The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 11.9.18
In an announcement more at home in the lead-up to the NBA Trade Deadline, Spain and South Korea have been discussing the possibility of trading four to six excess Spanish A400Ms for over 50 Korean trainer aircraft. The deal was proposed by Spain during the Farnborough Airshow and comes at a time when the two countries were struggling with ways to add additional capabilities while continuing substantial industrial base commitments. Despite a recovering economy, Spain’s defense budget has remained constrained by significant commitments to local industry, most notably ordering an excess 13 A400Ms over the next decade to sustain the final assembly line in Seville. Meanwhile, the South Korean government has significant concerns about national champion KAI’s limited backlog of trainer aircraft sales, particularly after the loss of T-X which came as a shock locally. A potential deal would see Spain trade four to six A400Ms to South Korea in exchange for 34 KT-1 basic trainers and 20 T-50 Advanced trainers. Spain received permission from Airbus to sell the aircraft at a discount. If the deal were to go through, it would fulfill recently stated Korean plans to procure four large transport aircraft to augment its C-130 fleet and fulfill an oft-delayed recapitalization of the Spanish trainer fleet.
Canada announced it was moving forward with the purchase of an additional Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS), bringing the total fleet to six. The AOPS is currently being built by Irving Shipbuilding based in Halifax, Nova Scotia under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy. Irving Shipbuilding was previously awarded a CAD $2.6 billion (USD $1.9 billion) contract in 2015 to construct five vessels, with the option to acquire a sixth patrol ship. The first AOPS dubbed HMCS Harry DeWolf was launched in September 2018 and is currently undergoing trials before being delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy in 2019. The announcement of the additional ship came as workers with Irving Shipbuilding feared prolonged layoffs in between the completion of the AOPS program and the start of the Canadian Surface Combatant, which will also be built at Irving Shipbuilding. Furthermore, Canada is expected to split a CAD $7 billion (USD $5.3 billion) maintenance contract for 12 ships between three shipyards – Davie Shipbuilding, Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards, and Irving Shipbuilding – prompting Irving Shipbuilding employees to protest the decision to split the contract amongst competing shipyards. Canada’s multi-billion shipbuilding strategy is currently split between Irving Shipbuilding and Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, with Irving building the combat vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and Seaspan building the non-combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard.
On November 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that INS Arihant (Hindi for “Slayer of Enemies”) submarine had completed its first deterrent patrol with the K-15 ballistic missile on board. The milestone marks the official establishment of the country’s nuclear triad, giving India the ability to deliver nuclear weapons via land-based missiles, aircraft, and submarines. India joins Russia, the US, and China as one of five countries with operational nuclear triads. Israel is also believed to possess a triad, but this has not yet been confirmed. Questions remain concerning the Arihant, which spent most of 2017 in repair after saltwater flooded the vessel through an unclosed hatch. It’s also unclear whether it will conduct deterrent patrols on a regular basis or will only be used during a crisis. Prior to the prime minister’s announcement, it was believed that INS Arihant would serve as a training vessel for the Indian Navy as the country produced three additional Arihant-class SSBNs. Although the next submarine, INS Arighat, is scheduled for delivery by 2021, it’s likely the boat will not be commissioned until the late 2020s.
On November 2, Turkey tasked three companies with building their first indigenous long-range air-and-missile defense system. The three firms are Aselan, Roketsan, and Tubitak Sage – all of which are state-owned entities. This new system will augment the S-400 system which Turkey purchased from Russia and indicates an ongoing commitment to avoiding US-provided air-and-missile defense systems. At present, the new indigenous system is expected to be begin deliveries in 2021.