The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 8.30.18
On August 25, India’s defense ministry approved $6.5 billion worth of defense deals, two of which address long-standing requirements for naval helicopters. New Delhi approved the procurement of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) worth $2.9 billion, and 24 Naval Multi-Role Helicopters (NMRH) worth an estimated $1.03 billion. The announcement comes ahead of a visit to New Delhi by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on September 6, fueling speculation in the Indian press that India will select Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky’s MH-60 Romeo maritime helicopter for the NMRH requirement. The approvals were a necessary step before awarding a contract. The future fleet of NUH will replace the Indian Navy’s (IN) dangerously aging inventory of 30 Cheetak light maritime utility helicopters that have been in service since 1964. The NMRH will go only part way in addressing a previously-announced requirement of 123 multi-role rotorcraft for the IN. A previous deal for 18 S-70B Seahawk maritime helicopters was cancelled in June 2017 after prolonged price negotiations.
On August 24, the Australian Department of Defense released a Request for Tender for its LAND 400 Phase 3 – Mounted Close Combat Capability program. Under Phase 3 of the program, the Australian Army is looking to replace its fleet of M113 armored personnel carriers with up to 450 infantry fighting vehicles and 17 maneuver support vehicles. Bids for Phase 3 are due by March 2019. Phase 2 of the LAND 400 project, which seeks to acquire 211 combat reconnaissance vehicles, was awarded to Rheinmetall Defence Australia in March 2018 for a contract worth $3.3 billion. Rheinmetall is supplying a version of its Boxer infantry fighting vehicle, with Australian workers trained in Germany to help produce the first 25 vehicles before assembling the rest of the fleet in Australia. The combined acquisition costs of Phase 2 and 3 of the program are worth $7.3 billion.
On August 27, the Romanian government approved a proposal to spend $159M on anti-ship missiles from 2019-2023 for a mobile coastal defense system. The Romanian government has yet to decide which missile system it will buy, but current contenders include Boeing’s Harpoon missile, MBDA’s Exocet missile, Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile, and Saab’s RBS-15. The goal of the purchase is to improve the Romanian government’s ability to protect its territory along the Black Sea. Romania’s intention is to select a single type of missile for the mobile coastal defense system, future corvettes, and as a modernization package for its current frigates.
On August 23, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. was awarded a $123 million contract to produce six MQ-9 Block 5 drones for France, with delivery by May 2020. These would be the last of an acquisition of 12 MQ-9s, which was first announced in June 2013. These six drones will be armed, unlike the first six, which were initially delivered without the capability to fire weapons. The first drones were then upgraded to carry weaponry in September 2017 to support French operations in the African Sahel. Although France is importing these aircraft, France is expected to invest over $200 million over the next seven years in the Eurodrone MALE 2020 development project, which is also being supported by Germany, Italy, and Spain. Delivery of the first Eurodrone MALE UAS is not expected until at least 2025. Despite Europe’s highly advanced aerospace industry, no European-designed MALE UAS are currently in service, making this development project especially important for European industry.