The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 3.29.17
On March 21, President Trump signed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, the first NASA Authorization to be signed since October 2010. The act passed through the Senate with unanimous consent on February 17 and with a voice vote through the House on March 7. It authorizes $19.5 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2017 and simultaneously includes many provisions (such as a detailed plan for space exploration programs and intentions for humans to set foot on Mars by 2033), while not mentioning Earth Science at all. At the end of the bill’s signing ceremony at the White House, Vice President Pence reiterated his expectations that the Trump administration will work to reestablish the National Space Council, an inter-agency body last operated in the President George H.W. Bush administration, with himself at its head. The statement was meant to reassure concerned space industry stakeholders of the Trump administration’s commitment to space but, considering the primary tenets of the proposed NASA budget released last week, it did little to assuage some concerns. Instead, the budget declared intentions to cut NASA funding authorized by the Transition Authorization Act by $400 million (to $19.1 billion in FY2018), as well as eliminate funding for several major space missions, including the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbital Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), CLARREO Pathfinder, and some instruments on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Time will tell what the new Administration’s vision of America’s future in space will be.
On March 20, Germany’s Jenoptik Defense & Civil Systems announced that it had won follow-up contracts worth $11.38 million in support of Poland’s Leopard 2 main battle tank modernization effort. As part of a larger deal worth $24.4 million, inked in October 2016, Jenoptik will provide 133 17-kilowatt auxiliary power units to contractors ZM Bumar Labedy S.A. and Rheinmetall Defense. Deliveries are expected between 2017 and 2020. Jenoptik will also deliver ten electric turret and weapon stabilization systems to replace the hydraulic systems the Leopard 2s currently use. Poland currently fields 128 Leopard 2A4 and 105 Leopard 2A5 main battle tanks, and the Ministry of Defence has given priority to upgrading the fire control and C4I technology of the 2A4. Despite shifting priorities and delays of some defense modernization projects by the new Polish government, Warsaw is expected to increase defense investment by 5.3% in each of the next five years.
On March 17, the government of Belgium opened a tender for a new aircraft that is intended to replace its current inventory of F-16s. The contract is expected to be worth more than $16 billion over the course of 40 years, and will cover 34 new aircraft. The cost of the aircraft themselves is estimated at $3.9 billion. Belgium is expected to announce its selection for the new aircraft in 2018. Prior to this announcement, Avascent Analytics valued the market for fighter/attack/bomber aircraft in Belgium as being worth $14.5 million, but this new tender has expanded that considerably.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force has received its fourth and final A400M. In a March 22 ceremony at Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace exhibition, Airbus Defence and Space handed over the A400M to Malaysia’s Minister of Defense. Malaysia ordered four A400Ms in 2005 for an estimated $923 million. After delivery delays due to cost overruns and problems with the development of the aircraft’s turboprop engine software, the Royal Malaysian Air Force accepted the first aircraft in spring 2015 and the following two in 2016. Malaysia is the first non-NATO customer for the A400M. However, Airbus has been promoting the platform in the region, including in New Zealand where the A400M is expected to be a competitor to replace the country’s fleet of C-130s.
On March 23, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense announced that the last P-3C Orion is expected to be delivered by July of this year. The Taiwanese Navy first requested 12 refurbished P-3Cs back in September 2007 to replace Taiwan’s S-2T fleet in a deal worth $1.96 billion. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors Tactical Systems was awarded a firm-fixed price contract in 2009 worth $665.5 million to extend the service life of the aircraft and modernize the P-3Cs avionics. Taiwan received the first refurbished P-3C in 2013. All 12 aircraft were originally expected to be delivered by 2015; however, some of the deliveries were delayed due to malfunctions with the aircraft.