The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 1.11.18
On January 5, the US State Department approved a possible sale to Mexico of six RGM-84L Harpoon Block II surface-launched missiles and 23 Block II Rolling Airframe tactical missiles (RAM) from Raytheon, and six Boeing MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes worth $98.4 million. The Mexican Navy will likely deploy the systems on its newest frigate, the Sigma 10514, which is scheduled to enter service by 2020. Holland’s Damen Schelde Shipbuilding began construction on the vessel in August 2017, in a contract worth an estimated $520 million. Mexico currently fields six aging frigates, all purchased or received second-hand from the United States.
On January 9, India cancelled a $5 billion project to build 12 new mine countermeasure vessels at India’s Goa Shipyard in collaboration with South Korean shipbuilder Kangnam Corporation. A new tender will have to be issued and Goa Shipyard will need to re-submit an expression of interest to the Indian government. The project was cancelled due to Kangnam’s deviations from the original request for proposal. Earlier problems with Kangnam include a reported refusal to provide a performance guarantee for construction and disagreement over the type of engine. This is yet another setback in a project that dates back to 2005. Furthermore, it is a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” program. As of now, no major “Make in India” defense projects have reached a final contract since PM Modi entered office in 2014. India has a requirement for 24 mine countermeasures vessels, and currently operates four Soviet-built Pondicherry-class minesweepers which were originally set to retire this year. India is increasingly concerned about Chinese submarines that are regularly entering the Indian Ocean, and their potential to quietly lay mines.
In the wake of increased North Korean missile threats and tests, the US State Department approved a Foreign Military Sale of SM-3 Block IIA Missiles to Japan. The $133.3 million deal would include the sale of four SM-3 missiles, launch canisters, and associated support services and equipment. The Raytheon-built SM-3 was developed as an anti-ballistic missile variant of the widely-used SM-2 surface-to-air missile and is the missile interceptor for the AEGIS Ashore system. The Block IIA, the newest variant of the SM-3, was developed by the United States and Japan over the last decade. It provides a 50% larger missile capable of deploying a larger kill vehicle at higher velocities than the existing SM-3 Block 1s in order to better counter evolving ballistic threats from North Korea.
On January 10, Finland and Sweden signed an agreement to cooperate on the development of a new torpedo system. According to the agreement, the Torpedsystem 47 will be developed and manufactured by Saab and purchased by both countries. There is potential for additional cooperation on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems in the future as well. The impetus for Sweden and Finland’s current efforts to improve their ASW capabilities is rooted in concerns about Russian submarines operating in their territorial waters.
On December 5, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced NASA’s confirmation that the Dream Chaser spacecraft had successfully met the flight requirements of SNC’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) contract: the space agency required design validation of a capability for a “safe and reliable return of cargo services to Earth through a gentle runway landing.” On November 11, the spacecraft completed a successful Free-Flight test, being released from a helicopter at an altitude of 3,750 meters and gliding to an autonomous runway landing 60 seconds later. This test provided subsonic flight and landing performance data of which NASA just completed its review.
Later this year, SNC will have a critical design review of the cargo version of its spacecraft for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract, under which Dream Chaser is scheduled for up to six cargo deliveries to the International Space Station.