combat aircraft program. Italy is expected to join a nascent British effort to build a sixth-generation fighter jet, expanding that program’s membership club to three partners after Sweden signed up earlier this summer.
Officials here at the DSEI defense trade show were still unsure as of Tuesday afternoon in what form the government-to-government agreement would be announced, saying that Italy’s and Britain’s turbulent political situations made for little certainty. It appeared that a written statement by the respective defense ministries would be published by Wednesday morning, to be accompanied by a formal event that day.
The U.K. subsidiary of Italy’s Leonardo has been part of the program since it announced its participation at the Farnborough Airshow last year, working on new new ideas for sensors and avionics. It remains to be seen if involving the whole of Italy’s flagship contractor will alter the playing field on the industrial side.
Tempest is meant to take flight sometime around 2040, replacing the Eurofighter Typhoon for the British Royal Air Force. The promise of a sixth-generation capability lies in the integration of manned and unmanned planes carrying weapons and sensors, tied together by a complex data network and cloud-like information infrastructure.
Information on the scope of Italy’s involvement in the program was eagerly awaited at DSEI, with some sources suggesting Rome’s participation could go beyond what Sweden and its go-to contractor Saab signed up for in July.
During a news conference in July, Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe described the prospect of jointly developing Britain’s Tempest platform as only one of several possible outcomes of the tie-up inked by the two countries’ defense ministers that month.
The near-term objective, he said, is for Saab to participate in cutting-edge research that could help boost the performance of its latest Gripen E fighter. The jet is “75 percent software,” he explained, which presents the possibility of new capabilities without major hardware changes.
The involvement of Italy in Tempest solidifies what is becoming a major race in Europe to develop a next-generation warplane for the continent. France, Germany and Spain are pursuing a separate effort, the Future Combat Air System, with Airbus and Dassault in the industry lead. (Source: Defense News)
10 Sep 19. Defence Industry Minister heads to Europe to spruik Australia’s defence industry. Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price will lead Australia’s defence industry advocacy and collaboration with the UK and France as part of her official attendance at key defence industry trade shows.
DSEI is a truly international exhibition and conference connecting governments, national armed forces, industry thought leaders, and the global defence and security supply chain on an unrivalled scale.
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said, “In the UK, I will support the largest contingent of Australian defence industry companies to attend the Defence and Security Equipment International tradeshow with a focus on how small businesses can benefit from defence partnerships.”
DSEI is one of 15 tradeshows and trade missions that the Australian government’s Defence Export Office will support over the next 12 months.
With a range of opportunities for networking, a platform for business, access to relevant content and live-action demonstrations, the DSEI community can innovate, share knowledge, discover and experience the latest capabilities across the aerospace (including space), land, naval, security and joint domains.
“While in London, I will address the Defence Industry and Innovation Day at Australia House and outline my focus on supporting our small businesses to grow stronger through new export opportunities,” Minister Price added.
France will figure as a key component of the minister’s advocacy agenda, with Minister Price stating, “In France, I will meet the workforce from Defence and Naval Group who are working together in Cherbourg to deliver Australia’s Future Submarine Program.”
“The Morrison government will deliver thousands of jobs and opportunities for Australian small businesses in the Future Submarine Program. I look forward to deepening Australia’s defence ties with the UK and France, promoting Australia’s defence industry and small businesses and exploring opportunities to strengthen Australia’s defence industrial base,” Minister Price said.
DSEI 2019 will see 1,600 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees from over 50 countries. (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Sep 19. RAF teases Tempest partnership announcement. Amid growing interest in which nations will be added to future European fighter programmes – the Royal Air Force (RAF) has hinted that a new partner will be added to its Tempest effort during DSEI 2019 in London.
A year of talks saw Sweden join Tempest, by way of an MoU signed in July, but asked if similar, lengthy negotiation timeframes can be accelerated, Air Cdre Daniel Storr, head of combat air acquisition, at the RAF, told Shephard to ‘wait and see’ what happens in the coming days – a hint that a new partner announcement could potentially be in the offing.
Italy and Japan are known to be leading candidates being considered.
Prospective partners are not being judged solely on the basis of their track record of producing fighter jet aircraft alone, as each new agreement can be approved on the strength of a particular area of industrial or technological expertise, according to Storr.
With an IOC target of 2035 for Tempest, the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon will remain operational in the interim, but whether the transition between the two equates to a like-for-like fleet replacement, is still to be determined, he confirmed.
Storr also made clear that underpinning the development of Tempest is a recognition of adversaries increasing ‘fifth generation fighter capabilities, missile systems and proliferation of [those] systems,’ – a context that combined with enemy A2/AD capabilities, could reduce stand-off surveillance capabilities of the UK and its allies.
At a strategic level, three key areas are being explored by the RAF to support how Tempest evolves: Tier 1 or expendable assets; Tier 2 attributable assets and Tier 3 survivable assets – a move that looks to address design trade-offs for the programme’s main combat air vehicle, by leveraging additive capabilities to add, for example, a more lethal array of weapons.
‘We envisage that the next generation combat air system will be a data rich, networked system, with a central combat air vehicle, at its core, potentially controlling semi-autonomous, additive capabilities,’ Storr explained. (Source: News Now/Shephard)
09 Sep 19. UK Military Focusing on Mobilization, Modernization, Transformation. Like the United States, the United Kingdom is now focused on competing with advanced adversaries, the island nation’s deputy chief of defence staff for military capability said Sept. 9.
During opening remarks at “Day Zero” of the Defense Security Equipment International Conference, Air Marshal Richard Knighton invoked former U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
“Gen. Mattis said last year [that] the world is awash in change, defined by increasing global volatility and uncertainty, with great power competition between nations becoming a reality once again,” Knighton noted. Mattis also “said that our competitive edge is eroding in every domain — land, sea, space and cyberspace — and it is continuing to erode.”
The United Kingdom agrees with that assessment, Knighton said during DSEI’s strategic conference.
Mobilization, modernization and transformation within the U.K. military are key elements of the nation’s response to these growing threats, he said.
“The importance of operational tempo and the need to be able to react quickly are … leading us and our NATO allies to refocus on traditional issues of resilience, readiness, availability and sustainability,” he said. “This is at the heart of the U.K. mobilization plans.”
The armed forces must also modernize, he said. “We need to deliver new and different capabilities that will help us to overcome” challenges.
In particular, the United Kingdom must be able to operate in contested environments, Knighton noted.
“Improving our lethality and survivability will be key in enabling us to project power and to deter and threaten our adversaries,” he said.
The halls of DSEI — which feature more than 1,600 exhibitors — are filled with such technologies, including novel weapons such as swarms of drones, he noted. “These are going to be critical parts of our inventory in the future.”
However, success won’t be just about having the best weapons, he noted. The military must have the ability to make faster and better decisions be leveraging data and information, he said.
Knighton noted that other nations, such as Russia, are already making large investments in artificial intelligence technology, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the country that leads in AI will become the ruler of the world.
The United Kingdom wants to innovate faster, but recognizes that while technology breakthroughs previously took place in defense research organizations, they are now coming from the private sector, Knighton said.
“A combination of these factors is driving a requirement to adapt much faster than we’ve been used to over the last few decades,” he said. “Our ability to innovate — which we define as our ability to generate ideas and put them rapidly into practice — will be an essential part of this response.”
Knighton noted, however, that tapping into innovation won’t be easy as some might think. “Too often I think we seem to [try to] sprinkle innovation magic to solve difficult” problems, he said. “Doing innovation effectively, at scale in a complex bureaucracy with long and well-established cultures … is hard.”
The U.K. Ministry of Defence has challenged itself to do better.
“Buying a few commercially available bits of kit to special forces soldiers is not ambitious enough, but it is a start,” he said.
Since 2016, the defense ministry has invested more than 65 million pounds in over 600 initiatives to tap into innovation. Like the Pentagon, it is trying to attract nontraditional suppliers, he noted. These organizations, along with larger companies and academia are key to a vibrant and broad ecosystem that lays the groundwork for technological success, he said. However, the ministry knows it must do more to appeal to smaller firms.
“It can be difficult to deal with defence, particularly for small- or medium-sized enterprises,” he said. “Our processes can be slow, risk averse and full of boiler plate solutions.”
Knighton noted that the government understands the problem and is working to transform its acquisition practices.
(Source: National Defense)
08 Sep 19. Britain’s shipbuilding strategy has not gone according to plan — and industry is noticing. Confronted with the dilemma of maintaining a naval industrial base after the completion of two 65,000-ton aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, the British government two years ago launched a national shipbuilding strategy aimed at building an efficient sector, and thus keeping skills and capacity alive.
But the strategy has failed to work out exactly as planned. Two yards closed this year and a third was rescued by nationalization. Meanwhile in the supply chain, the Ministry of Defence had to act quickly on ordering the motor for the Type 26 frigate to prevent the contractor from moving its capabilities to France.
Former shipyard boss Peter Parker, who authored the original shipbuilding strategy, delivered a review of the strategy’s status to the MoD, but the update remains under wraps, with no firm timing announced for its publication.
One key element of the strategy included procurement of five general-purpose frigates for the Royal Navy to be competed for by local shipyards in an effort to end BAE Systems’ maritime monopoly in Britain. Another included an international competition for up to three 40,000-ton fleet solid support ships. Both programs have subsequently run into stormy waters.
Paul Everitt, the chief executive of ADS, the lobby group that represents British defense, aerospace and security companies, said it’s important to continue to support the strategy, even as some of the impetus has been lost.
“We need to stick with the national shipbuilding strategy. It marks a significant shift in the MoD’s approach to procurement. The area that has been challenging, though, is that progress has been hindered by the political uncertainty around Brexit and the future size of MoD budgets,” Everitt said, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
“Some of the decisions that would help to give industry the longer-term certainty they require to invest or hang in there aren’t being made,” he added. “Where do we go next ? It is really about the MoD creating certainty around a pipeline of work from all the key programs, all of which should offer significant amounts of work to U.K. industry over the next 15 years.”
Not everyone remains signed up to the shipbuilding strategy, however.
Defense commentator Howard Wheeldon, of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory, is unsure about the relevance of the strategy.
“It’s no longer fit for purpose. We have moved on. More shipyards have closed due to lack of work, and we should not kid ourselves that a commercial shipyard that has little or no expertise in building Navy ships can take on the responsibility and risk that the government requires,” Wheeldon said.
“If the government has any belief in the strategy, it will ensure that contracts for the fleet [solid] support ships will be placed in U.K. shipyards. If it fails, then we must conclude that it has neither belief in its own strategy or in ensuring that we retain the sovereign capability that a nation such as the U.K. needs,” he added.
An international competition to build two or three fleet solid support ships has been underway for months, with the bidders narrowed down to Navantia of Spain, Japan Marine United Corp., and a homemade consortium made up of BAE Systems, Babcock International, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce, known as Team UK.
The MoD opened the deal to foreign bidders, reasoning that the vessels were not warships and therefore, under European Union regulations, the competition must be open to all.
Now, though, the tide seems to be turning in favor of British yards taking a bigger share of the work than just the fitting of locally made sensitive kit.
One senior industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the “current fleet solid support [ship] procurement plan is not really tenable with the current government team and a shipbuilding strategy which is in danger of becoming unstitched.”
“The government will have come under huge pressure on this issue at every political level. You have a new procurement minister, [Marie-Anne Trevelyn], who only a couple of months ago put her name to a parliamentary report supporting building the ships in the U.K.; you have a Brexiter defense secretary in Ben Wallace; and [Prime Minister Boris] Johnson himself,” the industry executive said. “Is that trio likely to award a contract to a Spanish yard?”
Whatever the outcome, it’s too late for two of the yards. Babcock’s Appledore yard in southwest England closed in early 2019 after the completion of an offshore patrol boat for the Irish Naval Service. Additionally, Harland & Wolff recently went into insolvency proceedings with its Belfast, Northern Ireland, yard that famously built the Titanic — although there remains a chance a buyer could be found for the facility.
In Glasgow, shipbuilder Ferguson’s nationalization by the Scottish government was announced Aug. 16 after the yard went over time and over budget with a commercial ferry contract it won.
Harland & Wolff was the lead U.K. yard in a proposal by German-based Atlas Elektronik to build Type 31e frigates for the Royal Navy. The yard’s demise could scuttle the German company’s bid, although parent company Thyssenkrupp has a history of reviving cold yards.
Atlas isn’t the only company with Harland & Wolff on its team. Babcock also listed the Northern Ireland yard in its Type 31e proposal at one stage and also named Ferguson as a subcontractor.
Britain has shortlisted three contenders for the Type 31e requirement: Atlas, Babcock and BAE Systems. A decision on a winner is expected this year, although there has been speculation it could come during or soon after the DSEI trade show in September.
The supply chain has not been immune from difficulties either.
GE Power, which provides power-conversion systems for Royal Navy warships, announced it was closing its Rugby site in Central England and relocating the work to France. In response, the MoD ordered motors for a second batch of Type 26s to prevent the move, even though BAE does not yet have a deal to build the warships.
The industry executive said the GE Power episode highlighted a weakness in Britain’s shipbuilding strategy.
“GE proved the point: It [the strategy] didn’t really address the criticality of the supply chain. It assumed the criticality was all about shipyards,” he said. “The other fundamental flaw with it was you were never going to keep all the U.K. yards in business if you were going to put the fleet solid support ship deal offshore.”
The situation certainly isn’t improved by the political turmoil at the MoD and in wider government.
Defense and procurement leaders have been coming and going with alarming regularity for years , particularly since the government adopted the shipbuilding strategy in September 2017.
Penny Mordaunt, the pro-Navy, pro-buy-British defense secretary, lasted just more than 60 days before she found herself backing the wrong candidate in a Conservative Party leadership contest, which resulted in Johnson becoming prime minister on July 24.
Given the current political uncertainties, there is no guarantee how long the new administration will last.
With the Brexit debate occupying the government nearly 24/7, defense has barely rated a mention by the Johnson government; that is, other than during the furor caused by the Royal Navy’s inability to stop the seizure of a British-registered tanker by Iran on July 19.
The uncertainties have come at a time of mixed fortunes for the British maritime sector.
Yards may be closing, but set against that is the Type 26 anti-submarine frigate design scoring major export successes in Australia and Canada — successes that could put Britain back on the maritime export map in a big way. Neither of the export customers will have their frigates built in the U.K., but the deals open the door to potentially billions of pounds of orders for the British supply chain. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
09 Sep 19. The UK’s Defence and Security industries come to DSEI 2019 this week, with the largest ever UK Pavilion at the exhibition. Today ADS publishes the annual UK Defence Outlook 2019 and UK Security & Resilience Outlook 2019, showing the two sectors are together worth £36bn to the UK economy, and provide 250,000 jobs.
ADS Chief Executive Paul Everitt said: “The UK’s defence and security industries are world leaders that make a vital contribution to our national security, sustaining hundreds of thousands of high value jobs in all parts of the UK. This week will see our largest ever UK Pavilion at DSEI, where we will bring 153 UK companies to this major international exhibition in London. Global demand for our innovative and advanced defence and security capabilities is helping these important industries to grow their exports to our international allies and partners.”
The ADS UK Defence Outlook 2019 shows:
- The sector has achieved an annual turnover of £22.7bn in 2018.
- It employs 135,000 people in this high value UK industry.
- The UK defence sector invests £1.8bn a year in R&D in the UK and provides 30,000 jobs in design and engineering alone.
The ADS UK Security & Resilience Outlook 2019 shows:
- The sector is worth £13.3bn in annual turnover, a 142 per cent rise since 2010.
- It now employs 114,000 people, with 3,000 apprentices.
- Exports have risen to £5.2bn, with cyber security the largest area at 40 per cent of exports, followed by capabilities including critical national infrastructure, and policing and counter terrorism.
09 Sep 19. BMT drive surface ships support improvement through the Engineering Delivery Partner. BMT, a member of The Aurora Engineering. Partnership, is pleased to announce their key leadership role in providing technical documentation support for the Royal Navy. This multi-million pound task supports the safe operation and maintenance of Royal Navy surface ship systems and equipment for five years which builds on prior provision and demonstrates BMT’s position as a market leader in technical documentation. The task has been awarded through the Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) Agreement that is managed by UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). EDP is helping the UK MOD to reduce costs of their engineering services, while ensuring the UK’s Armed Forces receive the best equipment and support.
The award will enable the DE&S Ships Maintenance Management Team to draw on BMT’s naval expertise with technical reviews, and updates of maintenance manuals and technical publications.
“By continuing to work with BMT, this contract will provide DE&S with additional resource to review, update and generate safe, accurate and current technical content for our surface ships,” commented Jim Biss, DE&S Lead. “The publications are integral to the safe operation, maintenance and repair of maritime systems, equipment and platforms operated by the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary.”
Simon Willmore, Head of Technical Information and Documentation Services at BMT, said: “The contract demonstrates the excellent value we, and the Aurora Engineering Partnership, provide DE&S in terms of technical knowledge and customer service. Over the course of this contract, we will be taking legacy documents and formats, updating them to the latest templates and standards as well as reviewing and incorporating any technical or legislative changes that are needed to keep personnel safe and assets operationally ready.”
QinetiQ, Atkins, a member of SNC-Lavalin Group, and BMT joined forces to form The Aurora Engineering Partnership to support DE&S transformation strategy and drive benefits through the delivery of engineering services.
BMT booth S3-140 in the UK Pavilion.
09 Sep 19. Large South African presence at DSEI. South Africa’s aerospace and defence industry will be well represented at the DSEI exhibition in the United Kingdom this week. With 34 companies set to attend, the event will also see the launch of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2020 exhibition. This year’s Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) runs from 10 to 13 September at the ExCel Exhibition Centre in London. South Africa will have its largest national pavilion yet, and is amongst the top ten biggest international pavilions at DSEI 2019.
According to the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Export Council (SAAMDEC), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-funded pavilion has 578 square metres of space, showcasing 34 South African companies.
Of these 34, ten will be participating at DSEI for the first time, and 20 of the companies are small to medium and macro-sized enterprises (SMMEs). Many other South African companies will be attending DSEI, but not exhibiting.
Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla will head the South African delegation to London where he is scheduled to meet various international VIP delegations as well as VIP delegations from the continent at the South African pavilion.
“Exports are critical to the South African defence industry as it accounts for almost 70% of revenue; it is therefore critical for South Africa to participate in international platforms such as DSEI 2019,” SAAMDEC said. The Export Council coordinates the South African pavilion along with the Department of Trade and Industry. Companies exhibiting at the South African pavilion offer a wide range of products and services. These include Alaris Antennas (antennas), Aerodyne Research and Manufacturing (parachutes), Armscor (defence materiel procurement), Bayside Marine (boatbuilders), Cape Aerospace Technologies (micro jet engines), Cybicom Atlas Defence (defence electronics and naval equipment), DCD Group (armoured vehicles), Denel (artillery, munitions, missiles, aerostructures, UAVs, armoured vehicles), Desert Wolf Consulting (unmanned aerial vehicles, trailers and surveillance systems), ExploSpot Systems (explosion detection and mitigation systems), Floida Engineering Services (radar and cyber security), Fuchs Electronics (fuses), Lantern Engineering (communications, technology products and signals intelligence), Milkor (grenade launchers, armoured vehicles, UAVs and cyber defence), MND Technologies (communications), Rapid Mobile (communications), Redeployable Camp Systems (tents and camp systems), Reutech (turrets, radars and communications), Rippel Effect Systems (grenade launchers), S-Plane Automation (UAVs and control software), Shrike Marine (cables, power supplies), South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Export Council, Sovereignty Systems (radar and electronic warfare), Special Vehicle Innovation (SVI – armoured vehicles), Tellumat (UAVs and components), and Veecraft Marine (naval boats).
A large number of South African companies will be offering their body armour and uniform capabilities and these include Brits Nonwoven (textiles), Bullet Proofing Technology (armour), Cornwall Hill Industries (safety equipment and clothing), Kimona Manufacturers (protective clothing), Imperial Armour (body armour, protective clothing and uniforms), Stepahead Manufacturing (webbing, badges, uniforms), Zebra Sun (textiles) and Zero Industries (life jackets, diving equipment, wetsuits etc.).
Also taking place during DSEI 2019 will be the official launch of the 11th edition of AAD on 12 September at the South African Pavilion. AAD is Africa’s largest aerospace and defence exhibition. Held every two years, the next edition will take place at Air Force Base Waterkloof in Tshwane between 16 and 20 September 2020. (Source: Google/https://www.defenceweb.co.za)
09 Sep 19. Surface Technology International Celebrates 30th Birthday. Surface Technology International (STI) is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. This marks an important milestone in STI’s history, demonstrating the company has a long history of supporting world-class OEM’s in high reliability industries with all their electronic needs.
Surface Technology International is a specialist Contract Electronics Manufacturer, serving world-class customers in high-reliability industries by providing a complete set of electronics design and manufacturing solutions in both printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) and full box-build manufacturing.
Simon Best, Managing Director at STI said: “At DSEI 2019 we are proud to be celebrating our 30th Anniversary with many of or our key customers. Without them we couldn’t have grown and developed in the way we have, providing them with the electronics and products that are part of mission critical, safety critical and lifesaving systems.”
04 Sep 19. Shrinking of UK rotary power opens up capability criticism. From a statistical point of view the UK’s rotary fleet has dropped by 50 aircraft over the last three years equating to a current overall inventory of 322 helicopters, with more recent changes including the retirement of Sea King Mk7s and first deliveries of AW101 Commando Merlin Mk4/4As.
Much has been made of an Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) capability gap left by the Sea King fleet being taken out of service. However, the contingency plan of using Merlin, Wildcat, E3-D Sentry aircraft and Type 45 destroyers is looked upon as a viable interim solution until the new Crowsnest ASaC mission system is fit for operational use with the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 fleet.
On that front, progress is being made in a timely manner, with the first flight of the aero-mechanical part of the system successfully completed in March 2019 and electromagnetic compatibility ground tests of the transmitting radar installed on a Merlin helicopter, successfully completed at Qinetiq’s Boscombe Down facility at the end of August.
Further collaboration between the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and associated industry partners is set to lead to the Crowsnest capability being used to support a first Carrier Strike Group deployment in Q2 2021, preceded by sea trials set to begin in Q3 2020. On the issue of ASaC capability transitioning however, there is reason to suggest that the MoD – with a focus on managing its rotary-wing fleet predominately for the Afghanistan war effort – saw fit to deprioritise naval threats.
‘It’s always a challenge, particularly with a relatively small military force – which the UK is these days – to have a seamless transition from old [aircraft] to new,’ Grey Bagwell, President of The Air and Space Power Association told Shephard.
‘Sometimes you have to take a degree of risk and what you had during Afghanistan and Iraq, to a high degree, was the absence of a submarine threat and as that [capability] wasn’t a priority it got pushed to the back of the queue,’ he said.
Emerging threats post Afghanistan now mean that there is much for the UK to ponder at a strategic level, part of which will be defined by how helicopters are deployed during future conflicts.
‘You’re not going to be employing helicopter lift in an intensive war unless you’ve spent an awful lot of money on defensive systems and we know… that if it was a Russian type scenario, helicopters aren’t going to be as close to the front line as they were in Afghanistan,’ according to Bagwell.
Beyond worse case operational scenarios, he is also clear that it is now ‘time to accept the fact that [national] air platform manufacturing is beyond [the UK],’ qualifying the statement by adding that there is a ‘reattack’ with the Tempest future fighter programme – led by and including a number of British industry partners such as BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.
Royal Marines stationed in Afghanistan after being dropped to their Notwithstanding the loss of indigenous rotary manufacturing, the MoD is awaiting the replacement of its current Apache AH Mk1 fleet with the arrival of 50 new Boeing AH-64E Guardian aircraft.
The procurement is set to see the UK become the second largest export operator of the type behind Saudi Arabia, with first deliveries expected next year and all to be complete by Q1 2024, before an IOC milestone of April 2022 is due.
Attack Helicopter Command, an aviation unit within the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command, will be responsible for operating the new helicopters, with a raft of improvements strengthening capability and performance – compared to the Mk1 fleet.
Major component changes are to include: new engines, drivetrain, main rotor blades and better on-board engineering diagnostics, while the cockpit addition of a ‘revolutionary’ Cognitive Decision Aiding System will ‘enable pilots to prosecute targets faster,’ an MoD spokesperson confirmed.
‘For improved target engagement, sights and sensors on the nose turret and rotor mast have been upgraded to enable identification at greater ranges and also enhance aircraft protection,’ he added.
Separately, having commenced a three-month deployment with aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth at the end of August, there are signs that capability maturity for the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk4/4a fleet continues apace, with delivery from Leonardo of all 25 aircraft expected in April 2021.
The programme itself has been delayed slightly from an initial final delivery schedule of December 2020, though neither Leonardo or the MoD has been forthcoming about the reasons for the change.
‘MOD and Leonardo have jointly agreed a programme which meets MOD’s operational requirements,’ a Leonardo spokesperson explained in a statement. ‘Many factors are involved in determining the overall schedule.’
MK4/4a structural and equipment changes are based on the upgrading of RAF Merlin Mk3/3A airframes, which includes a new automated folding tail and main rotor blade as well as new avionics, a fast roping system, roof mounted chaff dispensers and a strengthened undercarriage to increase maritime durability.
While these moves to refresh helicopter capabilities and reduce reliance on legacy platforms fit the mould of most modern air forces, there is a lingering perception that the UK’s rotary fleet has suffered fatigue post Afghanistan and could be exposed by adversaries should high intensity conflicts emerge.
Short-term, the issue of an ASaC capability gap will be put right but if the trend of a shrinking helicopter base persists, criticism of how the UK intends to adequately support international allied missions, especially post-Brexit where it could potentially withdraw from EU-based operations, can be expected. (Source: Shephard)
04 Sep 19. Pending American Panel Corporation Acquisition By Mercury Systems, Inc. American Panel Corporation (APC), the world’s leader in custom AMLCD products for both avionics and vetronics applications, has been chosen for acquisition by Mercury Systems, Inc., (NASDAQ: MRCY), an innovative aerospace and defense company. Two years ago, Mercury established the Mission Systems group and began its expansion into mission computing, safety-critical avionics and platform management with the acquisitions of Creative Electronic Systems (CES) in Geneva, Switzerland; Richland Technologies in Duluth, Georgia; and earlier this year GECO Avionics in Mesa, Arizona. APC will add a new, significant capability to Mercury’s Mission Systems group.
As Mercury’s first acquisition of an optical display component company, APC offers many years of both aerospace and ground vehicle application display experience to the table while Mercury brings a wide presence in mission critical and safety certified systems and components to APC.
APC is a privately held corporation, which has excelled in delivering the highest quality optical display components to first tier avionics and vetronics integrators since 1998, with well over 120,000 display components provided to customers worldwide. APC, in its acquisition agreement by Mercury, intends for “business as usual” with all existing partners, customers and suppliers. The same people and products will remain available to support existing and future requirements-based display needs where product performance under extreme operating conditions is preeminent. Once the acquisition closes, APC will become a subsidiary of Mercury Systems, Inc. and all customer information provided to APC will remain protected under current non-disclosure agreements.
Jamie Boulet, APC’s Manager of Business Development said, “This is just the beginning of great things to happen for the future, in combining the strength of APC with a proven aerospace leader such as Mercury Systems.”
Lincad is a leading expert in the design and manufacture of batteries, chargers and associated products for a range of applications across a number of different sectors. With a heritage spanning more than three decades in the defence and security sectors, Lincad has particular expertise in the development of reliable, ruggedised products with high environmental, thermal and electromagnetic performance. With a dedicated team of engineers and production staff, all product is designed and manufactured in-house at Lincad’s facility in Ash Vale, Surrey. Lincad is ISO 9001 and TickITplus accredited and works closely with its customers to satisfy their power management requirements.
Lincad is also a member of the Joint Supply Chain Accreditation Register (JOSCAR), the accreditation system for the aerospace, defence and security sectors, and is certified with Cyber Essentials, the government-backed, industry supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber attacks. The majority of Lincad’s products contain high energy density lithium-ion technology, but the most suitable technology for each customer requirement is employed, based on Lincad’s extensive knowledge of available electrochemistries. Lincad offers full life cycle product support services that include repairs and upgrades from point of introduction into service, through to disposal at the end of a product’s life. From product inception, through to delivery and in-service product support, Lincad offers the high quality service that customers expect from a recognised British supplier.