The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 8.23.18
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda announced his intentions to try to boost defense spending to reach 2.5% of GDP before 2030. Poland’s 2017 defense strategy review laid out a plan to gradually increase defense spending over the next decade to reach 2.5% by 2030, though President Duda expressed hope that the 2.5% target could be reached as early as 2024. However, this is far from realistic as Poland grapples with slower GDP growth, increased spending on the country’s healthcare system, social assistance system, and pension system. The defense budget will likely hover around 2.2%, but budget increases to 2.5% in the long term are unrealistic. The drive to significantly increase the defense budget comes as the Polish Ministry of National Defense laid out an ambitious plan in 2017 to modernize the country’s armed forces and replace its aging Soviet-era equipment. One of the armed forces more costly acquisitions is the procurement of Raytheon’s Patriot air-and-missile defense system under its Wisla program. Poland signed a letter of offer and acceptance in March 2018 for the acquisition of two batteries worth $4.75 billion and are expected to be delivered in 2022. Poland is seeking an additional six batteries under the program, though no contract has been signed yet. Other acquisitions under the modernization plan include future fighters (Harpia program), submarines (Orka program), and attack helicopters (Kruk program).
A South Korean official announced that the first KSS-III submarine, the Ahn Chang-ho, would be launched next month from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering’s Geoje shipyard. Two more submarines are currently under construction. This class will can launch land attack cruise missiles and will later be fitted with lithium-ion battery propulsion. South Korea will procure a total of nine KSS-III submarines for $6 billion, with the final delivery planned for 2029. Following this delivery schedule, South Korea will have the second largest attack submarine fleet in Asia by the mid-2020’s, behind only China. The KSS-III is the culmination of the Korean Attack Submarine program (KSS) which was started in the early 1990’s to build up a submarine fleet and gain experience in building submarines domestically. The country only operated small 175 ton mini-submarines before the program began.
On August 20, a contract between the government of Qatar and NH Industries went into effect, ensuring the delivery of 28 NH90 rotorcraft to Qatar between 2022-2025 and boosting the sustainment of the NH90 production line. The contract itself is for 12 NH90 NFH naval helicopters and 16 NH90 TTH troop transport helicopters with a collective value of $3.4 billion. Additionally, Qatar can utilize an option for additional rotorcraft in the future. This follows the steel cutting ceremony of the first Doha-class corvette being built by Fincantieri, which will can host an NH90 helicopter once operational. In addition to the NH90 helicopters, Qatar is acquiring four Doha-class corvettes, one amphibious vessel, and two offshore patrol vessels worth $4.28 billion.
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) released a “prior information notice” that announced it’s plans to renew the competition for the Type 31e frigate. The Type 31e is planned as a low-cost supplement to the more capable Type 26 frigate and would focus on maritime security tasks in the British Isles. The previous attempt at developing the Type 31e saw the Ministry of Defense struggle to entice industry to submit bids, much less ones that aligned with stringent MoD requirements. Reports indicate that the major obstacles for contractors relate to the MoD’s strict £250 million (USD $320 million) per ship price, a price point historically more in line with a corvette than a frigate. Thus, contractors have been warded off by a significant degree of risk, sourcing limitations driven by high UK work requirements, and minimal projected profit margins. It is unknown how the MoD plans to address these issues in the newest form of this competition, but public information is likely to follow the completion of the market engagement portion of the competition, which began on August 20. Since the program was initially postponed, ship builders Cammell Laird and BAE Systems have increased marketing efforts around their Leander bid. Most recently, Cammell Laird emphasized that it has 2,000 suppliers lined up to support the Type 31e program. Its also been reported that BAE Systems, who will lead export efforts for the ship, have been in discussions with Peru.
On August 11 and 12, India conducted three tests of the K-15 (B-05) submarine launched ballistic missile from the INS Arihant SSBN. Unlike prior trials, these tests were reportedly conducted in a full, operational configuration. Given the secrecy surrounding the program, the implications of the most recent tests are unclear. Nevertheless, it appears India is now able—or is very close to being able—to deliver nuclear weapons by sea, completing the final leg of the nuclear triad. The K-15 Sagarika (“Wave” or “Born in the Ocean”) has been in development since the 1990s, and it’s believed the missile will eventually be deployed aboard the INS Arihant. Its mission will be constrained by its relatively short range, reportedly 700-750 km. Realistically, only Pakistan will be in range of the missile. The Arihant will have to sail in the northern Arabian Sea, uncomfortably close to Pakistan’s coast, to follow through with its deterrent mission.