By Avascent Analytics team
A quick look at the biggest stories of the week
Greece • India • Bahrain • South Korea • Germany
On April 28, Greece’s Council on Foreign Policy and Defense approved an upgrade to the country’s F-16 fighter fleet following negotiations with the US. Defense Minister Panos Kammenos acknowledged that the US accepted a revised plan “that takes into consideration Greece’s fiscal commitments and constraints” in the near term. The US previously approved the upgrade for Greece in the fall of 2017, with the acquisition costing as much as $2.4 billion for 125 F-16s, but with austerity measures still in place, Greece will only upgrade 85 fighter jets totaling no more than $1.45 billion. Greece’s fleet of F-16s will be upgraded to the F-16 V standard which includes AN/APG 83 active electronically scanned array radars, modular mission computers, Link 16 MIDS/JTRS, LN-260 embedded global navigation/inertial navigation systems, and improved programmable display generators. Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor for the upgrade with the work conducted at its Fort Worth, Texas facility. The upgrades come at a time where tensions between Turkey and Greece are on the rise again, largely due to disputed territory in the Aegean Sea. The spike in tension began in early April 2018 after the Turkish government claimed that it had removed a Greek flag from an island in the Aegean Sea, though Greek officials dispute this claim saying the flag is still there. Greece’s F-16s are routinely dispatched to intercept Turkish fighters allegedly flying into Greek airspace over the Aegean. The first upgraded F-16 could be delivered to the Hellenic Air Force as early as 2020.
On April 27, the Indian Defence Acquisition Council approved over $550 million worth of acquisitions, which included 13 127mm guns for the Navy, and an order for the indigenously developed Nag anti-tank missile. The Nag portion of the acquisition, which is worth about $78 million and includes BMP-2 derived missile carriers (NAMICA), marks a milestone for indigenous defense development. Some reports estimate an initial acquisition of 300 missiles and 25 NAMICAs, though this has not been confirmed. The Nag has been in development since the 1990s, but delays have added over 10 years to the length of the program. Last year, India cancelled a $500 million acquisition of over 8000 Spike anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) from Israel, after India’s Defense Research and Development Organization insisted that it could deliver Nag within four years. The Indian Army projects that it will need 2000 ATGMs in the short term, and 8000 missiles in the long-term.
On April 27, the State Department approved the possible sale of twelve AH-1Z attack helicopters to Bahrain worth up to $911.4 million. Items include 26 T-700 GE 401C engines, 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and 56 WGU-59Bs. The new helicopters would add to Bahrain’s existing inventory of Bell attack helicopters, which includes 28 AH-1 Cobras and six trainer TAH-1P helicopters. The sale is the second-largest arms sale to Bahrain during the Trump administration. In September 2017, Washington approved a $3.9 billion deal for F-16V aircraft, 34 fast patrol boats, and 221 TOW missiles to Bahrain.
On April 30, the US Department of Defense contracted Boeing to provide production support services for South Korea’s 36 AH-64E Apache helicopters. The contract is valued at $96.3 million, and the work is expected to be completed by April 2023. The AH-64Es were purchased in 2013 for $1.6 billion and were delivered in January 2017. The rotorcraft were purchased to replace South Korea’s aging fleet of AS-1 Cobras, and will principally be used to patrol the border between North and South Korea.
Political tension over the future of spending on the Bundeswehr have flared up in Germany as Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen has begun to push harder against a restrictive budget proposed by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. The funding fight comes as the Finance Minister is proposing his new financial plan, which would increase defense spending by $6.5 billion through 2021, including $2 billion in 2019. The Defense Ministry, which has come under severe pressure for underinvestment in major defense systems, is instead seeking an additional $14 billion over the period, including $3.5 billion this year.
The Defense Minister is seeking greater leverage by noting that several programs would likely be cut if funding is limited, and the burden would fall upon two politically sensitive deals. The first would be the German withdrawal from the joint submarine acquisition program with Norway, likely leading to the cancellation of the $5.1 billion Norwegian order and the loss of $7.7 billion in orders for German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. Meanwhile, the second potential cancellation would be the recent C-130J stopgap order which fills gaps in airborne tanking capability with the delay of a fully-capable A400M, and whose combined Franco-German squadron serves as a major political symbol as France and Germany look toward increasing military and industrial ties.
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