The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 5.24.18
As the British defense budget looks like it will tighten over the coming years, the F-35 program has come under increased pressure at a time where the government is focused on using military industrial spending to sustain the post-Brexit economy. This has led some in the government to question the need to fulfill its commitment to 90 additional jets after the first 48 are delivered by 2025. Avascent Analytics does not foresee any major changes to the British F-35 program at this time but expects rhetoric to increase as F-35 O&M costs continue to rise and Eurofighter production begins to sunset.
Meanwhile, it does place increased pressure on the upcoming Defense Review and Combat Aircraft Industrial Strategy (CAIS) that are due out this summer. The CAIS is expected to focus on how best to sustain the British defense aerospace industry through the 2050s and will weigh the options of further investment into a US-developed option, joining the upcoming Franco-German fighter program, or seeking another partner to ameliorate the costs of next-generation development while sustaining jobs in Britain.
On May 19, the Australian Navy (RAN) launched its third and final Hobart-class Aegis air warfare destroyer, the HMAS Sydney. The Sydney is slated to undergo sea trials in 2019 and enter service by 2020. RAN’s three Hobart-class destroyers are set to become the most advanced ships in Australia’s surface combatant fleet and will replace the country’s Adelaide-class frigates, which will retire in the early 2020s. The three boats in the Hobart-class—the Hobart, Brisbane, and Sydney—are the first Australian vessels equipped with the Aegis weapon system. The new destroyers are part of a broader naval modernization effort, driven by domestic imperatives to promote local industry and replace retiring platforms. This week, Canberra is expected to announce the winner of its competition for a future frigate to replace its aging inventory of ANZAC-class frigates.
According to the Turkish Undersecretary of Defense Industries Ismail Demir, the contract to procure the first set of Altay main battle tanks will likely be signed by the government soon. The Altay is the first indigenous main battle tank to be designed and produced in Turkey, and will be used to supplement Turkish land combat operations. It is currently expected that 1,000 Altay tanks will be purchased in four sets of 250 units each, with the initial production starting in late 2019 or early 2020. The entire procurement will take approximately 20 years and will cost between $25-$30 billion.
The Slovakian Army completed its evaluation of the AMV XP 8×8 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) last week and is expected to finalize a contract with Patria for 81 IFV’s. Not only is the XP variant the newest member of the AMV family of vehicles, Slovakia and Finland collaborated on modifying the AMV XP to meet Slovakian requirements. Furthermore, Slovakia will fully own the intellectual property of this new variant, laying the groundwork for future exports. The Slovakian government has invested nearly $1.5 billion towards replacing older Soviet-era vehicles. These funds encompass not just the new 8×8 IFV, but also 404 new 4×4 vehicles. This recapitalization program is expected to wrap up by 2029.
Sikorsky pitched its S-92 civilian helicopter to the Royal Canadian Air Force, claiming that purchasing new helos would be cheaper than upgrading its fleet of CH-149 Comorants. Under the current program, the CH-149 mid-life upgrade would keep the rotorcraft in service to 2040, but the program has a wide estimate of potential costs, ranging between $391 million to $1.2 billion (CAD 500 million – 1.5 billion). Under the outdated Defense Acquisition Guide, the original award date for the program was 2017 with deliveries to conclude in 2024, but no contract was announced. Canada currently operates 14 CH-149s produced by Leonardo. Leonardo is pushing the RCAF to upgrade the search-and-rescue (SAR) fleet and has suggested that seven out of nine VH-71 helos could be used to help supplement the RCAF’s SAR capabilities. A statement released by an RCAF official said the service was likely to make a decision soon to determine whether it would be beneficial to buy new helicopters or upgrade its current fleet.