The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 8/13/20

 In Weekly Wire
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India’s “No Import” List Announced

Hamilton Cook, Research Associate

India has announced its initial “No Import” list that is meant to not only protect existing Indian industry, but also to incentivize foreign investment, largely through joint ventures with local firms, in the nation. The initial list primarily focuses upon formally banning international competitors to existing Indian platforms (like the Pinaka MBRL or Brahmos), protecting Indian shipyards, and securing the ability for Indian corporations to develop in the realms of simulation, small arms, and ammunition. The embargo on these platforms and systems phases in beginning in December 2020, which will allow for the completion of several projects prior to them joining the list.

The embargo lists’ first test will likely be for the fourth item on the list – “Towed Artillery Gun (155mm x 52 Cal)”. This will have a major impact on the ATHOS 2052 awarded to Elbit and Bharat Forge that is currently in negotiation. Most sources indicate that the potential $1 billion-plus contract would begin with the import of 400 howitzers, with the potential to scale up to meet the Indian Army’s entire 1,580 towed 155mm requirement. Elbit and Bharat Forge had bid very aggressively for the contract, not only out bidding Nexter/Larsen & Toubro Trajan, but also, supposedly, coming in as a cheaper alternative to several state-developed alternatives. As a result, it is highly likely that the DRDO and Ordnance Factory Board lobbied heavily for the inclusion of Towed Artillery Guns on the list in order to protect their respective Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) and Dhanush 155mm despite the former still being in testing and the later only recently being awarded a limited 114 gun production run.

The resulting fallout from this decision could be widespread depending on how this specific competition plays out, particularly if Elbit is unable to restructure the program away from its existing production facilities. Elbit and other Israeli firms have quietly emerged as an important cog in Indian industrial development by providing critical subsystems for Indian-developed platforms like the HAL Tejas, and India could see a decaying of those relationships as a result. Meanwhile, other foreign defense contractors could be forced to reassess and increase their risk tolerance for doing work in India if they now face sudden post-award inclusion on an embargo list if they beat out a state-industry platform or system. This is obviously something the Indian government should seek to avoid, particularly as it is currently looking to raise investment by these firms in India in the pursuit of building up its defense industry

South Korea

The South Korean Ministry of National Defense unveiled its 2021-2025 Defense Mid-term Plan, which outlines major acquisition items and force structure changes in line with the broader Defense Reform 2.0 initiative. Over the next five years, the budget is expected to increase annually by 6.1 percent on average, with about one third of the budget going towards new acquisitions and R&D. End strength will be reduced to 500,000 by 2023, compared to nearly 600,000 last year. Some major programs to begin in this time frame include acquisition of the Hyunmoo-4 ballistic missile, development of a missile defense system similar to Iron Dome, acquisition of a 30,000 ton light aircraft carrier, equipping KF-15K and KF-16 fighters with AESA radars, and continued introduction of satellites and UAS to gain near real-time intelligence over North Korea and the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ). One particularly ambitious initiative listed in the plan was the start of development of an indigenous satellite position, navigation, and timing system. This may be linked to a Ministry of Science plan revealed in 2018 to launch a seven satellite constellation that would augment GPS and provide a degree of redundancy should GPS be rendered inoperable. In that plan, the constellation was slated for completion around 2034.

Australia

On August 10, t the Australian Ministers of Defense and Defense Industry announced a plan to invest $12.2 million AUD (approximately $8.72 million USD) over the next three years in the domestic development of autonomous combat systems. This includes a contract to convert 16 M113 armored personnel carriers into optionally crewed combat vehicles, a contract to modify a Bushmaster vehicle to hybrid-electric drive, a contract to enhance existing leader-follower technologies, and a contract to develop manned-unmanned teaming technologies. The investment plan is an outgrowth of the Robotic and Autonomous Systems Strategy which was developed by the Australian Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation & Coordination Office. The hope is that these disruptive technologies will both grant the Australian military an advantage in future conflicts and grant Australian industry an advantage in the market for autonomous military platforms.

Bahrain

On August 8, the Kingdom of Bahrain took delivery of the former UK Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Clyde. The former British ship, assembled by BAE System Maritime, spent 12 years in service prior to its decommissioning in December 2019, having spent much of its service life on forward-deployed patrol missions around the Falkland Islands. The Bahraini Navy plans to rename the vessel RBNS Al Zubarah and intends for it to serve as one of the Kingdom’s flagship naval vessels alongside the RBNS Sabha frigate. The acquisition will enhance Bahrain’s naval projection capabilities, as the majority of the country’s fleet consists of smaller fast attack craft and patrol boats. The vessel reportedly contains a full load displacement between 1,850-2,000 tons, measures 81.5 meters long, and can reach 21 knots. It can also accommodate a Merlin-sized helicopter as well as a 30 mm cannon, two miniguns, and mountings for five general-purpose machine guns.

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