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16 Sep 21. Aukus: UK, US and Australia launch pact to counter China. The UK, US and Australia have announced a historic security pact in the Indo-Pacific, in what’s seen as an effort to counter China.
It will let Australia build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US.
The pact, to be known as Aukus, will also cover artificial intelligence, cyber and quantum technologies.
It is the biggest defence partnership among the countries in decades, analysts say.
In recent years, the Western democracies have all expressed concerns about China’s growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.
The new partnership aimed to “promote security and prosperity” in the region, said a joint statement by US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
China’s embassy in Washington reacted by accusing the countries of a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.
The pact means Australia has torn up a A$50bn (€31bn; £27bn) deal it signed with France in 2016, to build 12 submarines.
What is Aukus?
It is the biggest security arrangement between the three nations since World War Two, analysts say.
While the US, UK and Australia have long been allies, Aukus formalises and deepens their defence co-operation.
The pact will focus on military capability, separating it from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance which also includes New Zealand and Canada.
While Australia’s submarines is the big-ticket item, Aukus will also involve sharing of cyber capabilities, AI, quantum and other undersea technologies.
“This is an historic opportunity for the three nations, with like-minded allies and partners, to protect shared values and promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” their joint statement read.
The leaders did not refer to China directly, but said regional security challenges had “grown significantly”.
What’s the background?
China’s military build-up and increasing aggression has worried rival powers in recent years.
Beijing has been accused of raising tensions in disputed territories such as the South China Sea.
It has also invested heavily in its Coast Guard in recent years, which analysts say is effectively a de facto military fleet.
Western nations have been wary of China’s infrastructure investment on Pacific islands and controversial trade sanctions against countries like Australia.
The US and Australia have referred to this as “economic coercion”.
Why nuclear-powered submarines?
These submarines are much faster and harder to detect than conventionally powered fleets. They can stay submerged for months, travel for longer distances and also carry more.
Having them stationed in Australia is critical to US influence in the region, analysts say.
The US is sharing its submarine technology for the first time in 50 years. It had previously only shared technology with the UK.
Australia will become just the seventh nation in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after the US, UK, France, China, India and Russia.
Its contract with France had been hit by delays due to Canberra’s requirement that several components be locally sourced.
Australia has reaffirmed it has no intention of obtaining nuclear weapons. (Source: BBC)
PM Statement on AUKUS Partnership: 15 September 2021
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement on the launch of the new trilateral defence partnership, AUKUS.
Delivered on: 15 September 2021 (Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)
I’m delighted to join President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison to announce that the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States are creating a new trilateral defence partnership, known as AUKUS, with the aim of working hand-in-glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
We are opening a new chapter in our friendship, and the first task of this partnership will be to help Australia acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, emphasising of course that the submarines in question will be powered by nuclear reactors, not armed with nuclear weapons, and our work will be fully in line with our non-proliferation obligations.
This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world, lasting for decades and requiring the most advanced technology.
It will draw on the expertise that the UK has acquired over generations, dating back to the launch of the Royal Navy’s first nuclear submarine over 60 years ago.
And together with the other opportunities from AUKUS, creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom – including in Scotland, the North of England and the Midlands – taking forward this Government’s driving purpose of levelling up across the whole country.
We will have a new opportunity to reinforce Britain’s place at the leading edge of science and technology, strengthening our national expertise.
And perhaps most significantly, the UK, Australia and the US will be joined even more closely together.
Reflecting the measure of trust between us.
The depth of our friendship.
And the enduring strength of our shared values of freedom and democracy.
Only a handful of countries possess nuclear-powered submarines.
And it is a momentous decision for any nation to acquire this formidable capability.
And perhaps equally momentous for any other state to come to its aid.
But Australia is one of our oldest friends, a kindred nation and a fellow democracy, and a natural partner in this great enterprise.
Now the UK will embark on this project alongside our allies, making the world safer and generating jobs across the United Kingdom.
Long-Term U.S., Australian Relationship Will Ensure Free, Open Indo-Pacific Region
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met this morning with the Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a briefing today.
“We’re proud to stand alongside our Australian allies to strengthen deterrence and defend our shared values and our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region,” Kirby said. “The U.S./Australia relationship is what we’re proud to call ‘the unbreakable alliance.’ Our increasing convergence and alignment on the most important strategic issues attest to the enduring value of this partnership.”
Kirby said the two nations are cooperating on things like force posture, strategic capabilities, regional engagement and military operations.
“Ultimately, we’re cooperating on all that strengthens our ability to deter threats to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.
When it comes to threats posed by China, such as reneging on promises of autonomy guaranteed in Hong Kong under a 1997 agreement with the British government, or its unlawful claim to the entire South China Sea, which interferes with the wellbeing and prosperity other nations in the region, Kirby said it’s one of the main focus areas of the U.S. and Australian partnership.
“I think without question … the kinds of aggressive activities that we’re seeing out of China in the Indo-Pacific region, [are] causing all of us, the international community, not just the United States, to make sure that we’re focused appropriately on that behavior,” Kirby said.
During remarks earlier this morning, Dutton said the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region is “deteriorating” and that only with continued partnerships, such as with “Five Eyes” — which include the U.S., Australia, the U.K., New Zealand and Canada — can security be achieved.
“We certainly share the concerns that the minister has … about the aggressive behavior, the coercive and intimidating activities that the Chinese are making throughout the region — not just militarily but diplomatically and economically as well,” Kirby said. “We’re going to stay laser-focused on that. Our relationship with Australia … is a key part of our ability to continue to maintain that focus and to make sure that we and our allies and partners are properly postured to be able to push back appropriately and to help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.” (Source: US DoD)
Thales takes note of the decision by the Australian authorities to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines
In consequence, Thales confirms all its 2021 financial targets, as announced on 4 August 2021:
As in 2019 and 2020, a book-to-bill ratio above 1;
Sales in the range of €15.8 billion to €16.3 billion;
An EBIT margin in the range of 9.8% to 10.3%, up 180 to 230 basis points from 2020.
Thales confirms as well its medium-term outlook for the Defense & Security segment (annual organic sales growth between 4 and 6%, EBIT margin between 12 and 13%) as well as for the entire Group, targeting a 12% EBIT margin in the medium-term.
Naval Group Response
Earlier this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson jointly announced a new multinational nuclear submarine plan to deliver next-generation undersea warfare capability to the Royal Australian Navy.
The technology sharing and support agreement forms part of a new “trilateral security partnership”, dubbed AUKUS.
As part of the AUKUS alliance, nuclear-powered submarines would be built in Adelaide, leveraging skills and resources provided by stakeholders in the US and UK.
Further details regarding the fleet’s capability, project logistics, and the delivery timeline are to be fleshed out over the next 18 months.
The new plan scuppers France-based Naval Group’s multi-decade contract to deliver 12 diesel-powered Attack Class submarines to replace the ageing Collins Class fleet as part of its $90 billion SEA 1000 contract.
A company spokesperson acknowledged the announcement, confirming the Commonwealth’s decision not to proceed with the next phase of the program. (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Sep 21. Key updates on Australia’s submarine program. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s mid-morning press conference provided much needed strategic direction for Defence and defence industry regarding the recent submarine announcements.
- Australia is expected to become the only non-nuclear nation to possess nuclear submarine capabilities;
- Australia, UK and US expected to undertake knowledge sharing to enable the Royal Australian Navy to attain a nuclear powered fleet, the first time such knowledge sharing has taken place in over six decades;
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the submarines will be built in Adelaide;
- Workers ensured that their skills are still needed, and that submarine construction and sustainment remain critical priorities for the government;
- Leaders have announced the creation of new “trilateral security dialogue” with Australia, UK and US; and
- Naval Group expressed their disappointment with the decision, defending the capabilities of the Attack Class Submarine.
Late this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, flanked by the Secretary of the Department of Defence Greg Moriarty and Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell addressed the nation to provide a strategic update on the ground breaking cancellation of the SEA 1000 contract with Naval Group and the decision to build nuclear powered submarines.
At the heart of the decision, the PM confirmed, was the deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific.
“The relatively benign security environment that Australia has enjoyed over many decades in our region is behind us. We have entered, no doubt, a new era,” the PM said.
GEN Campbell concurred with the Prime Minister, explaining that the strategic environment faced by Australia within the Indo-Pacific was worsening at “an accelerated pace”, requiring the creation of new capabilities and alliances.
To counter this, the PM explained that the new AUKUS agreement was just an alliance, but an alliance among “oldest and most trusted of friends” in the spirit of a “forever partnership”, a phrase the PM repeated a number of times throughout his conference.
(Source: Defence Connect)
15 Sep 21. Babcock introduces ArrowyardTM to its portfolio of global ship build and support. Babcock the aerospace, defence and security company has launched a dynamic new approach within global shipbuilding that enables international customers to build and support the company’s Arrowhead 140TM frigate (AH140) in-country, delivering a range of potential economic and social benefits to local and national communities. ArrowyardTM developed from Babcock’s rich engineering know-how and shipbuilding experience, brings together a comprehensive range of technology and knowledge transfer options to create the conditions for the domestic construction of the AH140 by optimising customers’ in-country shipbuilding and industrial capabilities. Launched at DSEI 2021, ArrowyardTM enables the construction of the AH140 hull, superstructure and components, final assembly and outfitting and also supports the development of sovereign in-service fleet support capability. Babcock will share its experience in preparing and investing in facilities, skills, systems and processes, most recently seen through the digital transformation and automation upgrade of its own Rosyth facility, readying the site for the construction of Arrowhead 140 for the Royal Navy’s Type 31, Inspiration Class vessels. Depending on the transformation required and budget available, value-adding ArrowyardTM packages span the whole product development lifecycle including; a scalable design and build solution; technically proficient naval build infrastructure; an industry 4.0-ready workforce, world-class frigates and an enduring in-service support capability.
Will Erith, Babcock’s Marine sector CEO said; “We are hugely excited about the potential of ArrowyardTM on the global shipbuilding market. Interest in the Arrowhead 140 frigate is growing and as one of the companies down selected for the design and feasibility study for the Polish Miecznik frigate programme, the incentive of working with global customers to support the in-country build of naval platforms, with all the benefits that brings to customer countries, has never been more timely.
“ArrowyardTM will help customers evaluate their existing shipbuilding capability and develop a plan to re-generate their infrastructure and processes, identifying gaps and providing a programme to bridge these with targeted investment and expert support.”
The Arrowhead 140 Frigate
Selected by the UK Royal Navy as the design solution for its new Type 31 Inspiration Class frigates, the Arrowhead 140 (AH140) design, benefits from a proven hull-form that has been tried and tested in real-world operational environments from NATO and coalition task forces to national regional and deployed operations.
Functional engineering risks are reduced, informed by integration challenges that have already been experienced and resolved. The frigate’s modular build characteristics mean that it is primed for pre-outfitting with open compartments allowing for rapid assembly, supporting time and cost reduction efficiencies for entry into service.
The baseline AH140 design can be configured to meet the broad range of operational requirements and profiles a global frigate may be called upon to undertake and adopt. In selecting AH140, global customers can also capitalise upon a fully-developed and readily transferable sovereign frigate design-and-build programme through ArrowyardTM, while working with a world-class and highly-experienced ship design, build and support partner.
14 Sep 21. British military looks to change approach to technology, data. To achieve a digital advantage in the future, the British military must change how it architects and buys systems, according to the British Army’s head of information exploitation and chief data officer. Speaking during the DSEI defense show, Brigadier Stefan Crossfield said the military is focusing on setting standards from the beginning.
“Rather than reengineering and refactoring later, we want to work with you up front to help you with that,” he said. “As a result, we now have a chief information architect, an information design authority. … That is a massive step forward for the army. We’re here to help have those conversations early.”
Crossfield also noted the importance of data in the future. To be successful, he said, the data must be in the right place and easily accessible.
“It’s not about the technology, it’s not about the data, it’s about an organization moving from an industrial-age posture to an information-age posture where we turn to the data first,” he said. “And to do that, we’ve got to get the data right.”
This sentiment was seconded by Charlie Forte, chief information officer for Defense Digital within UK Strategic Command.
“At the moment, no one’s really got a clue what data actually exists across defense,” he said during the same conference. “One of the core things we need to get our arms around is actually getting data transparent and visible and whichever stovepipe it’s currently sitting in and then begin to think about how do we make the metadata available that allows people to understand what we got … and ultimately get most of it onto a cloud-based platform that gives us the ability to do something with it.”
Crossfield said the army is working to get enable secure, democratized access to this data.
Working with industry
Both officials stressed the importance of cooperating with the private sector.
“We only have one choice if we are going to compete and win. And that choice is that we need to completely overhaul our ambition in the application of game-changing digital and information technologies,” Forte said. “To do this to its maximum potential, we have to embrace the notion that this is a team sport. It requires us to work together in very, very different ways than we have in the past.”
One critical area is software. Forte said the service needs to shift from a platform-centric view to the integrated systems-centric view that is mostly software enabled.
Forte also vowed to be a better customer for industry.
“I need to recognize that if you want to have world-class partners, you need to be a world-class customer and we are not yet,” he said. “My commitment back to industry is that we will continue to drive to put ourselves in the position of being world-class customers.”
Moreover, Crossfield said the military needs to be more transparent about available opportunities, acknowledging officials haven’t been as open in the past as they could have been. (Source: Defense News)
14 Sep 21. British military taking steps to make multidomain integration a reality. The British Ministry of Defence is taking steps this fall to better integrate its capabilities across multiple domains. But despite laying out its ambitions, the agency still needs a true concept of operations to move forward, according to a top official.
The United Kingdom’s defense apparatus has identified multidomain integration, or MDI, as a critical means to maintain advantage over threats that are becoming more and more dissipated and asymmetrical across domains and battlefields.
Although the concept of operations still needs to be fleshed out, the MoD has identified several capability themes to be developed “over this autumn period to Christmas,” to be culminated in a new management strategy and implementation plan, said Lt. Gen. Rob Magowan, commandant general to the Royal Marines, and deputy commander of U.K. Strategic Command.
The first of these capability themes involves data and simulation systems, including building digital twin software and new decision support tools, while another theme encompasses operational command and control, he said Tuesday during a panel discussion at the biennial DSEI conference in London.
MoD officials just signed off on a new study regarding operational C2 several days ago, with the hope of figuring out, “how are we going to become more dispersed, more agile, more redundant and more resilient across our operational command and control network?” he noted.
U.K. Strategic Command also recently tapped a one-star military official to deliver an operating concept for the electromagnetic activities and cyber domains, Magowan said. And several high-ranking officials are developing a strategy that envisions a new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) enterprise, “one that’s much more agile, and much less stovepiped,” he said.
But in order for MDI to be realized, the problem of ownership — who owns the data at the end of the day — needs to be fleshed out, Magowan acknowledged.
“What we don’t want to be doing is — come the day of the crisis — renegotiating contracts and code with a third-party supplier,” he said. “We want to be able to do that from a sovereign perspective.”
That conversation remains “immature at the moment in defense,” Magowan added. “We want to have that [conversation] and understand it better — what you think we should be doing in terms of our business model, and what we need to deliver that operational concept.” (Source: Defense News)
14 Sep 21. Former US Air Force acquisition czar could help the UK build its future fighter. During his time as the U.S. Air Force’s acquisition executive, Will Roper had no shortage of disruptive and boundary-pushing projects, whether it was conceptualizing a “Digital Century Series” of rapidly produced fighters or developing an autonomous drone wingman known as “Skyborg.”
Now in civilian life, Roper will be sharing his big ideas on digital engineering, cloud computing, agile software and artificial intelligence with one of the U.S Air Force’s closest partners: the British Royal Air Force.
Roper, who left U.S. government service in January, became an adviser to the RAF this summer, he told Defense News in an exclusive interview.
“[Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston] asked to meet with me in Washington and said: ‘We want to digitally transform the whole service, and we need help to do it,’ ” Roper said. “They want to chase [a] digital engineering approach for future fighters; they want to do the same cloud approach that we did with doing containerized development [for software].”
As an honorary member of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force’s No. 601 Squadron — a nonflying unit reestablished in 2019 and comprised of thought leaders from commercial industry — Roper will provide input on how the RAF can best incorporate technologies like digital engineering and agile software development that he believes could flip the paradigm of aircraft manufacturing.
However, it will be up to RAF leaders to determine how much of Roper’s advice to incorporate into existing programs.
“[Roper] understands the underpinning culture that’s required in an organization, and our rapid capabilities office in the Royal Air Force is very fortunate to be able to benefit from that support,” Wigston said in an interview, adding that there are “a number of areas around digital engineering and digital modeling” on which Roper will work.
The starting line
Roper has not been given direction to provide advice on any specific weapons development program, Wigston said. But the two agreed that the Future Combat Air System program is a natural place from which to levy Roper’s expertise on digital engineering.
Through the FCAS program, the Royal Air Force hopes to develop a family of systems that includes the sixth-generation Tempest fighter, the uncrewed Mosquito fighter that will act as a “loyal wingman” to Tempest, and swarming drones.
The program bears similarities to the U.S. Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance system — the service’s effort to build a sixth-gen family of combat aircraft.
Key to both programs is digital engineering, the practice of developing a highly accurate “digital twin” of a system whose production, maintenance and upgrades can be virtually modeled in extreme detail.
However, there are signs that the NGAD program may be further along in development. Last year, Roper disclosed that at least one full-scale NGAD demonstrator had flown, a feat he attributed to the use of digital engineering processes. U.S. Air Force leaders have hinted that the program is progressing rapidly and could be available around 2030.
Meanwhile, the RAF in July awarded a $347 million contract for the “concept and assessment phase” for Tempest . The aircraft is set to go into service in the mid-2030s, but it’s unclear when its first flight will take place.
“Everyone is afraid they’re behind on digital engineering and this fourth industrial revolution that everyone believes is coming,” Roper said. “You’re not behind, you’re with everyone else at the starting line. But the starting pistol has fired and you’ve got to run because this is going to be as the hype portends.”
If tasked to evaluate how FCAS could better use digital engineering and modeling processes, Roper said he would begin by looking at the underlying infrastructure to virtually build, test and redesign a product at high levels of speed and accuracy.
“That’s the beginning point — do we have the right [digital engineering] tools in place, the cloud in place so you can build digital entities?” he said. “The next thing to help on is training because if no one can use the tools, they are irrelevant.”
One thing that excites Roper about working with the Royal Air Force is its smaller size, which could make for a more agile organization capable of rolling out changes more quickly.
“Though they’re not the biggest air force, their size might allow them to act more like a startup with transformation, be able to do things faster [with] tighter turns on experimentation,” Roper said.
Size also presents a financial advantage for the RAF as it seeks to incorporate digital engineering, when compared to larger nations like the United States and China that can benefit from mass production.
“Digital transformation, although it provides amazing magic if done correctly, does not provide the same economies of scale as traditional acquisition for the last industrial revolution,” Roper said. “That is great news for countries that are smaller in terms of their size and industrial base because they can play on a more level playing field.”
One of Roper’s first tasks will be to provide input to the RAF on how to build a cloud environment and coding infrastructure for agile software development — another technology he championed due to its ability to allow developers to quickly code, test and release new software packages created with user involvement.
It took about two years for the U.S. Air Force to create those tools, but it’s possible the RAF could do it more quickly by mimicking American work on software development cells like Kessel Run or the software development environments of Cloud One and Platform One, Roper said.
“You can simply copy that. You can even potentially partner with the Air Force on those infrastructure platforms,” he said. “There are many opportunities to get out of the gate faster than we did in the U.S. Air Force and potentially collaborate to go even faster to the goal line. Because the tools are not what you ultimately want to focus on — you want to get to the coding for the mission.” (Source: Defense News)
14 Sep 21. DSEI 2021: countries, territories and organisations invited by UK DSE to attend. Countries, territories and organisations invited to attend DSEI 2021 by UK Defence and Security Exports (UK DSE).
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
14 Sep 21. BCB International will be exhibiting at DSEI London 2021, where they will launch the newest product in the FireDragon range. BCB International has been innovating and creating lifesaving products since 1854, when Dr Brown developed a cough medicine that was distributed to the British troops in the Crimean War, suffering in the trenches.
BCB International is a family-owned business and in 1949 Dr Browns Cough Bottle, or BCB Ltd was bought by Deryck Howell. In 1979, Andrew Howell developed the company further and set up BCB International which focused on designing and manufacturing survival equipment.
The company’s driving force, CANEI: Continuous and Never-Ending Innovation, sparked an array of unique survival products including shark repellent, first aid kits, ballistic protective underwear, dubbed ‘Blast Boxers’, camouflage cream and floating body armour.
FireDragon was created in 2015 by Andrew Howell to replace the toxic Hexamine blocks after two soldiers passed away from the fumes. FireDragon is a toxin free, eco-friendly, gel fuel which was taken on by the UK MOD in 2016 and is now used as their primary fuel source in the field.
The newest product in the range, the Patrol Ration Cooking system is an ultralight weight (20grams) cooker which will use varying sizes of the FireDragon, that are now available from 9 gram to 14 to the 28-gram fuel blocks.
The new cooking system is bespoke to the individuals requirements as needed by the user. Each set can include all non-food items such as water purification tablets, spork, waste bag, cooking handle, and toothpicks etc.
Due to the non-toxicity of FireDragon, the fuel can be packed within the ration kit, alongside food with no harmful effects.
As well as being eco-friendly and toxin free, FireDragon burns cleanly and can light even when wet to ensure it can be used in even the most extreme of conditions.
This year, BCB International’s primary focus shifted to develop lifesaving equipment in the battle against the Coronavirus, including an anti-bacterial and anti-viral hand sanitiser, among other protective equipment. Dr Browne’s has come out of retirement and is now the leading product in their Anti-COVID range as 80% proof hand sanitiser. BCB has been working 24/7 since March 2020, working closely with the NHS, police and, with governments around the world, suppling them with their essential PPE needs as well as donating PPE supplies around the world.
Today, BCB International supplies to mainly government departments (including the MoD, police and MoJ) and blue-chip companies in the defence and marine markets in 52 countries worldwide, with 40% exports. BCB’s retail and humanitarian sectors also continue to grow, building relationships directly with consumers and countries who need to survive in the extremes and when affected by natural disasters.
BCB International will be exhibiting a range of their products at DSEI, including but not limited to; camouflage nets, Blast Boxers, Floating Armour Torso System (otherwise known as FATS) and the boat stopping system. FireDragon demonstrations and samples of our Hand Sanitiser can be found by visiting the BCB International stand H2-600.
14 Sep 21. Leonardo has announced the launch of Team AW149 UK, its onshore supply chain for the AW149 helicopter. Featuring more than 70 companies from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Leonardo’s AW149 supply chain represents a cross-section of the best in British engineering and manufacturing. At the DSEI 2021 exhibition in London taking place this week, Leonardo has spotlighted nine of these companies, all of which are supporting the AW149 as ‘the UK choice’ for the Ministry of Defence’s New Medium Helicopter requirement. Representing towns and cities from across the UK, from South Shields to Gosport, each company provides a vital component to the AW149 military helicopter, from lights to avionics systems and other hardware and software components.
The companies revealed today as Team AW149 UK members are Abaco Systems, Aerco, Chelton, Ford Aerospace, Forged Solutions, Incora, LFD, RDDS Avionics and Techtest Limited.
Nick Whitney, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters (UK), said “I am delighted to have the opportunity today to introduce Team AW149 UK and highlight some of the leading small and medium-sized British companies who will be involved in delivering the AW149 for the UK Armed Forces should we be selected. The companies we’re spotlighting today are diverse in what they do and where they’re located but they and we at Leonardo have one important thing in common, which is a commitment to providing the UK Armed Forces with the most modern, capable and cost-effective medium helicopter to meet their operational needs.”
The announcement comes as Leonardo puts forward its medium multi-role AW149 helicopter for the UK’s New Medium Helicopter requirement, which will see the UK Armed Forces replacing four helicopter types including the Puma HC2 by mid-2025. The AW149 is a safe, agile and robust platform, which can be reconfigured for a wide range of demanding missions in the most severe operational environments. Should the UK choose the Leonardo AW149, the company has pledged to build the new fleet on a cutting-edge production line in Yeovil, Somerset, with between 60-70% of the platform’s content and through-life support being carried out onshore in the UK at Leonardo and through UK suppliers. This would represent an investment in UK skills, design and manufacturing, supporting thousands of jobs, creating jobs across the country and helping reverse the damage to the economy caused by Covid-19.
Leonardo also estimates a large and accessible export market for a British-made medium helicopter of over 500 aircraft. By choosing the AW149, the world-renowned UK Armed Forces would become a reference customer for the product, making the AW149 a desirable choice for global allies. This could help deliver billions of pounds worth of export sales for Leonardo with beneficial knock-on effects for its supply chain and the wider UK economy.
The Team AW149 UK members play a vital role in the latest-generation AW149. These companies form part of a network of more than 70 UK-based businesses that contribute to the existing AW149 platform. Leonardo continues to work across industry to grow its UK supply chain to meet the potential needs of the nation’s New Medium Helicopter requirement.
AW149 Team UK (alphabetically):
“Abaco Systems has a long-established presence in the UK and over 300 employees in manufacturing, R&D, sales and customer support between our Edinburgh office and our UK Towcester List X site. Our relationship with Leonardo resulted in its use of our technology for the Obstacle Proximity LIDAR System (OPLS) and the development of a mission display computer. Combinations of these systems are deployed on many of Leonardo’s helicopter series. We’re honoured to continue the relationship with the AW149 and future programmes,” John Muller, Chief Growth Officer at Abaco. In the UK, Abaco is based in Edinburgh, Lothian and Towcester, Northamptonshire.
“Aerco is delighted to be part of the Leonardo AW149 Team which is focussed on the delivery of yet another great helicopter series designed and manufactured by the UK’s aviation industry,” Rob Laughton, Managing Director of Aerco, based in Horsham, West Sussex.
“Being a British company, Chelton is immensely proud to supply our highly engineered advanced avionic systems to a platform built here in the UK. Partners such as Leonardo secure hundreds of jobs across our three UK locations,’ Luca Pelazzo, Antennas Business Unit Manager at Chelton, based in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
“From South Shields to Yeovil, Ford Aerospace Ltd provides Leonardo Helicopters with a top class manufacturing service for all small precision machined, pressed, and laminate components. As a trusted UK partner of Leonardo we are delighted to be involved in the AW149 team and be able to represent the best of UK manufacturing,” Chris Ford, Managing Director of Ford Aerospace Ltd, based in South Shields, Tyne and Wear.
“Forged Solutions Group manufactures shafts, rings, discs, asymmetric forgings and extruded cylinders in a range of titanium, nickel, and steel alloys. We have a global blue-chip customer base for whom we are a trusted, high-quality turnkey supplier known for our unique forging capability and ingenuity. We have particular expertise and a long history of supplying components to the aerospace sector including multiple helicopter platforms such as the Leonardo AW149,” said Ben McIvor, President of Forged Solutions Group, based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
“Incora is proud to have been supply partner to Leonardo for many years in the UK providing lineside chemical management services and hardware to its Yeovil and Edinburgh locations. We are delighted to support the exciting AW149 campaign with our full range of hardware, chemical and electrical products and JIT lineside and kitting services,” Mike Cox
General Manager – UK at Incora, based in Mirfield, West Yorkshire.
“LFD has been fortunate to work in a close and successful relationship with Leonardo Helicopters. Leonardo has generously given its support to help LFD in designing and developing world beating aircraft lighting systems. LFD supplies lighting kits for most Leonardo platforms including the AW149, AW159, and AW101. As a small team of 15 staff we are proud and appreciative of our relationship with Leonardo and its support to the UK aerospace industry,” LFD’s Managing Director, Len Fleck, based in Gosport, Hampshire.
“Here at RDDS we have been supplying rugged, mission-ready electronics to Leonardo for over ten years and we are incredibly proud to be continuing our long standing relationship into the future with the AW149 Team. Video management hardware and control panels have been a core pillar of our business for over 25 years and we look forward to strengthening and innovating even further with Leonardo and the flight teams across the world who rely on our equipment to support their missions,” Marcus Harland, RDDS Business Development, based in Margate, Kent.
“For over a decade now, Techtest Limited has supplied crash position indicators and a range of antennas to Leonardo, with installations on all major platforms. The installation of the crash position indicator on the AW149 [potentially] for the UK MoD is the next step in our long-standing relationship,’ Jake Ford, Global Sales Manager for Techtest Limited, part of the HR Smith Group, based in Leominster, Herefordshire.
13 Sep 21. Polish defense trade show spurs deals on drones, digital combat training. This year’s edition of the MSPO defense industry show in Kielce, Poland, which ran between Sept. 7 and 10, was dominated by major programs, including the country’s efforts to secure 32 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks, and mid- and short-range air defense systems.
The event also displayed a number of emerging trends that could increasingly shape Poland’s defense capacities in the coming years, such as an increased focus on unmanned and digital combat training capacities.
Speaking on the show’s first day in Kielce, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said that since 2014, when the ministry spent about 8.5bn zloty (U.S. $2.2bn) on acquisitions of weapons and equipment for Poland’s military, the country has boosted its defense expenditure.
“In 2020, this was more than doubled, as more than 17.5 billion zloty was spent for the same purpose,” Błaszczak said. “I also want to ensure you that we will not stop on this path. In the coming years, we will continue to develop Poland’s defense capacities.”
Later that day, the minister signed an agreement with Poland’s state-run defense giant PGZ under which the group is to serve as the integrator of Poland’s short-range air defense system. Under the program, PGZ will team up with a foreign technology supplier that is to be selected. The leading contenders for the deal include Raytheon Technologies and Norway’s Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, European defense giant MBDA, and Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
More focus on unmanned aircraft
Last May, the Polish Defence Ministry surprised numerous local industry observers when it unveiled a deal to buy 24 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey. The acquisition is part of the country’s larger plans to boost its drone fleet, with programs to buy combat mid-range drones and medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs in the pipeline.
At the same time, local industry players are also developing their unmanned offer, seeking to secure contracts for the Polish military, but also expanding their foreign foothold. On the first day of the MSPO show, Polish privately owned defense company WB Group announced it secured a new contract from an undisclosed country to sell its flagship “Warmate,” which combines reconnaissance capabilities and combat capacities as loitering munition.
Owing to the deal, the customer will now have “several hundred” units of Warmate, including the latest batch upgraded to its 3.0 variant, WB Group said in a statement. Compared with its older version, the unmanned system’s propulsion now has a significantly lower acoustic signature, and its radio link’s range was increased, extending Warmate’s operational range.
Piotr Wojciechowski, the president of WB Group, said that in “the first half of 2022, the total number of ordered Warmates such exceed 1,000. This loitering ammunition, built by WB Group, is under continuous development. We plan to introduce new types of removable heads which will increase the capacities of our system.”
Digital upgrades for combat training capacities
Under another deal signed during the show, Sweden’s Saab has secured a contract to supply a number of live training systems and services to Poland’s armed forces. Owing to the deal, valued at about 1 billion krona (U.S. $116 million), the manufacturer is to allow the Polish military’s combat training capacities to reach a higher level, and enhance interoperability with allied forces.
The solutions that are to be supplied to Poland between 2021 and 2024 include Saab’s latest exercise control (EXCON) and communication systems, the latest generation hi-fidelity simulators for soldiers, weapons and vehicles. Saab will deliver complete live training solution for a reinforced mechanized battalion, as well as four training centers for company-size units, the company said.
Commenting on the deal, Błaszczak said that the new systems will be used by Polish, but also U.S. and allied troops stationed on the country’s soil, as these solutions will be deployed to the new Combat Training Center in Drawsko Pomorskie, in the country’s north-west. Through establishing the center, Poland hopes to become a regional hub for NATO exercises. In total, this year’s edition of the MSPO gathered some 400 exhibitors from 27 countries in Kielce. (Source: Defense News)
13 Sep 21. SEANICE, a consortium led by Thales, prepares European Navies for the future underwater threats.
- The European Commission has selected SEANICE (AntiSubmarine Warfare European Autonomous Networked Innovative and Collaborative Environment), a consortium coordinated by Thales, to study, test, prototype and prepare the next generation of antisubmarine warfare solutions (ASW) based on manned-unmanned platform teaming.
- The SEANICE Consortium consists of 16 partners representing 6 countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, and Spain. France is the Lead Nation and Thales is the coordinator of the consortium. SEANICE Consortium received the support from PESCO MUSAS (Permanent Structured Cooperation Maritime Unmanned Anti-Submarine System) led by Portugal.
- SEANICE will prepare European navies to face the future underwater threats such as attack submarines, midget submarines, unmanned vehicles, heavyweight torpedoes, hyperfast torpedoes, and naval mines.
SEANICE is one of the 26 projects out of 63 to be selected for funding by the bi-annual European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), which aims at enhancing the competitiveness of the EU defence industry. Built on a realistic use-case scenario for antisubmarine warfare within the European Union’s scope of operations, the project will study, design, test, prototype, and set the ground for the delivery of new technologies. SEANICE is at the leading edge of change and technological disruption, including the integration of drones and artificial intelligence functionality.
Over the last two decades, naval operations, especially underwater, have been evolving towards more connected, and complex, surveillance and combat modes. These rely on new types of assets, such as unmanned assets, and distributed sensors and effectors. There are ranges of underwater threats that can be encountered at sea: attack submarines, midget submarines, unmanned vehicles, heavyweight torpedoes, hyperfast torpedoes, and naval mines.
With 56,000KM of coastline and 12,000KM of land borders to secure, the European Union (EU) has to address these threats to protect sea lines of communications in its Member States’ territorial waters and beyond, wherever the EU may decide to intervene to safeguard its legitimate interests.
Consequently, European Navies, whether it be nationally or within an EU task force, have to cope with several new challenges including:
- Joint / Coordinated ASW operations
- Numerous and stealthy underwater threats
- Underwater resilience and situation awareness
- Increased number of unmanned and autonomous systems leading to potential saturating attacks
To answer to the future needs of European navies to detect, identify, counter and protect against underwater threats, the European Commission has thus selected SEANICE,. This project contributes to several innovations and aims to bring new concepts already applied in the civilian world into the ASW operational theatre. It tackles the integration of new, unmanned assets, and intelligence and surveillance capabilities, to master today’s complexity of conducting ASW operations. It offers system-of-systems architecture that is compatible with current and future EU/NATO standards.
Drawing on high-skilled, reliable, and specialized partners – who are champions in defence – SEANICE contributes to technological sovereignty and increased interoperability between EU Member- State forces.
This multinational dimension, which teams the best players in antisubmarine warfare, is fundamental to embracing tomorrow’s European antisubmarine warfare capability and effectively pursuing future collaboration and innovation on defence capabilities and programmes. The SEANICE Consortium encompasses a significant number of EU partners, drawn from research, industry, and the SME sector. All partners have been carefully selected to generate, through collaboration, the maximum added value, in terms of meeting the needs of EU navies: Thales, Airbus Defence & Space, Alkan SAS, Alseamar, CEIIA, Edisoft, Engineering Ingegneria Informatica, GMVIS Skysoft, Latvian Maritime Academy, Leonardo SPA, Naval Group SA, RTSYS, Scalian DS, SIEL SRL, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Wsense SRL.
SEANICE’s innovative ideas and concepts will reinforce the resilience and competitiveness of the European defence sector. The project puts in place the foundations that can ensure the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base‘s (EDTIB) evolution in the antisubmarine warfare segment.
“Thales has gathered a unique European consortium of tech companies to bring cutting edge innovation on the next generation anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems under the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP). Together with our respective strength and technological advantage we are aiming for a breakthrough in the way European Navies can address existing and future underwater threats.”, according to Gwendoline Blandin, Vice-president Underwater Systems, Thales.
10 Sep 21. Airbus pitches H175M UK production for RAF’s New Medium Helicopter acquisition. As competition intensifies across industry to fight it out for the RAF’s New Medium Helicopter acquisition, Airbus has announced a compelling production plan.
Dependent on New Medium Helicopter (NMH) programme requirements, still to be published by the UK MoD, Airbus intends on offering and producing the H175M super-medium class helicopter from its Broughton, Wales, facility.
The move would effectively make the manufacturer a second onshore helicopter supplier alongside Leonardo and represents a strong business case for Airbus, bidding to secure the NMH contract ahead of the AW149, the S-70i Black Hawk and Bell’s 525 Relentless.
‘In the validation process that we have been running, which includes [assessing] the best industrial location for production, we selected Broughton because of the benefits it gives us, like access to leading technologies and NMH would be a first helicopter programme to benefit directly from all the commercial, manufacturing and supply chain knowledge from the site,’ said Colin James, managing director of Airbus Helicopters UK.
‘This is not just about fulfilling UK needs for the New Medium Helicopter but fulfilling world market needs for the export of the product [H175M].’
The Broughton production line would be setup specifically to maximise input from regional suppliers, according to James, an obvious sign that the manufacturer wants to take seriously the MoD’s renewed public push on national prosperity and pivot to ending ‘global competition by default,’ reflected in the latest Defence and Security Industrial Strategy.
On top of that, Airbus sees the sustainability of domestic rotorcraft production to 2050 and beyond as of mutual benefit between the company and government if an NMH agreement were to be signed, as the UK could also go on to secure a favourable workshare arrangement through NATO’s Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability project.
‘That would be good for us, good for the UK supply chain and of course the more cutting edge that product (NGRC) is, then the more successful it is for the nations involved,’ explained James.
He declined to confirm if Airbus would produce or test a H175M prototype to demonstrate capabilities of the helicopter to the RAF ahead of a NMH selection being made, instead focusing on the company’s track record of successfully converting civil airframes into military models.
‘It is the most successful aircraft in its class and we have 26 aircraft operating out of the UK, which shows the credentials of the H175,’ said James.
‘Every single variant we have had has gone on to have a successful militarization.’
When civil configured H175 platforms contain Chinese components, but the military version on offer to the RAF will not.
As Shephard previously reported, the UK MoD has yet to officially share NMH requirements with industry as it first weighs up a market assessment and considers how to best settle on technology and national security criteria.
A procurement to replace Puma helicopters had long been expected before it was revealed by the MoD’s Defence Command Paper on 22 March 2021, but NMH will also source a successor for Army Air Corps Bell 212, RAF Bell 412 types and Airbus AS365 Dauphins used by Special Forces.
‘From the interactions we have had, our understanding is that a team [from the MoD] was formed after the IR [Integrated Review] to develop requirements which are now well developed…but we don’t know what they are,’ said James.
He suggested that the MoD could set a date of early 2025 for a NMH capability and 2027 or 2028 for an operational or deployable capability. (Source: Shephard)
10 Sep 21. RAF says Protector financial troubles a thing of the past. The RAF claims that cost increases associated with the MQ-9B Protector are ‘behind us now’. Air Chf Mshl Sir Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, has suggested the financial difficulties which have consistently dogged the RAF’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian (Protector) MALE UAV programme are over.
During an MQ-9B SeaGuardian flight test demonstration held at RAF Waddington on 9 September, Wigston told Shephard that cost increases for Protector, which shot up by 74% between initial cost evaluation and year of acquisition approval, according to the National Audit Office, are ‘behind us now’.
He strongly defended the acquisition, adding that he had ‘absolute confidence’ in reaching IOC in early 2024 after first deliveries to RAF Waddington in 2023.
Based on an order of 16 Protectors, four of which are currently produced and undergoing tests by General Atomics, the UK will retire its fleet of MQ-9A Reapers.
Alongside the aircraft themselves, the full acquisition also includes seven ground control stations and five synthetic training systems. Two RAF squadrons will take charge of the equipment – 31 Squadron and another still to be announced.
The aircraft will be controlled by a three-person crew comprising a pilot, a sensor operator and a mission intelligence coordinator.
Set to be deployed in ISTAR missions, the RAF Protector configuration will include the integration of UK-made weapons — Brimstone (MBDA) and Paveway IV laser-guided bombs (Raytheon UK) — and despite Leonardo’s Seaspray 7500E V2 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar currently being unfunded, that system could replace the standard Raytheon SeaVueX-Band radar.
Such a move was described as ‘an ambition’ of the RAF, by a spokesperson of the service.
‘With [our] maritime radar we can start to really get into multi-domain operations, providing a picture to both land and maritime commanders [enabling them] to be able to see from high altitude and over long periods of time, everything that’s going on across the battlefield,’ said Shaun Gee, UK programme director for Protector.
On the subject of live-fire tests for Brimstone and Paveway IV, Wigston said that the RAF use ‘ranges in the US and the far north of Scotland’, but he stopped short of identifying any particular range for future Protector weapons tests.
Some of the major improvements between the Reaper and Protector orders include the latter being able to be ‘deployed seamlessly’, noted Gee, referring to the MQ-9B not requiring launch and recovery teams.
‘Reaper was bought under an urgent operational requirement and quite rightly tied to the US government but [it] comes with quite a large logistical trail,’ added Gee, whereas Protector will be a UK sovereign asset that the RAF is free to move around as it wishes. (Source: Shephard)
11 Sep 21. NORCO have been awarded AS9100D certification at its new Winfrith manufacturing facility which now demonstrates their ability to work at the highest possible standard required for the aviation, space, and defence sectors.
Gaining AS9100D certification is an important milestone in NORCO’s continued growth strategy to diversify and expand their customer base.
AS9100D is a standard that sets requirements for implementing a Quality Management System (QMS) that improves the quality of products and services and enhances customer satisfaction.
By managing, controlling, and auditing their own processes, as well as having an outside certification body verifying that their QMS meets the requirements, NORCO’s customers can know that manufacturing standards are as high as possible.
Justin Cull, the Quality HSE Manager at NORCO, said: “Gaining AS9100D certification is a significant achievement for Norco that sets out our commitment to our Defence and Aerospace customers to supply into them to highest possible standards.
The whole team have worked hard for this over the last 18 Months and anyone who understands the AS9100 process will know that implementing and gaining certification to this standard is difficult and understandably so.”
The new certification is for NORCO’s 30,000 sq. ft secure Winfrith facility which was purpose built on the Dorset Innovation Park to facilitate a long-term defence contract. The facility is specifically set up to encompass a security culture that includes risk management, personnel security and security roles and responsibilities.
The AS9100D certification is a welcome addition to the facility’s capabilities which will help increase opportunity to attract work from the aviation, space, and defence sectors.
11 Sep 21. Expromet Technologies Group to exhibit at DSEI 2021. Precision casting, machining and fabrication solutions for performance critical applications. The team at Expromet Technologies Group is looking forward to exhibiting at the forthcoming DSEI conference, which will take place from 14 – 17 September at the Excel Conference Centre in London.
With over 50 years’ experience in the defence sector, our group of companies has significant experience in finding solutions to complex casting, machining and fabrication challenges for components and systems deployed on land, in the air or at sea, and will use the exhibition to build industry networks and showcase the range of manufacturing solutions available throughout the group.
Please do come and visit us on stand H2-234.
Expromet has a proud history of delivering world class products for the defence sector, where quality and consistency of production are of paramount importance. The group companies design, develop and manufacture products for a range of global military and defence applications, most recently collaborating with MSubs Ltd from Plymouth, UK in the development of systems to assist in the launch and recovery of their manned midget submarine.
The Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) is 12 metres long with a beam and height of 2.4 metres. It weighs 14 tonnes fully loaded and comprises three dry, pressurised sections including a lock-in/lock-out compartment for the US DOD. Transported in a standard shipping container and deployed from ships or submarines, the DCS is manoeuvred using a bespoke trolley manufactured in Somerset by Metaltech Precision Ltd, part of the Expromet group.
“Metaltech’s experience and expertise means they can supply quickly and effectively to the defence sector,” says Brett Phaneuf, Managing Director of MSubs Ltd. “In mission critical situations like this you need a robust and enduring solution – Metaltech was easy to work with and manufactured exactly what we needed.”
Complementary Defence solutions
Expromet’s advantage in manufacturing for the defence sector lies in the range of expertise within the group. CEO Alistair Schofield says:
“Whether for land, sea or air, military equipment operates in some of the harshest environments on the planet. Quality, integrity and reliability are critically important and products need to meet the highest engineering standards. Our group of companies offers world-class manufacturing solutions for these demanding sectors.”
The group businesses are market leaders in their respective fields and draw upon Expromet’s UK manufacturing capabilities and its global supply chain to find solutions to the many complex technical challenges that customers face.
- Investacast is a leading global supplier of investment castings, pressure die castings and forgings, with a manufacturing base in Ilfracombe, Devon.
- Haworth Castings is a specialist in manufacturing fully-tested, machined and finished sand and gravity die castings with manufacturing sites in Romsey and Basingstoke, Hampshire.
- Metaltech Precision is a leading manufacturer of precision components based in Chard, Somerset, and has extensive capabilities in CNC turning, milling, fabrication and welding.
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company