The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 7.13.17
On June 29, Norway officially agreed to jointly acquire and operate up to eleven Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transports with Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The deal could be worth as much as $1.2 billion for all eleven aircraft. Belgium may join the program as early as next year. The program was initiated by the European Defense Agency in 2012, and will be managed by OCCAR, a pan-European organization founded by France, Germany, Italy, and the UK that oversees large-scale defense programs for member states. The first deliveries of the A330 are scheduled to take place in 2020 from the company’s tanker conversion line near Madrid. The multinational fleet will reduce European reliance on U.S. air-to-air refueling capabilities.
On July 1, the British Ministry of Defense and BAE Systems reached an agreement on the construction of the first three Type 26 frigates. The deal is valued at GBP 3.7 billion (approximately $4.8 billion), and includes costs that the program has already incurred, such as shipyard infrastructure work and ongoing development costs. The Type 26 will replace Britain’s Type 22 and Type 23 frigates and is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s. Initially, the UK planned to purchase thirteen Type 26 frigates, but that number was later revised down to eight. However, the July 1 announcement covers the first three vessels. It remains to be seen how the procurement of the remaining vessels will change moving forward.
On July 5, the Polish Ministry of Defense announced that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the US and Poland for the acquisition of the Patriot missile defense system. Poland is procuring the missiles under their Wisla program, with reports stating that the eight systems could cost as much as $7.6 billion. The news of the MOU came as President Trump visited Poland for the first time on July 6. The Polish government was originally looking to acquire the first two batteries in 2019, with the remaining six to be delivered shortly after; however, first deliveries are now expected in 2022. Poland first announced its intention to procure the Patriot systems back in 2015, but the review of defense priorities under the current administration have delayed the program. In addition to the MOU, Poland is reportedly close to signing a deal with Lockheed Martin for the procurement of the HOMAR mobile artillery missile launcher.
Brazil’s first military satellite began broadcasting on July 5. The Defense and Strategic Communications Geostationary Satellite (SGCD) was launched on May 4 from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana. The Brazilian Air Force coordinates the program, which is expected to improve the security of military communications and increase the capacity of the armed forces. The satellite also has civilian applications, including aiding in the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, which would allow thousands of public network computers to connect to the internet.
During its final session before summer recess and September elections, Germany’s parliamentary budget committee failed to reach an agreement on a proposal to lease five Heron TP drones from Israel Aerospace Industries. The lease program would have reportedly cost about $1.1 billion, with the option of arming them. The Social Democratic Party opposed the project, arguing that there must first be a debate on the legal and military questions around the use of armed drones. Parliament had only received permission to debate funding the Heron TP lease in June after a German court sided with the German government to allow the leasing arrangement to move forward, rejecting General Atomics’ protest over the fairness of the competition. The lease will now have to wait for consideration until next spring as there will be no new procurement decisions until the new parliament has approved the 2018 budget. German public opinion remains largely against the use of armed UAVs, making any discussion of their use a politically sensitive topic.
On July 3, SpaceX’s first reused Dragon capsule successfully returned from the International Space Station with 4,100Ibs of cargo. Two days later, SpaceX also conducted a launch for the third time in under two weeks – twice from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and once from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The most recent Falcon 9 launch successfully delivered Intelsat 35e, a commercial communications satellite, to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. Additionally, the US Air Force asked SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to bid on a five-launch contract with launches starting in 2020. Avascent Analytics projects that SpaceX will launch at least six more times in 2017.