The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 1.24.17
On January 16, Singapore became the eighth nation to order H225M helicopters, after France, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Kuwait. The Republic of Singapore Air Force will operate an undisclosed number of H225Ms as their next-generation Medium Lift Helicopter, replacing its current inventory of Super Pumas which have been in operation since 1983 and are facing obsolescence. The new rotorcraft will serve a wide spectrum of operations, including Search and Rescue, Aeromedical Evacuation, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations.
The Italian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that Leonardo will fulfill a contract for the first five of 45 new Aermacchi M-345 trainer aircraft. The Italian MoD first announced preliminary plans for a deal of this size back in 2013, when the M-345s were still in development. The Italian Armed Forces will refer to it as the T-345. The first aircraft are expected to be delivered by 2019. The new T-345s will replace the existing inventory of MB-339s, which have been in service since the 1980s. Italy also utilizes 18 M-346s in a trainer aircraft role.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Tidespring, the first of four British military tankers being built by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding, was handed over to the Royal Navy on January 17. Upon arrival in the UK, the ship will go to the A&P yard for the fitting of sensitive equipment. The 37,000-ton tanker should have been delivered last January, but was delayed while technical issues discovered during sea trials were resolved by Daewoo. While three of the four ships should have been delivered by now, all four ships are still expected to be in service by the end of 2018. The next-generation tankers are part of the UK’s Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) project and are intended to replace the Royal Navy’s aging fleet of single-hulled tankers.
The Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz announced on January 19 that Poland is still considering its options for the procurement of multirole helicopters for the Polish Armed Forces. Poland’s requirements for the helicopters have changed significantly since the cancellation of the Caracal deal with Airbus back in October 2016. The decision to procure 50 H225M Caracal helicopters worth $3.5 billion was made prior to the election of the Law and Justice Party, but was later cancelled by the current administration who claimed that the choice was not in Poland’s best economic and security interests. Poland has reduced the number of multirole helicopters being procured from 50 to 14, with eight helicopters designated for Poland’s Special Forces and six designated to the country’s Navy – a contract now worth $254 million. There is an option to procure up to six additional helicopters, although it is currently unclear if Poland will choose to do so. Airbus, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky, and Leonardo are still being considered for the contract. Poland is expected to announce their decision this year, with deliveries beginning in 2018.
Vietnam and India have been in active discussions this month regarding the possible sale of the Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM) to Vietnam. The Akash would fill a short-range air defense deficiency that exists in the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), and is predominantly provided by old Russian SA-3/S-125 SAMs. Integration of the Akash into the PAVN will likely take a considerable amount of time, as Vietnam has relied almost exclusively on Russian SAMs for decades. Vietnam only received its first non-Russian SAM, the Israeli SPYDER, in 2016. While it is unclear if or when an Akash contract will be signed, such a purchase would be in line with Vietnam’s drive to decrease its reliance on Russian arms and diversify its sourcing. India has emerged as an important defense partner, in that it has extended Vietnam a $500 million loan for defense articles, signed an agreement to conduct training for Vietnam’s Sukhoi Su-30 pilots, and expressed willingness to sell its BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile to Vietnam.