The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 4.26.17
In early April, Peru received a single Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) III from General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada. Based on similarities with the US-built Stryker ground vehicle, the move seems to indicate that Lima may be on track to procure Strykers, a deal that Avascent Analytics estimates could be worth $480 million. The State Department approved the Stryker sale in December 2016, and President Trump seemed to confirm during a February press conference that the purchase had been finalized. Stated requirements, a growing defense budget, and an aging inventory make for a very promising armored vehicle market in Peru. Nevertheless, uncertainty still surrounds the competition. Lima quickly distanced itself from a firm commitment and signaled that the competition remained open. Peru has also evaluated armored vehicles from China, Italy, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine.
On April 17, it was reported that South Korea had entered the final stages of its efforts to develop a medium-range surface-to-air missile (M-SAM). The new missile will be a modification of the Cheongung SAM, and is being developed by the Korean Agency for Defense Development and LIG Nex1. The goal of this development effort is to provide South Korea with a more robust missile defense capability in light of recent North Korean threats and missile tests. Once operational, the M-SAM will be used in conjunction with the PAC-2 missile, the PAC-3 missile, and the long-range surface-to-air missile (L-SAM) to defend against missile attacks from North Korea. The M-SAM is expected to enter service in 2018 or 2019.
Norway has begun testing the specially-designed braking parachute that will be integrated on its F-35s. The parachute will allow the fighter aircraft to reduce its speed faster and help it land on icy runways and in other adverse conditions, such as low temperatures and strong winds. These initial tests are taking place at Edwards Air Force Base in California and are focused on evaluating how the aircraft behaves on wet and dry runways when fitted with the system. A later phase, evaluating performance on icy runways, will take place at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. Norway is sharing the development and integration costs for the system with the Netherlands, whose F-35s will also incorporate braking parachutes. Norway’s first F-35 is expected to arrive in November 2017.
The UK’s Ministry of Defense awarded a $1.77 billion contract to BAE Systems on April 19 to build an Astute-class attack submarine for the Royal Navy. The nuclear attack submarine, named Agamemnon, will be the sixth submarine out of a fleet of seven to be built. The nuclear attack submarines were first ordered back in 1997 with an anticipated price tag of $1.25 billion (£2 billion) at the time, but the project has since grown to be $14.6 billion (£9.5 billion) with the likelihood of further cost overruns. The UK Ministry of Defense expects this HMS Agamemnon to be operational by 2022, with the final submarine to be in service by 2024-2025. The Royal Navy currently has three Astute-class submarines, with the fourth submarine due to enter service in 2018 and the fifth in 2020.
On April 21, France awarded DCNS a contract to build the FTI, or Intermediate Frigate (in French: Frégate de Taille Intermédiaire), formally launching the construction phase of the new class. Five ships will be built to replace the La Fayette-class frigates currently in service, with the first ship to be operational by 2025. France is expected to spend more than $4 billion over 10 years to build the frigates. DCNS is also marketing an export version of the FTI, designated “Belh@rra”. The ships will be of a modular design, with easy reconfiguration for different roles and customer requirements. As overseas work on the Gowind-class and domestic production of FREMM frigates is expected to wind down in the early 2020s, the FTI and Belh@arra provide DCNS with new options to help keep its share of the surface combatant market.
On April 18, Planet Labs announced the completion of its acquisition of satellite imaging company Terra Bella. As part of the deal, Google is now a shareholder in Planet Labs. The acquisition is estimated to be worth $500 million, which includes a multi-year deal where Google has agreed to purchase imagery from Planet Labs. After receiving the necessary regulatory approvals from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission, Planet Labs will begin working on integrating high resolution imagery from Terra Bella’s seven SkySat Satellites. Planet Labs already operates 150 satellites that provide medium resolution images—88 of which were launched in February aboard India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. With the addition of seven new high resolution satellites and last month’s launch of Planet Lab’s online geospatial data tool, Planet Explorer Beta, the firm is well positioned to expand its presence in the remote sensing market.