The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 6.15.17
Mexico confirmed that the Army will modernize the transmission and armament systems for 119 Panhard ERC-90 Lynx armored vehicles. The value of the modernization effort has not been announced, but Avascent Analytics estimates it could be worth as much as $30 million. The first ERC-90 entered service in 1985 and remains the country’s main ground combat vehicle. Mexico does not field a main battle tank and deploys the 6×6 Lynx as a reconnaissance vehicle with some light-tank capabilities. The Army will need to modernize the vehicle’s armored shield, which is only 10mm thick. The upgrade will likely address the CN90 F1 cannon sight and control systems, which are optical and have no night-vision capabilities.
Japan’s first indigenously assembled F-35 was revealed on June 5 in Nagoya, Japan at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ (MHI) F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility. Japan purchased 42 F-35 fighters to replace its aging fleet of 80 F-4EJ Kai fighter aircraft. Lockheed Martin delivered the first four F-35As from its Fort Worth assembly line, but the remaining 38 aircraft will be assembled at the MHI FACO facility in Nagoya. Up to 40 percent of the components of the remaining 38 units will be manufactured domestically in Nagoya. However, the Japanese aerospace industry had hoped for much greater involvement in the production of F-35 components. The assembly of mostly imported parts had done little to support Japanese aerospace companies, who are contending with dropping orders, few future contracts on the horizon, and limited prospects of transitioning from parts suppliers to aircraft manufacturers.
The Canadian Department of National Defence released a review of the department on June 7 which outlines the need to increase the defense budget by 70 percent over the next ten years, reaching $24.3 billion by 2026/2027. Over the next twenty years, the Canadian government will invest approximately $62 billion on defense. Such an increase is necessary as Canada has several major defense procurements taking place in the near term, including the replacement of their aging CF-118 fleet and the acquisition of fifteen vessels under the Canadian Surface Combatant project. Canada plans on purchasing fifteen new surface combatants worth an estimated $30 billion that would replace the country’s Iroquois destroyers and Halifax frigates. The next generation fighter jet competition is underway as well, though uncertainty currently surrounds the procurement of eighteen F/A-18s following a trade dispute involving Bombardier between Boeing and the Canadian government. The procurement of Boeing’s Super Hornets was announced in November 2016 as an interim solution to the growing capability gap.
On June 8, the South Korean Ministry of Defense requested a record $38.7 billion budget for FY2018. Growing North Korean missile capabilities are a major factor in the budget request. Funding will go towards accelerating the Korea Air and Missile Defense system, the Kill Chain strike program, and the Korean Massive Punishment and Retaliation system. This could entail the leasing of foreign satellites, development of indigenous satellite systems, increased PAC-3 funding, increased procurement of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles that can strike deep within North Korea, and enhancement of special forces helicopters. Much of the budget will also go towards raising salaries for rank-and-file soldiers. South Korea’s new liberal Prime Minister Moon Jae-In has promised to increase wages for soldiers by up to 50 percent more than minimum wage. Privates are currently paid roughly $150 a month. This wage increase comes in the face of a conscript shortfall; roughly 28,000 able-bodied men are exempted every year due to academic studies or alternative service.
On June 8, it was reported that the Russian firm Rostec will be supplying Ka-52K attack helicopters to Egypt, although a contract has not yet been signed. According to reports, 46 rotorcraft will be delivered in total, although the delivery schedule has not been disclosed. The new rotorcraft will be deployed from Egypt’s Mistral amphibious landing ships, and can perform a variety of maritime-related combat and rescue operations.
Last week, SES S.A., a global communications satellite owner and operator based in Luxembourg, announced that the only thing stopping it from building the world’s highest capacity satellites is… that it would rather not. As the world’s largest satellite operator, SES said it could build the highest-throughput satellites in the world if it chose to, but the company would rather focus its efforts on tailoring satellites to specific clients and markets. Other companies, such as ViaSat, OneWeb, and Hughes, have trended towards terabit capacity satellites, but SES has declared that it will not follow suit. Instead, it has identified a host of other capabilities in which it claims that airlines are equally – if not more – interested in, including performance, reliability, flexibility, and sustainability, per Andrew Ruszkowski, vice president of SES’s strategic initiatives in mobility. Avascent Analytics’s COMSAT forecast suggests that SES may prove the exception rather than the rule: high-throughput satellites, which are defined as those that provide many times more than the total throughput of a classic FSS satellite, are expected to account for significant growth in SATCOM supply over the next ten years, particularly in South, Southeast, and East Asia.