The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 2.1.17
UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said on January 20 that the UK will stand firmly with Ukraine while on his second trip to the country in 18 months. The UK will soon start delivering training services to all the country’s armed forces as part of an extended training package. These short-term training teams (STTTs) will have trained 5,000 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces by the end of March, and will continue in this role for another year. The UK is also considering extending its training methods to further entrench the impact of British support for years to come. The Defence Secretary said that “the UK is sending a clear message that we are committed to defending democracy across the world and support Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.” In addition to these measures and others, Sir Michael confirmed that a new training program, Op Orbital, would extend the presence of UK forces in Ukraine until at least 2018. His latest visit marked the 25-year anniversary of British-Ukrainian diplomatic relations.
Poland received the first of 40 JASSM missiles that it ordered from the United States in 2014. The contract was valued at $250 million, and included the costs of integrating the missiles into Poland’s existing fleet of F-16s. Part of this integration process will include upgrades to the software on the F-16s as well. The goal of the purchase is to both enhance Poland’s long-range precision strike capabilities and to improve the interoperability of Polish and American forces.
Tumosan, the privately owned Turkish engine maker tasked with developing a local engine for the Altay main battle tank, cancelled a technical support contract with Austria’s AVL List GmbH. Under the $200 million contract, signed in spring 2015, Tumosan was supposed to receive technical support from AVL for the power unit of the Altay. Additionally, AVL was to provide integration support for the engine to the tank. However, the contract was cancelled after Austria’s parliament imposed an arms embargo against Turkey in November, resulting in conditions placed on the transfer of technology from AVL to Tumosan. Tumosan has stated that it will go ahead with local suppliers as much as possible in the development of the engines. Though the Altay is currently expected to start production in 2017, this cancellation is likely to lead to delays in the program and push the start of production further into the out-years.
The Indonesian Air Force is still considering its options to replace its retired fleet of F-5E Tiger II fighter jets. Possible contenders for Indonesia’s fighter jet competition include Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35, the U.S. F-16 Block 60 Viper, and Sweden’s JAS39 Gripen. The fleet of 16 F-5E Tiger IIs were first acquired in 1980 and were retired in 2005, and the Indonesian Air Force has kept them in reserve since. According to the country’s new Air Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto, Indonesia plans to spend $1.5 billion to procure 16 new aircraft. Once a contract has been signed, Indonesia expects deliveries to begin within 12 to 18 months following the award.
The Royal Thai Navy secured $383.4 million in the 2017 national budget for the first of three S26T submarines from China. The S26T is an export variant of the Chinese Type 039A Yuan-class diesel electric submarine (also referred to as the Type 041). The Type 039A is equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, but it is unclear whether the export S26T to Thailand will be fitted with one. The acquisition of this submarine has been controversial: opponents of the submarine point to the shallow waters of the Gulf of Thailand as not being conducive to submarine operations. Costly modifications would be needed to enable the submarines to operate in the shallower waters. Further, the acquisition would drain funds from maintenance efforts in other parts of the military. Some opponents have even suggested that the purchase may simply be a move to curry favor with China. Supporters of the acquisition see the acquisition as necessary to keep up with other modernizing navies in the region, and to protect interests in deeper waters such as the Andaman Sea and South China Sea. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the military junta that took power in a 2014 coup, said that the acquisition would be a boon to national prestige.