The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 10.11.16
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) ordered two more H225M Caracal utility helicopters as part of its broader effort to improve the quality of its airborne forces. The order brings the total number of H225M helicopters ordered by Thailand up to six, and they will likely be used in a search-and-rescue capacity. In terms of open opportunities, the Thai government has stated a requirement for a future transport helicopter and Avascent Analytics projects another three requirements – for utility and attack rotorcraft – that will need to be filled in the next five years. The total value of the available opportunities is estimated at USD $1.14B.
Following the failure of the EC725 order, Poland is considering relaunching an open competition for utility helicopter designs with the goal of keeping more manufacturing jobs in Poland and expanding the Polish defense industry’s exposure to new technologies. At the same time, Poland is moving forward with a competition for a new combat helicopter. The current contenders for that contract include Bell Helicopters, Airbus, Boeing, and TAI. Avascent Analytics expects that the utility rotorcraft market in Poland will shrink by 1% through 2021, while the attack/armed reconnaissance rotorcraft market is predicted to grow by 24.6%. Despite being expected to shrink, the utility rotorcraft market is almost completely open, as over 88% of the opportunities in that space remain unawarded. However, the current attack helicopter competition will effectively fill the entire opportunity space for that segment of the Polish defense marketplace.
The German government this week announced their intention to procure four to six C-130Js due to continuous delays with the A400M military transport aircraft by Airbus. Earlier this year, France also announced that they would procure four C-130Js in the wake of ongoing issues with the Airbus program. The A400M program launched in 2003 as a European initiative which received funding from several countries, including Germany and France, but has exceeded its budget by 7 billion euros and been plagued by scheduling delays and technical difficulties. Germany ordered 53 A400Ms with the expectation that nine aircraft would be delivered in 2016; however, the number of units delivered has this year been reduced to five. Germany’s initial decision to procure the A400M transport aircraft stems from their aging Transall fleet, which is set to retire in 2021.
Norway became the first F-35 international partner to participate in a proposed multi-year block buy. This buy would include 12 aircraft, bringing Norway’s count of approved F-35s to 40. The U.S. is the only other country that has announced its intention to participate in the block buy. Australia has expressed interest, while other countries have remained silent on the issue so far. This block buying plan would bundle together U.S. and international orders from 2018 to 2020 under one contract, generating savings for customers. All told, Joint Program Office Chief Lt. General Christopher Bogdan estimated that the block buy could cover 450 aircraft over three years and save over $2 billion.
Netherlands / Luxembourg
The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Enhanced completed its maiden flight on September 30th, marking a key milestone toward its delivery. The new standard A330 MRTT includes a number of structural modifications to the basic A330, as well as upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems. Additionally, aerodynamic improvements will deliver a fuel-burn reduction of up to 1%. Deliveries will begin in 2018, with Singapore receiving the first Enhanced standard MRTT. Subsequent production aircraft will all be Enhanced versions. A total of 51 A330 MRTTs have been ordered by ten countries, with 28 delivered to date. The most recent order came from the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which are each purchasing two MRTTs as part of a NATO pooling arrangement.