The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 8.10.17
India may start negotiating a deal for 48 Mi-17 V5 medium lift helicopters this month. Rosoboronexport said that price negotiations are expected to begin shortly and hope that a contract could be finalized by the end of the year. The Indian Air Force already fields 139 M-17s, with two previous orders coming in 2008 and 2012. Lift capabilities are central to Indian efforts to secure its contested borders with China and Pakistan. Despite political sensitivities in New Delhi, Rosoboronexport recently sold four Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan. The move was seen by some as a signal of Russia’s displeasure with India’s deepening relations with the United States.
On July 29, Oman received its first two Hawk Mark 166 advanced trainer jets from BAE Systems during a ceremony at Masirah Air Base in Oman. Oman ordered a total of eight Hawk aircraft and 12 Eurofighter Typhoons in December 2012 in a deal worth an estimated $4.1 billion. Oman received its first Typhoon in June of this year. The Typhoons are replacing Oman’s aging fleet of SEPECAT Jaguars while the Hawk Mk 166s will replace Oman’s Hawk 100s. A total of eight customers have ordered the Eurofighter so far: Oman, Austria, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the United Kingdom.
On July 30, the government of Thailand announced it would purchase eight T-50 trainer aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries. The deal is valued at $260 million, and deliveries are expected to be completed by 2020. The new aircraft will complement the set of four T-50s that Thailand purchased in 2015. These purchases are part of a larger effort to replace Thailand’s aging L-39 trainer aircraft, and they may order an additional four T-50s in order to bring the total inventory to 16 aircraft.
On August 1, Romania’s Supreme Defense Council (SDC) decided to increase defense spending over the next ten years above what they had originally planned. The SDC agreed to allocate 2% of GDP towards defense for 2017 and approved an $11.3 billion spending plan to modernize the country’s military from 2017-2026. This budget increase comes after Romania expressed interest in procuring Patriot systems from the US worth $3.9 billion. The State Department has approved the sale of seven Patriot systems in addition to 56 MIM-104E GEM-T missiles and 168 PAC-3 missiles. The Romanian Ministry of National Defense now waits on Congress for final approval.
On August 2, Fincantieri and Qatar signed a $5.9 billion contract to construct seven ships for the Qatari Navy, along with 15 years of support services after delivery of the ships. Over $2 billion will be subcontracted to Leonardo and to MBDA for electronics and ship armament, respectively. Fincantieri signed a preliminary contract to construct the warships in 2016. At the time, the contract was estimated to be worth about $4.4 billion. The seven ships will include four corvettes, two offshore patrol vessels, and one landing platform dock. Construction will start in 2018 and work is expected to be completed in 2024. These vessels represent a significant upgrade in capability for the Qatari Emiri Navy, which is largely composed of patrol vessels and small fast attack craft. In the past, Qatar has discussed a comprehensive naval modernization that would see the acquisition of larger surface combatants, such as frigates and destroyers, though this recent order is certainly the start of a much broader effort.
On August 4, Vector Space Systems conducted a second test launch of its Vector-R rocket in Camden County, Georgia. The rocket reached a peak altitude of 3,000 meters, well short of the 100km Karman line, commonly used to denote the border between Earth’s atmosphere and space. John Garvey, Chief Technology Officer of Vector, announced that there will be four more test flights, culminating in an orbital launch, and that the company will begin commercial launches next year. Vector has already announced that Iceye and York Space Systems will be customers when Vector-R begins commercial launches. Assuming that Vector’s test launches proceed according to the company’s plans, Avascent Analytics currently projects that Vector will conduct six commercial missions in 2018.