The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 5.3.17
On April 27, two more FA-50PH fighters were delivered to the Philippines. These are the ninth and tenth units of an order of twelve, with the last deliveries scheduled for this month. Philippine officials in the past have wavered on whether to acquire additional FA-50’s and the acquisition of the twelve aircraft took up about one-fifth of the Philippines’ heavily constrained defense budget. President Rodrigo Duterte’s statements in 2016 expressed his own distaste for what he saw as a useless aircraft. However, since the aircraft’s introduction into service in January 2017, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has been actively using the FA-50’s against so-called “terrorists” in the country. President Duterte has encouraged the use of the new jets, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines is considering the acquisition of six more aircraft costing roughly $30 million each. Such an acquisition would represent nearly 30% of the Philippine military’s procurement budget this year. Flight Plan 2028 calls for twelve FA-50’s to be acquired in 2020, but Avascent Analytics believes that budget pressures will mean the aircraft will likely not arrive until 2022 at the earliest. This is separate from another goal mentioned in Flight Plan 2028 to acquire multirole fighters by 2021 in which Avascent Analytics also projects a scheduling delay, with fighters being delivered by 2023.
On April 20, Canada awarded a $4.5 million contract to Cubic Global Defense to modernize the training simulation system for the Department of National Defence. Cubic will upgrade the Data Communications Network and Exercise Control Centre for the Canadian Weapons Effect Simulation System in Wainwright, Alberta. The upgrade will include software modernization and a new hardware system. Work is expected to be completed by May 2018. Ottawa released its federal budget in March, which reallocated $6.3 billion in 2017 procurement funding to 2035. The move will constrain Canada’s modernization efforts for the foreseeable future. The government is expected to release a Defence Policy Review this year, which may provide more clarity about plans for the Canadian Surface Combatant and CF-18 fighter replacement.
On April 24, it was reported that South Korea had declared its indigenous counter-battery radar ready to enter service. The new radar will be used to locate any artillery systems that fire into South Korea from North Korea, and is expected to be deployed by 2018. Currently, South Korea uses 20 ARTHUR-K radars and 12 AN/TPQ-36/37 radars for artillery-locating missions, but the new system will likely replace the ARTHUR-Ks.
According to an announcement by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv, Poland and Ukraine plan to develop and produce a new helicopter together that could be used by the countries’ armed forces as well as other Central and Eastern European militaries. In October 2016, Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz stated that talks were being held between Ukrainian and Polish manufacturers, pointing to the Ukrainian Motor Sich company’s capability to produce engines for aircraft and helicopters and Polish manufacturers’ capacity to produce composite aircraft bodies. However, the two countries have not ruled out working with other Western companies on the joint program. Despite these plans, Poland has launched tenders for combat and transport helicopters for the Polish Air Force.
The Ukrainian Ground Forces are potentially looking to procure unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) currently being developed by Spets Techno Export, part of the state-owned enterprise Ukroboronprom. The UGV called Phantom (Fantom) first debuted in Kiev at the 2016 Arms and Security exhibition. It then made a second appearance at IDEX 2017 sporting an anti-tank missile system in addition to the 12.7mm caliber machine gun. While Phantom is in its final development phase, it remains unclear if the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense will move forward with the purchase and the number of units the Ground Forces would acquire.
On April 26, the NASA spacecraft Cassini became the first satellite to ever pass between Saturn and its rings. Additional accomplishments include it being the first craft to enter Saturn’s orbit and the fourth to visit the planet. Launched in 1997, the spacecraft reached Saturn in 2004 and has been collecting data and observations there since. It has also photographed Jupiter, discovered seven new moons orbiting Saturn between 2004 and 2009, and even put a lander, called Huygens, on another moon (Titan). Cassini is scheduled to make a total of 22 trips, approximately one per week, through the gap between Saturn and its rings before its trajectory burns it up in the atmosphere on 15 September. Before its dramatic exit, this final mission will send back precise maps of Saturn’s gravity and magnetic fields, test particles in the rings, and photograph the planet and its atmosphere from never-before-seen angles. NASA has announced plans to launch another outer planets orbiter mission, Europa Clipper, to the famed moon of Jupiter as soon as 2022. Avascent Analytics projects that it will be followed by an orbiter and lander no earlier than 2025.