The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 8.2.18
On July 26, the Israeli Air Force began planning a large-scale procurement of fighters, cargo helicopters, and aerial refueling aircraft which would have an estimated value of $11 billion. The deal is being negotiated with Boeing and would be paid for using aid funding from the US. Before the current negotiations were announced, the Israeli Air Force had already prioritized replacing its aging inventory of refueling craft, CH-53 rotorcraft, and had renewed interest in acquiring V-22s and F-15s, with the latter serving as a less expensive alternative to the F-35. Should the deal go through, it would include a squadron of F-15s with enhanced stealth capabilities and an undisclosed number of CH-47s, V-22s, and aerial refueling planes derived from the Boeing 767 passenger aircraft. It is important to note that nothing has been finalized at this time and given the amount of funding that would be spent, Israel’s security cabinet would need to approve any deal that is reached.
The Type 31e has hit an early roadblock in its acquisition process, as the Ministry of Defence has halted the competition due to “insufficient compliant bids.” Sources and outside analysts have pointed to an overly rigid contract structure as the leading cause of the lack of compliant bids. The Type 31e, designed to be an extremely low-cost alternative to the Type 26, was to be capped at $330 million per ship, which was going to place extreme pressure on likely bidders Cammell Laird and Babcock. An independent defense spending watchdog, SSRO, estimated that contractors would see at most a 7% profit, a situation that would have place further downward pressure on the ship’s capabilities. The Ministry of Defence is now likely moving to refine the contract, as they still plan on having the first ship delivered by 2023.
India has approved the acquisition of an undisclosed number of National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS-II) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) worth an estimated $1 billion. The NASAMS-II is an air-defense system jointly produced by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence and Raytheon, and the deal is part of the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The system addresses a requirement to defend India from enemy aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles, and will supplement the long-delayed ballistic missile defense system developed by India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). DRDO is the politically-influential research and development wing of India’s Ministry of Defense and will likely resist efforts to import air defense systems from international firms.
Construction for Qatar’s first Doha-class corvette began on July 30 with a steel cutting ceremony at Fincantieri’s Muggiano (La Spezia) shipyard, with the Qatari and Italian defense minister in attendance. Fincantieri was awarded a $4.68 billion contract in 2017 to build seven vessels for the Qatari navy, making this one of Italy’s largest naval export deals. The contract includes the acquisition of four corvettes, one amphibious landing platform dock, and two offshore patrol vessels in addition to ten years of support services. The corvettes will be outfitted with ASTER 30 surface-to-air missiles, Exocet MM40 Block III, and RAM launchers. While Fincantieri will be the prime contractor for the vessels, Italy’s Leonardo-Finmeccanica will equip the vessels with combat systems, radars, sensors, guns, and other support equipment.
On July 30, Japan officially announced the selection of Lockheed Martin’s Solid State Radar for use on its two future Aegis Ashore installations, and also launched a new Aegis equipped destroyer, the Maya. Aegis Ashore is expected to enter service by 2023, while this new destroyer and its sister ship will be commissioned in 2020 and 2021 respectively. The above platforms will also be equipped with the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which was jointly developed by the US and Japan. The next five years will see a significant expansion of Japan’s ballistic missile defense capabilities as the above platforms represent investments worth over $5 billion. Despite Japan’s drive to support its defense industry, ballistic missile defense remains an area where Japan still heavily relies upon imports of American systems. The only indigenous BMD-capable project is the Network Surface-to-Air Missile (NSAM), about which little information is currently available. NSAM is possibly in early R&D stages but will build upon other Japanese air defense systems. The system likely will not see service until at least the mid-2020s..