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10 Oct 19. Greece Signals Intent to Buy French Frigates. Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos on Thursday signaled Greece’s willingness to launch talks for the acquisition of two new navy frigates in talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly in Paris. The ministers signed a statement of intent for the acquisition by the Hellenic Navy of two Belharra-class frigates, Panagiotopoulos said, adding that there was “a long way to go” before an agreement is reached on the required “technical aspects” of the vessels.
Another point of discussion was some pending issues relating to the maintenance of French Mirage fighter jets, he said. The two ministers also discussed Turkey’s offensive in Syria and developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey continues its illegal prospecting for hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). (end of excerpt)
(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: If this deal goes through, Greece will become the first export customer for Naval Group’s Belharra-class frigates, which the French Navy is ordering as Frégate de Défense et d’Intervention (FDI).
France plans to buy at least five.
These ships will displace around 4,000 tonnes, and will be the first French warship to be fitted with flat-panel AESA radar (Thales’ Sea Fire 500) as well as a hull-mounted sonar. Its armaments fit will include Aster 30 air-defense missiles, a 76mm gun, MLU 90 torpedoes and MM-40 Exocet anti-ship missiles and possibly MdCN naval cruise missiles. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Ekathimerini)
10 Oct 19. Finland Sets Cost Cap on Fighter Purchase. The Finnish government has set a €10bn (US$11bn) ceiling on the project to update the country’s jet fighters, the Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday. The [financial] cap will comprise the cost for purchasing new jets, their [weapons] and a variety of ground systems. The project is meant to replace the current fleet of 64 F-18 Hornets, which were bought from the United States in the early 1990s.
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen told media on Wednesday that the number of new jets to be purchased could exceed, or fall short of the current level.
The tenderers have been F-35, the Super Hornet, the Rafale, the Eurofighter and the Gripen.
This autumn Finland will be sending more detailed tender requests to the candidates. Technical tests will be flown in Finland this coming winter. Final tenders will be arranged in 2020. The Finnish government is to choose the type of fighters to purchase in 2021.
Lauri Puranen, the head of strategic projects at the Finnish Ministry of Defense, said on Wednesday that there were no indications that any of the five would be pulling out from the race at the moment. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Xinhua)
08 Oct 19. Advanced Call for Tender for the Finnish HX Project. At its meeting last week, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Policy discussed the HX project. The Committee of Ministers was in favor of sending an advanced invitation to tender through five French, Swedish, US and UK administrations. From the project’s point of view, we received clear and timely guidance from the political leadership, on the basis of which we can proceed with the project as planned in line with the defense statement. The revised call for tenders sent in late autumn was set at a price cap of EUR 10 billion.
Within the price ceiling, a performance entity must be built that includes not only the machines and their weapon systems, but also other components required by the HX system. These include e.g. a support, training and maintenance system, changes to the management and information systems required for integration into the defense system, and the construction of security-critical infrastructure.
The Advanced Call for Proposals moves, as planned, to a model that invites bidders to provide full performance within a set price cap. Thus, if required or even enabled to remain within the price ceiling or to achieve full performance, the provider may offer 64 aircraft.
However, the criteria for full replacement of performance will not change with the advanced call for tenders. The number of fighters and their ability to survive and to make losses have a significant impact on crisis prevention and the credibility and performance of the Finnish defense system. Quality cannot be replaced by quantity or quantity by quality, but both are needed to achieve credibility.
So, the project is progressing and I firmly believe that it is possible to replace our Hornets within the original timeframe. Bidders have also been informed of the way in which the project is continued.
With the advanced call for tender, the more specific vendor-specific and tailor-made solutions sought will, I believe, also clarify the work of each bidder. In my view, there are no signs that any provider would leave the game at this point. Confirmation will be obtained when manufacturers bring their machines to the January-February HX challenge testing and verification event.
The author, Maj. Gen. Lauri Puranen, has been Program Director of Strategic Projects at the Finnish Ministry of Defense since the beginning of 2016. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Finnish Defense Procurement blog)
08 Oct 19. Swiss Axalp Demo Canceled – Cracks Detected on F / A-18. New cracks were discovered on Wednesday, October 9, 2019 as part of routine checks on the flaps of an F/A-18C/D Hornet. In consequence, flights have been restricted to ensure flight safety. For this reason, demonstrations by the Swiss Air Force scheduled for Thursday on the Axalp are canceled.
New cracks were discovered on Wednesday on the landing flaps of an F/A-18C/D Hornet fighter. As an immediate measure, the Air Force commander ordered flight restrictions for the F/A-18 Hornet and the inspection of all F/A-18 aircraft of the Air Force.
For flight operations, the flight restrictions mean that no aircraft demonstrations near the ground or gun strafing will be carried out until completion of inspections on the corresponding aircraft. A minimum altitude of about 1,000 meters above ground has also been decided.
Despite these flight restrictions, the F/A-18 aircraft remain available for the Air Police Service (LP24).
The discovery of new cracks coincides with the flight demonstrations of the Luftwaffe on the Axalp. As the F/A-18 cannon firing and the F/A-18 flight demonstration are the main attraction of the Air Force’s demonstrations on the Axalp, scheduled for Thursday Oct. 10, the Air Force has decided to cancel these events.
Various issues related to the detected cracks, such as when the inspections of all F/A-18s have been completed or what costs will be incurred, are the subject of ongoing clarifications. Only after completion of these in-depth clarifications can reliable statements be possible.
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
(Source: defense-aerospace.com/ Swiss Dept. of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport)
09 Oct 19. Italy to Continue with F-35 Fighter Program: Minister. Italy will continue as a full member of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, and the government intends to confirm its F-35 fighter investments, Reuters reported today from Rome.
In an interview released this morning, Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini told Il Corriere della Sera that “Renewing our fleet is a need that cannot be postponed,” adding that “I can assure you that Italy’s participation in the F-35 programme meets the objectives of effectiveness and efficiency of the military instrument.”
Guerini, a member of the Democratic Party (PD), part of the governing coalition with the 5-Star Movement, did not provide any additional information, and notably did not explain how this will be managed given the 5-Star’s long-standing opposition to the F-35. He also did not say if the financial backlog had been paid.
Italy originally planned to buy 131 F-35 aircraft, but later reduced its order to 90 aircraft: 60 F-35As for the Italian Air Force and 15 F-35Bs each for the Air Force and the Italian Navy. Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement, said last year that F-35 fighter jets were not a priority, and that the programme had to be reviewed in 2019, Reuters said.
Italy’s previous defense minister, Elisabetta Trenta, a member of the 5-Star, had frozen payments to the F-35 Joint Program Office, and had not confirmed a follow-on order due this year. (Source: defense-aerospace.com)
08 Oct 19. The Netherlands to buy nine more F-35s for $1.1bn. The Dutch government on Tuesday announced plans to purchase nine more of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets, a move that would bring the country’s inventory to 46. The envisioned €1bn acquisition will “lay the foundation” for a third F-35 squadron in the Dutch air force, a plan that government officials first floated in late 2018, according to a statement posted on the defense ministry website. The additional aircraft are expected contribute to the air force’s objective of having four jets available for NATO missions while also performing homeland defense operations and accounting for training requirements and maintenance downtime.
Fully rounding out a third squadron would require 15 extra planes, however, alliance officials have previously told the Dutch, prompting talk in the Netherlands last year of a potentially higher number eventually.
The Dutch want the F-35 to replace their legacy fleet of F-16s. Neighbor Belgium selected the fifth-generation aircraft in the fall of 2018, announcing a planned buy of 34 copies.
Dick Zandee, a defense analyst at the Clingendael think tank in The Hague, told Defense News the announced acquisition of nine more F-35s enjoys “broad support” in the Dutch parliament. He said government leaders had already included the new aircraft spending in their annual report to NATO to show momentum in the country’s move toward spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on the military.
Government officials have told parliament that they want to give the American program office a formal notice to buy the additional jets before the end of the year, Zandee said. The Dutch want F-35s of the newest configuration, he added, which means any changes in the international delivery schedule caused by the recent Turkish expulsion from the F-35 program likely would play no role. The Trump administration has kicked Turkey out of the program over the country’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air-defense system. American officials fear that co-locating the two systems could enable Russia to glean valuable intelligence about the planes simply by subjecting them to the S-400′s sensors. (Source: Defense News)
08 Oct 19. Ireland funds procurement of aircraft and armoured vehicles. The Irish government is increasing the Department of Defence budget by EUR32.32m (USD35.48m) in 2020. Official budget documents that were released on 8 October show that total spending will increase by 3.2% to EUR1.04bn. Capital expenditure in 2020 will increase by 6.6% to EUR113m before further increases to EUR120m in 2021 and EUR125m in 2022. Equipment procurement in 2020 includes replacements for two CASA CN235s, which are reaching the end of their service lives. Irish media reports indicate that Airbus is a contender to offer two C-295s for EUR60m. Five Cessna 172H Skyhawks, used by the Irish Air Corps in a utility role, were taken out of service in September 2019; they will be replaced by three Pilatus PC-12NGs in 2020 for EUR32m. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
07 Oct 19. Arms firms fret over delays in Franco-German fighter project. France’s Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) and Europe’s Airbus (AIR.PA) have stepped up pressure on France and Germany to agree the next stage of a planned fighter project, warning Europe’s arms industry and long-term security could suffer from delays. The two companies are the leading industrial partners in a project to build a futuristic swarm of manned and unmanned warplanes, announced by the leaders of France and Germany two years ago and expanded earlier this year to include Spain.
Dassault and Airbus won a €65m contract in January to develop the concept for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) but await a new contract to build demonstrators for interlinked fighters, drones and an “air combat cloud” by 2026.
Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Eric Trappier told a conference of policymakers last month that the demonstrator contract should have been launched in September but this was now slipping towards end-year. He called it “indispensable” to avoid any further delays in order to maintain the 2026 deadline.
No reason has been given for the delays.
On Monday evening, Dassault and Airbus amplified those warnings with a joint statement.
“If Europe does not move forward — and move forward quickly — on this programme, it will be impossible to maintain the development and production capabilities needed for a sovereign defence industry,” the companies said.
The warplane system is expected to be operational from 2040, with a view to replacing Dassault’s Rafale and the four-nation Eurofighter, in which Airbus represents both Germany and Spain.
The new project faces competition from Britain and its plans for a new combat jet dubbed “Tempest”.
The fighter developments have split the current Eurofighter consortium and led to a shake-up of industrial alliances as Italy joins Eurofighter partner Britain on Tempest, turning its back on Germany and Spain, while Sweden has opened the door to abandoning its independent stance by co-operating on Tempest.
The FCAS is also overshadowed by differences between France and Germany over export policy after Germany imposed a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia over the death of killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago by Saudi operatives.
The ban, recently extended to March, has raised questions over a long-delayed Saudi border systems contract run by Airbus.
Airbus Defence and Space Chief Executive Dirk Hoke called in a magazine interview last week for the export ban to be relaxed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has said there is no reason for the moratorium to be lifted.
France and Germany are expected to discuss the issue at ministerial meetings this week.
AIRBUS SETBACK IN SPAIN
Airbus meanwhile faces a battle to shore up its position as a top defence contractor in Spain after losing its place as the representative of Spain’s interests on the upcoming fighter project to local defence electronics firm Indra Sistemas.
Spain last month named Indra as contractor for the Spanish share of the Franco-German-led FCAS project, displacing Airbus from the Spanish coordinator role it had held on Eurofighter.
Airbus officials have pledged to try to overturn the move but a Spanish defence source told Reuters there was no change in the decision.
Indra (IDR.MC) declined to comment.
Publicly, Airbus has said it was surprised by the decision but has pledged to continue to defend Spain’s best interests.
Dassault will meanwhile mark a long-awaited milestone on Tuesday when it delivers the first of 36 Rafales to India, the culmination of a fighter procurement process that lasted almost 20 years and involved the cancellation of a much larger deal. La Tribune reported on Monday that France and India were discussing a possible repeat order for 36 more Rafales. (Source: Reuters)
07 Oct 19. Royal Navy keeps watch on Russian task group. The Royal Navy has spent three days keeping close watch on Russian warships passing UK shores as HMS Mersey monitored a task group. The Portsmouth-based warship was patrolling off the Norfolk coast when she was dispatched to shadow a three-strong group of Russian vessels, headed by the frigate Yaroslav Mudryy. HMS Mersey met up with the Mudryy, plus her supporting tanker Yelnya and the seagoing tug Viktor Konetsky on Saturday as the trio entered the UK’s area of interest on Saturday – and stuck with them as they continued through Dover and into the Channel.
She is due to complete her shadow mission later today when the Russians leave UK waters.
The Mudryy is a Neustrashimyy-class frigate believed to be heading from the Baltic to the Indian Ocean to participate in exercises with the Indian Navy. It is standard practice for Russian warships to be accompanied by support vessels when heading out on prolonged deployments.
Mersey was conducting a fishery enforcement patrol, ensuring trawlermen abide by fishing rules in UK waters when she received the task to meet up with the Russians.
“It is a testament to my ship’s company’s professionalism and commitment that such a small team can switch focus to successfully achieve whatever the nation requires of them,” said Mersey’s Commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Will Edwards-Bannon.
“I am very proud of the way they responded to this change in Mersey’s tasking. The Royal Navy is used to working alongside our allies to uphold the rules-based international system, both in home waters and around the globe.
“As ever, I am very grateful to the friends and families of all of us who serve in Mersey for their continued support as we work hard to protect our nations’ interests.”
Although devoting most of her time to safeguarding UK fishing stocks, HMS Mersey has had a varied and busy year, including escorting various other Russian warships, exercises with the Irish Navy and offering support to Border Force in dealing with illegal migration in the Dover Strait. (Source: Royal Navy)
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