The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 5.23.19
The fate of Poland’s Wisla air-and-missile defense (AMD) program is being called into question by former Polish Minister of Defense Tomasz Siemoniak after local news sources reported that Phase 2 of the program was not included in the updated ten-year defense spending plan. Phase 1 of the Wisla program was signed in March 2018 for the acquisition of two Patriot batteries with an Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS), while the remaining six batteries would be acquired under Phase 2 and includes the IBCS, omni-directional active electronically scanned radar, a low-cost interceptor, and the integration of Polish-built sensors. The total cost of the program, including missiles, is estimated to be about $10.6 billion. The Wisla program is one of the largest modernization programs for the Polish Ministry of Defense, and a program that has taken a while to come to fruition. The acquisition for a new air-and-missile defense system first began in 2014 with Poland down selecting SAMP/T by Eurosam and Raytheon’s Patriot system, beating out MBDA and Lockheed Martin’s Medium Extended Air Defense System. After much debate over key components and offset agreements, Poland decided to move forward with the Patriot AMD system though the delivery would be delayed for the initial order due to the integration of the IBCS. Now the Polish Ministry of Defense is potentially holding off on funding the second phase of the Wisla program until after 2026, though former Minister Siemoniak is questioning whether the program will be funded at all. Poland is expected to review the overall modernization effort in 2022, which is perhaps when the fate of the Wisla program will be determined.
A potential sale of eight F-16Vs to Bulgaria could be in jeopardy over pricing, but negotiations are underway. The Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen were the two other contenders in the Bulgarian fighter competition. According to defense minister Krasimir Karakachanov, the F-16V bid is about $174 million over the budgeted amount for the acquisition. Karakachanov gave prices for English language training for Bulgarian pilots as one of the pain points in the pricing negotiations. Another issue to be discussed in negotiations is whether the bill should be paid all at once or in installments. A Bulgarian delegation leader involved with the talks hopes that a decision on the acquisition details can be made by mid-June, but this is if there are no delays in negotiations. Bulgaria plans to acquire an additional eight fighters by the late 2020s, depending on budget availability.
Angola has received the last of the 12 upgraded secondhand Su-30K fighters from Russia as part of a $1 billion deal that began in 2013. The Su-30Ks were originally sold to India as part of their Su-30 acquisition and were a mix of Su-30MKs and Su-30Ks that lacked advanced features such as thrust vectoring and canards. After six years of service, the 18 older aircraft were retired and returned to Russia in exchange for spare parts. By 2013, the aircraft languished in the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Belarus as the Russian government and Irkut looked for potential buyers including Belarus, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and Sudan. They eventually found one in Angola, who was willing to pay $1 billion for the modernization of the jets along with spares, and training equipment.
It should be noted that Russian arms sales, particularly for fighter aircraft, tend to be structured very differently from their Western equivalents. While Western fighters come with an extensive support and spares package, Russian sales tend to be equipment-centric and usually include separate, undisclosed support agreements. This can often be very lucrative for Russian firms as they are able to tightly control the market for spare parts and distribution of intellectual property, to the point that even the United States was at one time forced to source spare parts from Russia in order to maintain Afghanistan’s fleet of Mi-8/17s. Such is likely the case here, as the 558th Aviation Repair Plant has already confirmed that “The operation of the Su-30K fighters in Angola is currently provided by the warranty team of our plant.”
On May 17, the Department of State approved the sale of 425 MK54 lightweight torpedo conversion kits to Canada. The deal is currently estimated to be worth $387 million. Canada intends to use the conversion kits to upgrade its inventory of MK46 torpedoes. The upgraded MK54 torpedoes will then be used in conjunction with Canada’s Halifax-class ships, CP-140 Aurora aircraft, and CH-148 maritime helicopters.
On March 17, Damen Shipyards held a launch ceremony for the first of two corvettes the Dutch firm is building for the Pakistan Navy worth $113 million. A visiting delegation from the Navy, led by the service’s Chief of Staff for Personnel, attended the ceremony at Damen’s facility in Galati, Romania. The ship is expected to be delivered to Pakistan by the end of the year, while the second boat is slated for delivery in 2020. The corvettes can carry one SH-3 Sea King anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter each. Pakistan acquired seven second-hand Sea King’s from the Royal Navy in 2017. The Navy’s ASW mission is focused almost exclusively on submarine threats from India.