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31 Jan 20. Poland inks $4.6bn contract for F-35 fighter jets. Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak has signed a contract worth $4.6bn under which the country will acquire 32 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets from the United States.
Speaking at the official signing ceremony on Jan. 31 in Deblin, where the Polish Air Force operates its 41st Training Aviation Base, Blaszczak said that the acquisition will enable the Polish military to make a technological leap.
“Today, through the signing of the F-35 deal, the air force is entering a new phase of its development,” the minister said.
In line with earlier announcements, the deal does not comprise an offset agreement. Polish ministry officials have said the decision helped Poland reduce the final price tag of Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighters. Last September, the U.S. State Department approved the sale for a maximum price of $6.5 billion.
“The agreement foresees the delivery of 32 multi-role aircraft … along with a training and logistics package,” the Polish ministry said in a statement.
With the delivery of the aircraft, which is scheduled to begin in 2024, Poland is to become the first user of the F-35s in the region, adding the aircraft to its fleet of 48 F-16 C/D Block 52+ fighters. Warsaw plans to replace the Air Force’s outdated Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-22 and Mikoyan MiG-29 jets with its new fifth-generation jets. (Source: Defense News)
31 Jan 20. UK MoD statistics reveal £1bn investment in Wales for 2018-19. New statistics released by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) have revealed that spending in Wales reached more than £1bn for the first time for 2018-19. The figures show that procurement spending of the department in Wales increased to £1.08bn last year from £960m in 2017-18, which represents an increase to £350 from £310 in per capita spending.
The production of the army’s AJAX armoured fighting vehicles at General Dynamics UK in Merthyr Tydfil and Oakdale and a new Royal Naval Reserve centre development worth £11m in Cardiff Bay are the major defence projects in Wales.
Other projects include the department’s £250m contract with Raytheon to provide support services to the British Royal Air Force’s surveillance aircraft fleet.
Government spending is expected to support around 7,700 jobs in defence in Wales, an increase from 6,300 in 2017-18.
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “UK Defence spent more than £1bn with Welsh industry last year supporting thousands of private-sector jobs.
“This investment in businesses such as General Dynamics, Raytheon and others makes Wales a genuine defence industry hub and one of the most competitive places in the world from which to innovate and deliver security.”
Wales houses 160 Brigade HQ Wales in Brecon, and a light infantry unit is expected to be based at MoD St Athan. It will become the main army base, as well as a major RAF base in Wales.
The runway at RAF Valley on Anglesey was restored in 2017 as part of a £20m refurbishment and extended its operational life for another 25 years.
The areas around Brecon and Sennybridge accommodate major army training facilities. Every year they also host Exercise Cambrian Patrol, which sees the participation of military units from across the world.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Defence continues to provide security and prosperity as we see billions invested across the UK and the subsequent hundreds of thousands of jobs supported.”
In March 2017, Qioptiq secured a $100m surveillance and target acquisition support (STAS) contract from the UK MoD. (Source: army-technology.com)
31 Jan 20. GMB Warns Government Over ‘Dither And Delay’ On Appledore Shipyard. We need to get this over the line before it’s too late says GMB Union. GMB, the union for shipbuilders, has criticised the UK Government for ongoing delays in the potential re-opening of the famous Appledore Shipyard in Devon. Previous operator Babcock International Group exited the yard over 10 months ago. Since then, GMB and its sister trade unions have been involved in ongoing negotiations, led by the South West Business Council, to re-open the yard and secure a viable future.
Matt Roberts, GMB Organiser, said: “A buyer with a viable proposition has been lined up for over 4 months now, but there seems to be dither and delay from the Government, causing more uncertainty for our members. We understand the need for due diligence to be undertaken, but our members are ready to get back to work and the buyer themselves are getting very frustrated. We have noticed increasing frustration from the buyer with how long the bureaucracy is taking, and if they were to pull out, then the Government would need to own that disaster and put something else in place rapidly. The Government cannot wait for a major group to come into the picture with a bottomless pit of funds. It’s not going to happen. We have a viable proposition on the table now that can work, so let’s get this over the line before it’s too late.”
Jake McLean, Appledore Shipbuilder and GMB Union Rep, said: “Myself and the other reps have worked around the clock to keep the workforce engaged and ready to go back to building ships here in North Devon. This area needs this vital industry back operating to give hope to youngsters that there is a future for them in Torridge. Everything is in place and ready, we just need the Government and Devon County Council to complete the jigsaw.”
28 Jan 20. Airbus set to pay €3.6bn to settle corruption probes. Europe aerospace group said courts in UK, France and US to review agreement on Friday. For Airbus, the deal marks the end of a probe lasting nearly four years. Airbus is set to pay €3.6bn in penalties to regulators in the UK, France and the US to settle a long-running bribery and corruption probe into its use of middle men to win international sales. Europe’s aerospace champion on Tuesday said it had reached an agreement in principle over allegations of bribery and corruption, as well as compliance with US arms trafficking regulations. The company said courts in all three countries would review the agreement on Friday. The group is expected to take a charge in its annual results next month to cover the costs of the fines. The FT had earlier reported that an agreement was imminent. The settlement is set to surpass the £671m plea bargain struck by Rolls-Royce in 2017 with regulators in the UK, US and Brazil to settle similar allegations. At the time, the UK share of the settlement, at about £500m, was the largest fine imposed by British regulators on a company for criminal conduct.
The UK Serious Fraud Office on Tuesday evening confirmed it had reached a deferred prosecution agreement in principle with Airbus, subject to a court hearing on Friday where the deal would be ratified by a UK judge. This marks a significant milestone for the regulator after a string of defeats in criminal proceedings. Under a corporate plea deal, companies are able to avoid criminal prosecution if they admit to wrongdoing, agree to overhaul their businesses, and pay a penalty. So far the SFO has signed six DPAs but has come under scrutiny for failing to convict senior executives of the companies involved. UK anti-corruption campaigners gave a mixed welcome to news of the multi-billion-euro penalties. “The Airbus settlement figures are huge, certainly compared to earlier deferred prosecution agreements in the UK. This is to be welcomed,” said Daniel Bruce, chief executive of Transparency International UK. “However, we still need to ask if they are huge enough. The numbers look small compared to the profits posted by Airbus since this investigation began in 2016.
Therefore, we must ensure deferred prosecution agreements are not seen as an ‘easy way out’ for companies that can afford to pay.” For Airbus, the deal marks the end of a corruption probe lasting nearly four years that has claimed the jobs of some of the company’s most senior executives, even though they were not implicated in any wrongdoing. The board took the view that the company would have a better chance of winning a settlement if an entirely new senior management team was put in place. This was helped by the fact that several executives were approaching retirement age. Tom Enders, chief executive, and Fabrice Brégier, chief operating officer, both stepped down last spring. Recommended LexAircraft manufacturing Airbus: fight risk Premium The company has also overhauled its ethics and compliance procedures, established an independent review panel of outside experts, and significantly cut down the number of third-party agents used to secure deals. The SFO’s investigation was launched in 2016 after Airbus revealed that it had uncovered discrepancies in disclosures about third-party consultants used on certain aircraft deals.
Parquet National Financier, the French regulator, launched a probe the following year, and the US Department of Justice opened an investigation in 2018. Since corporate plea deals were introduced to the UK in 2014, Standard Bank, Sarclad, Rolls-Royce, Tesco, Serco and Güralp Systems have all admitted failures and paid fines in exchange for avoiding a criminal conviction. The SFO is still expected to pursue charges against individuals in relation to Airbus subsidiary GPT, which has been under investigation for eight years. The SFO launched an inquiry into GPT after the company was accused of making illicit payments to secure a £2bn UK government contract to provide communications and intranet services for the Saudi National Guard, the kingdom’s internal security force that protects the royal family.(Source: FT.com)
28 Jan 20. RAF notes Puma milestone, with third of hours delivered on operations. The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has flown 30,000 hours on its Westland-Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC2 medium-lift helicopters over the last five years, with 10,000 of these having been accrued on operations in Afghanistan. Having received the first of 24 upgraded Pumas from Airbus Helicopters in 2015, the RAF announced on 28 January that it had achieved the almost unheard of feat of amassing a third of its hours on the type during real-world combat operations.
“A third of all flying done on operations is quite unprecedented. I don’t think, to my knowledge, there is another platform in our inventory that has completed a third of its total flying hours on operations,” Group Captain Adam Wardrope, Station Commander RAF Benson and Puma Force Commander, was quoted as saying.
The United Kingdom deployed three Puma HC2 helicopters (crewed by personnel from 33 Squadron and 230 Squadron from RAF Benson) to Afghanistan in March 2015, taking over from the Boeing Chinooks that had been flying in support of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) and Afghan Security Ministries in Kabul since late 2014. One Puma HC2 helicopter crashed in October 2015 with the loss of five of the nine personnel on board but was replaced in-theatre.
“The Puma has been in Afghanistan for nearly five years and we have two aircraft out of three flying on a daily basis so 10,000 hours in five years is impressive,” Gp Capt Wardrope said. “The real statistic that shows the capability of the Puma for me, and what really drives home the serviceability and the spares and everything else that keeps the aircraft going, is that we’ve met over 95% of our flying task. We have never failed to deliver on operations in that entire five years. We’ve never been let down by the logistics or the engineering because we’ve always had a robust method in place to get any problem solved, which is a significant achievement on top of the 10,000 hours as well.” (Source: Jane’s)
28 Jan 20. UK approves limited 5G role for China’s Huawei . Decision in defiance of repeated warnings from the US. Boris Johnson’s government has approved the use of Huawei technology in the UK’s 5G telecoms network, but has limited the Chinese company to a market share of 35 per cent and will exclude its equipment from the sensitive network “core”. The unanimous decision was reached at a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday, in defiance of repeated warnings from the US that allowing Huawei equipment into the UK 5G rollout will put Britain at risk from spying by the Chinese company. However, in a concession to White House concerns, ministers have agreed to work with partners in the Five Eyes alliance of the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to develop alternative telecoms suppliers. The ultimate aim is to have “no high risk vendors in the system”, according to officials briefed on the meeting. The NSC, which met for an hour and 20 minutes, has also stipulated that Huawei will be banned from sensitive sites such as nuclear power stations and military bases. In a statement, officials said the measures taken would enable the UK to mitigate the potential risks posed by the supply chain and to combat the range of threats, “whether cyber criminals, or state sponsored attacks”. Commenting on the decision Baroness Nicky Morgan, digital secretary, said that world-class connectivity “must not be at the expense of our national security”. “High risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks,” she added. “[This decision] not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.” (Source: FT.com)
Paul Beastall, Head of Strategy at Cambridge Consultants and chair of the UK5G Test Beds & Trials Working Group, shares his view: “The government has struck an artful and sensible compromise. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the many transformative applications for 5G technology. 5G means much more than faster speeds to and from our smartphones. The advantages in reliability and latency mean we can now look forward to a new mobile revolution. The new applications that particularly excite me include autonomous vehicles, much wider access to virtual reality and augmented reality, and smart agriculture, where we can digitise farming, bringing huge benefits in precision and efficiency.”
27 Jan 20. Airbus reaches deal to settle corruption probes. Aerospace group set to accept hefty fines to end inquiries in three jurisdictions. For Airbus, the deal would mark the end of a probe lasting nearly four years. Airbus has agreed to settle a bribery and corruption probe with regulators in the UK, France and the US, in a move that could see the aerospace group pay billions of dollars in penalties. Airbus said it has reached an agreement in principle over allegations of bribery and corruption, as well as compliance with US arms trafficking regulations. The agreements still need to be approved by courts in all three countries, and US regulators, the group said in a statement on Tuesday. Airbus did not provide any further details, but analysts had forecast fines of more than €3bn to follow the complex negotiations between the three agencies. The FT had earlier reported that an agreement was imminent. The settlement is set to surpass the £671m plea bargain struck by Rolls-Royce in 2017 to settle similar allegations.
At the time, the UK share of the settlement, at about £500m, was the largest fine imposed by British regulators on a company for criminal conduct. People familiar with the matter said Airbus had reached a so-called deferred prosecution agreement with the UK Serious Fraud Office, which would mark a significant milestone for the regulator after a string of defeats. Under a corporate plea deal, companies are able to avoid criminal prosecution if they admit to wrongdoing, agree to overhaul their businesses, and pay a penalty. So far the SFO has signed six DPAs but has come under scrutiny for failing to convict senior executives of the companies involved. For Airbus, the deal would mark the end of a corruption probe lasting nearly four years that has claimed the jobs of some senior executives, even though they were not implicated in any wrongdoing. The board took the view that the company would have a better chance of winning a settlement if an entirely new senior management team was put in place. This was helped by the fact that several executives were approaching retirement age. Tom Enders, chief executive, and Fabrice Brégier, chief operating officer, both stepped down last spring. The company has also overhauled its ethics and compliance procedures, established an independent review panel of outside experts, and significantly cut down the number of third-party agents used to secure deals. The SFO’s investigation was launched in 2016 after Airbus revealed that it had uncovered discrepancies in disclosures about third-party consultants used on certain aircraft deals.
Parquet National Financier, the French regulator, launched a probe the following year, and the US Department of Justice opened an investigation in 2018. Since corporate plea deals were introduced to the UK in 2014, Standard Bank, Sarclad, Rolls-Royce, Tesco, Serco and Güralp Systems have all admitted failures and paid fines in exchange for avoiding a criminal conviction. The SFO is still expected to pursue charges against individuals in relation to Airbus subsidiary GPT, which has been under investigation for eight years. The SFO launched an inquiry into GPT after the company was accused of making illicit payments to secure a £2bn UK government contract to provide communications and intranet services for the Saudi National Guard, the kingdom’s internal security force which protects the royal family. The SFO and did not comment. (Source: FT.com)
24 Jan 20. UK MoD reveals why a drone program now costs $427m extra. The British Defence Ministry’s top civilian has identified in a letter to lawmakers the reasons why a drone acquisition program has experienced a near 40 percent hike in costs. The Ministry of Defence decided to delay by two years the delivery of 16 General Atomic Protector RG Mk1 drones to replace the Royal Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper fleet, the letter to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said.
Stephen Lovegrove, the ministry’s permanent secretary, cited that decision as the main reason for the £325m (U.S. $427m) cost increase to the program, as £187m of that could be attributed to the delay.
“The cost growth and time delay to the program imposed in July 2017 were outside of program tolerances but were the result of the need to ensure the affordability of the overall defence program,” Lovegrove wrote in his letter.
The MoD is currently in negotiations with the U.S. over a deal to build the first three of the 16 Protectors scheduled to be purchased for the RAF. The final number of vehicles on order could eventually expand beyond 16 — subject to the MoD’s fragile finances in the coming years unless defense gets a sizable increase in the Conservative government’s next budget round due later this year.
The letter was sent Nov. 5 but has only recently been made public. Lovegrove detailed further causes of the cost increase rise in the drone program, which was expected to cost £816 m when it was approved by the MoD in 2016.
Aside from the increased costs caused by the delay, the letter said that the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar accounted for £50.8m of the price rise, and a new primary sensor cost another £64m. Other unspecified program costs accounted for a further £23m.
The pound has firmed up against the dollar a little since the Conservative Party won the general election in December, which may lessen the impact of increased costs for the moment.
The new primary sensor investment involves provision of an improved electro-optical and infrared sensor. The letter said the investment was to avoid future obsolescence issues.
Consideration is still being given to the purchase of what is known as a “due regard air-to-air radar” designed for vital detect-and-avoid duties on the platform.
Protector, which is the British name for its version of the new General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian, is scheduled to achieve initial operating capability in November 2023, the letter read.
The vehicle will replace the current fleet of MQ-9 Reapers, which the RAF has operated almost constantly during the last few years over Afghanistan and the greater Middle East.
Lovegrove said the MoD had compared Protector with other options to meet the requirement but the General Atomics platform remained the best value for money.
“A comparison was made between: developing a new remotely piloted aircraft system capability (either collaboratively or nationally); procuring the current Reaper Blk 5 (as used by the US Air Force and others); and procuring Protector,” he said.
“This concluded that procuring Protector represented best value for money, as its higher performance meant that the operational task could be delivered by procuring fewer air vehicles. The 2-year delay and resultant cost increase have not undermined this value for money case … it remains affordable despite the cost growth,” the permanent secretary added.
Lovegrove said the biggest problem for the Protector program was not the platform itself but the availability of trained crew in the run-up to initial operating capability.
“The most significant risk to the Protector program is the RAF’s ability to generate and sustain the volume of trained personnel necessary to assure IOC in Nov 2023. The Protector work force builds on the current Reaper force; training and retaining sufficient remotely piloted aircraft system crews has historically proved challenging and is being closely monitored,” the letter said.
The Protector is expected to fly longer and hit harder than the Reaper. The UAV will also fly in nonsegregated airspace in places like the U.K.
in September, the MoD and General Atomics signed a significant deal to complete the test and evaluation activities required to fly the system in civil airspace. The first test and evaluation aircraft is due to be delivered next year subject to the successful completion of the production contract.
An initial production deal is currently in negotiation, with aiming of inking a deal in the next few months.
In a first for the system, the SkyGuardian version of the medium-altitude, long-endurance drone flew across the Atlantic Ocean in July from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to RAF Fairford in England. The flight covered 3,760 nautical miles in 24 hours and 2 minutes. (Source: Defense News)
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