The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 4.12.17
On April 10, the Australian government approved a single-supplier limited request for tender, released to Raytheon Australia for development of NASAMS for the Ground-Based Air Defense requirement (Project LAND 19 Phase 7). This project will address short- and medium-range air defense, while Project AIR 6500 will address long-range air defense. Up to $1.49 billion will be invested in the system. Raytheon, the Australian Department of Defense (DoD), and CEA Technologies will work to integrate a CEA radar into an upgraded NASAMS for Australia. The Australian DoD and Raytheon will also evaluate the possibility of using the Hawkei, a Thales Australia-developed protected mobility vehicle, as a launching platform. Final approval of the modified NASAMS is expected in 2019, at which point a contract can be finalized.
On April 2, the Brazilian Navy issued a “consultation call” to procure four ships for its Next Generation Corvette program. The Tamandaré-class vessels will replace the country’s fleet of Niterói and Inhaúma corvettes, which will begin retiring in 2021. The announcement came as Rio de Janeiro hosted LAAD 2017, one of the region’s largest defense tradeshows, from April 4-7. Investments in the Tamandaré program continue despite recent political and economic challenges with which the country has been faced. The Navy selected MDMA’s Sea Ceptor air defense system for the corvettes in 2014. Smaller surface vessels may feature more prominently after Brasilia’s recent decision to decommission the country’s sole aircraft carrier, the São Paulo.
The Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency signed a contract with Kongsberg Maritime for four HUGIN Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) on March 27. The AUVs will be used primarily for mine hunting operations. In addition to the AUVs, Kongsberg will provide launch and recovery systems that can be fitted onto Norwegian vessels as well as mobile containers.
Spain is moving forward with its plan to assess the Piranha 5 armored combat vehicle (ACV) as a possible replacement for its aging BMR armored personnel carriers. Spain will receive five Piranhas starting in 2018, which will be tested for suitability. Following this, the current plan is to buy 348 ACVs initially, with an end goal of expanding the fleet to 1,000 vehicles. The procurement costs for the entire purchase are estimated at approximately $1.69 billion.
During the public debut of the first L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft to be built in 13 years, the Czech Republic’s deputy minister of trade and industry, Jiří Havlíček, stated that Argentina could become an L-159 customer. The light attack aircraft could serve as a replacement for Argentina’s fleet of 22 Douglas A-4 Skyhawks which are set to retire by 2018 due to the scarcity of replacement parts. However, the Argentine Air Force is also said to be considering the Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50, the Israel Aerospace Industries Kfir, and the Dassault Mirage F1. Aero Vodochody re-established its L-159 manufacturing in 2016 to fulfill an Iraqi order and is now eyeing other countries for further sales.
The Polish government has resubmitted a request for information (RFI) for the potential procurement of eight Patriot air-and-missile defense batteries. Poland first submitted a formal request for the Patriot systems in September 2016, but this new RFI highlights that the Polish government will not spend more than $7.5 billion for the systems. This is well above the $3-5 billion price tag Poland has previously stated it would spend on a new air defense system under the Wisla program. A contract for the missile systems could be signed by the end of 2017. Despite the higher costs, Poland is expecting the delivery of the first two systems two years after the contract is signed, which would be in late 2019 if all goes according to plan. The remaining six systems would be delivered at a later time. The updated RFI comes after Poland brought MEADS International (MI) back to the table earlier this year. MEADS International offered their Medium Extended Air Defense System to Poland in February 2017, which included 16 systems worth $4 billion, with the first delivery beginning in 2020.
Thailand continued its series of Chinese defense equipment purchases with an order for 34 Norinco VN-1 8×8 infantry fighting vehicles for $1.4 million each, as well as an additional ten VT-4 main battle tanks. These two acquisitions will cost roughly $116 million. Thailand has already ordered a variety of platforms from China, including 28 VT-4 tanks and KS-1 surface-to-air missiles, and may sign a contract for three S26T air-independent propulsion attack submarines soon. Ever since the 2014 coup in Thailand, Thai relations with the United States have been strained, presenting an opportunity for Chinese defense contractors to expand.
The International Space Station program will end in 2024. Or will it? On April 4, Igor Komarov, the General Director of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, told reporters at the US Space Symposium in Colorado that Russia would be open the extending its partnership in the International Space Station (ISS) with the US, Europe, Japan, and Canada beyond its anticipated end in 2024. The ISS has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000, and has remained one sphere that both the United States and Russia claim politics does not touch.
Currently, a US House of Representatives committee is tasked with determining whether to extend the $100 billion ISS program past 2024 or to divert the $3 billion NASA spends on it annually towards other uses, such as supporting human operations beyond Earth orbit. In case of the latter, Moscow’s alternative to the ISS is to detach the Russian ISS modules and use them to form the foundation of a new, independent outpost in orbit to further their research initiatives. It has been suggested that Russia could also join forces with China in that endeavor, to create a new Sino-Russian space station, however this could limit US-Russia cooperation in human spaceflight, as the United States has legal restrictions that prevent cooperation with China in this area. Regardless of what occurs, all sides seem to agree that such decisions must be made sooner rather than later, as alternatives to ISS, such as privately operated space stations, would need time to be fully developed and deployed.