The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 12/20/2019

 In Weekly Wire


While the US is moving forward with the creation of the US Space Force, the branch won’t receive the $72.4 million in operations and maintenance (O&M) funding put forth by the House and the Senate. Instead, appropriators are allocating $40 million to stand up the branch. The US Space Force wasn’t the only service that was cut – appropriators also cut O&M funding for the Space Development Agency from $30.5 million to $14.2 million, though the agency’s development and technology prototype accounts received nearly full funding at $20 million and $75 million respectively. Under the $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2020, the report authorizes the establishment of the US Space Force as the sixth branch of the military, moving the US Air Force’s Space Command to the US Space Force. The branch will employ Air Force personnel, though the NDAA does not authorize the hiring of personnel for the branch. The NDAA also authorizes a Chief of Space Operations who will eventually become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is required to report updates to congressional defense committees every two months through 2023. General John Raymond, who currently serves as the commander of the USAF Space Command, will transition into the Chief of Space Operations position for one year.


On December 18, the Dutch Defense Ministry announced it has dropped Navantia from the list of bidders for their new submarine acquisition program. The Netherlands is looking to acquire four new submarines that will replace the current Walrus-class submarines. Additionally, the Dutch State Secretary for Defence also announced that the contract will be awarded in 2022, rather than in 2019 as had previously been expected, creating a very short window for the new submarines to be brought online, as the Walrus-class is expected to start retiring in the mid-2020s. With the removal of Navantia, the remaining bidders are Naval Group, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, and Saab-Kockums.


According to Philippine Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has chosen to evaluate two aircraft for its Multi-Role Fighter program: the Gripen and the F-16V. The Multi-Role Fighter program will see the Philippine Air Force acquire several major fighter aircraft in order to enhance Philippine airspace security by networking with existing radar networks and complementing the PAF’s recent purchases of 12 FA-50 light fighters. Saab and Lockheed Martin have been locked in increasing levels of competition over the last few years as Lockheed Martin has begun shifting its marketing of the F-16 toward more budget-sensitive customers unable to afford its F-35, resulting in wins in Slovakia, Morocco, and Bulgaria. Saab meanwhile is continuing to look for additional customers of its next generation Gripen, the JAS 39E/F, which has already secured launch customers in Sweden and Brazil.


On December 12, Indra signed an $166.7 million (EUR 150 million) contract with Lockheed Martin to supply key components of the S-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) anti-air warfare radar on the future Spanish F110 frigate. Like its Alvaro de Bazan-class frigate predecessor, the F110 will feature the Aegis combat system. But the addition of an AESA radar gives the F110 an advantage over the AN/SPY-1D passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar found on the Alvaro de Bazan-class. A PESA radar can only transmit a single beam at a single frequency, while an AESA radar can transmit multiple beams at different frequencies. This makes the AESA radar more difficult to jam and detect over background radio noise. All Aegis-equipped ships, not just the Alvaro de Bazan-class, have been using PESA radars. The change to AESA radars follows other large non-Aegis equipped warships that have used AESA technology for their primary air warfare/surveillance radar. These include the Dutch De Zeven Provincien-class frigate, the British Type 45 destroyer, and the Chinese Type 052D destroyer. Future Aegis-equipped vessels that will be fitted with AESA radars include the American Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyers and the Australian Hunter-class frigate.


Tunisian land forces are expected to be equipped with AeroVironment drone systems in 2020. AeroVironment was awarded a $8.5 million contract to provide eight unknown drone systems, spare parts, and operating software. The contract is expected to be completed by May 2020. This contract is the first one to be awarded to a US firm since President Kais Saied came to power in October 2019. The conservative president has pledged to eradicate corruption from the government, dismissing the former Minister of Defense in November 2019 due to corruption allegations.

Unmanned ISR capabilities are in high demand in Tunisia to improve homeland security missions, especially in the southern provinces and near the Libyan border. Tunisia is considering looking for additional ISR UAVs and has received several proposals from Turkish firms to provide MALE UAVs, though no further information on a potential sale is available.

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