The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 1.19.18
On January 12, China launched a single Long March-3B carrier, putting two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites into orbit. The launch took place from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province and was the first Beidou-3 satellite launch of 2018. A total of 18 Beidou-3 satellites are to be put into orbit during 2018 with China looking to expand its presence in the navigational and positional services sector. The Long March-3B rocket was supplied by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) while the satellites were produced by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to Avascent Analytics Global Space Systems, spending on launches of Beidou-3 satellites is set to increase significantly in 2018 from approximately $140 million in 2017 to around $500 million in 2018. In terms of value, Chinese Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) launches are forecast to account for 34 percent of global spending on MEO launches, with European launches under the Galileo program forecast to account for 37 percent of the $1.5 billion market.
Lockheed Martin will supply Saudi Arabia with an additional 17 UH-60M Black Hawks worth $193.9 million. Eight of the helicopters will go to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, while the remaining nine will go to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces. These helicopters appear to be a specialized variant of the aircraft, as the contract announcement describes the helicopters as “unique UH-60M aircraft.” This is yet another helicopter acquisition in a series of purchases that aim to rapidly develop the Saudi Arabian National Guard’s rotary-wing force, which was non-existent at the beginning of 2015. With this latest purchase, over $1.6 billion worth of rotorcraft and related services is expected to go to the Saudi Arabian National Guard between 2018 and 2022. The helicopter modernization effort is characterized as part of Saudi Arabia’s broader efforts to create a more self-sufficient economy that is less dependent on petroleum.
In a recent interview, India’s Naval Chief confirmed that the service is interested in acquiring a third batch of P-8I aircraft from Boeing. The Navy currently fields eight P-8I, with another four aircraft due to be delivered in the next few years. India first acquired P-8Is in a 2009 deal for eight aircraft worth $2.1 billion, and a follow-on purchase for another four aircraft was sealed in 2016 for $1.1 billion. Avascent expects the Indian Navy to order another eight P-8Is to bring its total inventory to twenty. The P-8I is replacing India’s aging fleet of Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft, which includes five Il-38SD and four Tu-142 M Bear ASW aircraft.
On January 12, Romania announced that it has become the latest country to procure a modern 8 x 8 wheeled armored vehicle fleet, with 227 Piranha V vehicles procured from General Dynamics European Land Systems for EUR895 million ($1.01 billion). The first 36 vehicles will be manufactured at the GDELS facility in Switzerland with delivery by the end of 2018 while the remaining 179 will be manufactured locally by Usina Mecanica Bucaresti (UMB), a subsidiary of ROMARM. The vehicles are to be delivered in six different variants, although the exact configurations have not been disclosed at this time. The contract continues GDELS’s success in Romania, with 43 Piranha III vehicles previously ordered over five batches with deliveries taking place over a 10-year period from 2008. The final Piranha III order, for 12 vehicles, was placed in January 2017.
On January 15, it was reported that NATO’s Train, Advice, Assist Command- Air (TAAC-Air) mission in Afghanistan plans to increase the size of the Afghan Air Force considerably. The new plan involves increasing the Afghan Air Force from 8,000 personnel to 12,000, having Afghans take on 80% of the maintenance and repair work for their aircraft by 2020, and increasing the number of aircraft from 124 to 259. More specifically, the new plan involves bringing the number of A-29 Super Tucanos in the Afghan Air Force up from 19 to 25, increasing the number of UH-60 Blackhawks to 159, and providing 31 more MD-530 rotorcraft for mobility and 32 AC-208s to function as ISR platforms. The goal of this plan is focus more closely on creating a self-sufficient Afghan Air Force that can both operate and maintain its own aircraft. Avascent Analytics estimates that the market for mobility, ISR, and attack aircraft – including rotorcraft – in Afghanistan will have an annual value of $289M from 2019-2023.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute in London on January 17, Qatari Defense minister Khalid Bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah announced that Qatar intends to procure nine HAWK T2 trainer aircraft from BAE Systems, an increase from six aircraft announced in November 2017. The announcement follows a meeting between Khalid Bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah and UK Defence secretary Gavin Williamson on January 15. The increase will be welcome news to BAE Systems, which announced in 2017 that it intended to reduce its workforce at it aircraft manufacturing sites due to a lack of orders.
Facing a potential shortfall in airlift capability, the French Air Force has started planning for a large future procurement of C-130Js in the mid-2020s. This news comes as Airbus announced a further reduction to A400M production to extend the line until the 2030s. This has led the French Air Force to look to other options to sustain airlift capabilities as their fleet of over 70 C-160 Transalls will be retired in 2023. With a fleet of 14 legacy C-130s and only 12 A400Ms delivered to date, France had previously ordered 4 C-130Js, including two KC-130J tanking variants, to address shortfalls in airlift, special operations, and tanking; with the first delivery last month. This move may be mirrored by Germany, who like France, has nearly 40 A400Ms on order ahead of C-160 retirement and ordered six C-130Js in the wake of major A400M delays in 2016.