The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 11.30.17
On November 24, it was reported that the French government had selected Nexter over Renault Trucks Defense to build the new light Vehicule Blinde Multirole (VBMR) 4×4 reconnaissance vehicle. However, that announcement is not yet official and may be contested. The light VBMR, also referred to as the Scorpion, is part of larger ground vehicle modernization program in France which also includes the construction of a heavy VBMR variant which will function as a troop carrier. The new vehicles are expected to cost between $890,000-$1 million each and approximately 400 are expected to be delivered by 2025, with 1,500 light and heavy VBMRs being ordered in total. The estimated total cost of the 400 light VBMRs is between $356 million – $400 million.
On November 24, the Finnish Ministry of Defense announced that it will send out invitations for bids for its HX fighter program in early 2018. Finland is looking to replace its aging fleet of F/A-18s. The Finnish Air Force will acquire a total of 64 fighters with an estimated contract value worth between $7.8-$10.2 billion. The Finnish Ministry of Defense anticipates a contract award date in late 2021. Current contenders for the competition include BAE’s Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, Saab’s Gripen E, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
On November 24, Australia selected Lürssen’s design for twelve offshore patrol vessels (OPV) under project SEA 1180, beating out designs from Fassmer and Damen. The project will cost nearly $3 billion, with the first ships expected to enter service around 2021. The first two ships will be built by ASC Shipbuilding in Southern Australia, and the remaining ten by Austal and Civmec in Western Australia. The final arrangement for the construction of the vessels is a surprise, as Lürssen originally selected a joint bid from ASC and Forgacs to build the vessels, whereas Austal was slated to be the builder if the Fassmer design was selected. Lürssen’s preferred choice of builder will now only build two vessels, while a builder from a losing bid will actually build a majority of the OPVs. The choice and location of builder has been a hot-button issue as the Australian government has pushed to maximize local involvement in the defense industry. The Australian government’s decision to pull Austal into construction of the winning Lürssen design, even though Austal was associated with a competing design, is expected to help sustain more Australian shipbuilding jobs. The much larger $26 billion Future Frigate program is currently facing controversy as well, as the Australian government tender did not mandate domestic production of the frigates. Changing the tender requirements was characterized as a move that would delay the selection process for the frigates, but the recent OPV award may provide a precedent to quickly increase Australian involvement in the frigate program. Australia has ambitions to significantly expand defense exports using the expertise gained from the shipbuilding program as a foundation.
Bids are due by December 29 in the Turkish medium transport aircraft competition, in which Leonardo’s C-27J will compete against Airbus’ C295, with Antonov also rumored to enter the race. The estimated $500 million competition will allow Turkey to acquire an initial batch of nine aircraft, with the possibility of acquiring an additional nine. Leonardo has been particularly aggressive in looking for indigenous partners in Turkey and has had discussions with Aselsan, Havelsan, and TAI. This push is likely driven by the limited backlog of C-27s, with only four deliveries outstanding. Meanwhile, Airbus is coming off a recent five aircraft order from the UAE that has pushed its total orderbook to 203.