The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 4.18.17
The Colombian Navy has begun preparations to install Oto Melara’s 76/62mm Compact Naval Gun Mount on the ARC Victoria, an indigenously-built offshore patrol vessel (OPV) christened last year. Colombia acquired the system in 2015 in a deal worth $5 million. Oto Melara, a subsidiary of the Italian defense firm Leonardo, will install the gun mount at Naval Base ARC Bolívar in Cartagena. Avascent Analytics expects naval modernization to drive Colombian defense investment in future years. ARC Victoria is the third OPV the Navy has launched in the past five years, and it plans to build three more at COTECMAR (Corporación de Ciencia y Tecnología para el Desarrollo de la Industria Naval Marítima y Fluvial), a state-run shipyard.
Israel Aerospace Industries has signed a deal with India to provide them with medium-range surface-to-air missiles. According to reports, the deal is worth over $1.6 billion, and includes radar systems, command and control capabilities, and launchers in addition to the missiles themselves. The goal of the purchase is to use advanced Israeli technologies to enhance India’s missile defense capabilities.
On April 11, fourteen years after the first Eurofighter Typhoon was handed over to the UK Royal Air Force, Eurofighter delivered its 500th Typhoon to the Italian Air Force. Italy has ordered a total of 96 Typhoons – 82 fighters and 14 trainers. The April 11 delivery brings Italy’s current fleet of Typhoon fighters to 74. All but one of the trainers has also been delivered. The Typhoon is currently in the inventory of Austrian, German, Italian, Saudi Arabian, Spanish, and UK air forces and has seen combat during operations in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Additionally, Oman has ordered twelve Typhoons with deliveries expected to begin in 2017 and Kuwait has ordered 28 Typhoons with deliveries expected to start in 2019.
The Czech Republic is expected to release a request for proposal for the procurement of multirole helicopters soon, though the exact date remains unclear. The Czech Ministry of Defense is looking to procure twelve multi-role helicopters that would replace the country’s existing Mi-24 fleet. The procurement of the multi-role helicopters is part of a larger acquisition in which the Czech Republic will seek to procure a total of 30-35 rotorcraft that will replace the country’s fleet of Mi-8s and Mi-17s in addition to the Mi-24s. Contenders for the multi-role helicopter competition currently include Leonardo’s AW139M and Bell Helicopters’ UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper. The request for information was first released in 2015 with the aim to have the contract awarded and deliveries begun by 2018.
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.
3-D printing is reducing costs and manufacturing times across the satellite and rocket manufacturing industries. Firms such as Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne are developing new capabilities to streamline production. Formally known as additive manufacturing, 3-D printing has been implemented on several satellites. For example, Lockheed Martin built a spherical titanium tank, which is critical for the operation of the firm’s A2100 satellite bus, in less than six months. The manufacturing process for this component would normally take 18 months. Lockheed Martin also plans to use 3-D-printed components on a military satellite for the first time. The next Air Force Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, AEHF-6 (due to launch in 2019), will feature a 3-D-printed remote interface unit. The planned manufacturing time of the unit dropped from six months to one and a half, while the assembly time dropped from 12 hours to three. The launch industry is also benefitting from 3-D printing. Recently, Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully test-fired a 3-D-printed thrust chamber assembly for the RL10 rocket engine. The new manufacturing process took under a month and reduced the number of parts by 90%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Aerojet Rocketdyne to implement similar techniques on the Space Launch System’s RS-25 engine. 3-D printing has helped to streamline production processes across the space industry while allowing manufacturers to create products more efficiently and with greater accuracy.