The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 9.14.17
On 6 September, the UK released its national shipbuilding strategy, outlining its military ship building plans for the next 30 years. The UK’s main priorities are the Type 26 Frigate, Type 31e and Future Solid Support Ship. Production of the first Type 26 frigate, to be named HMS Glasgow, started in early 2017 under a £3.7 billion (USD $4.9 billion) contract awarded to BAE Systems covering the initial three ships. In the shipbuilding strategy, the UK Ministry of Defense reaffirmed its commitment to procuring a further five ships, taking the total number to eight. BAE Systems are to build all eight ships in the class.
The biggest news in the shipbuilding strategy is that the Type-31e, initially announced in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), will enter service at 12 month intervals from 2023. The current plan is for a contract to be awarded in 2018 to enable production to commence in 2019. However, this will depend on potential suppliers being able to meet the planned price cap of £250 million (USD $331 million) per ship.
An international competition is to be held for the UK’s three Future Solid Support Ships with a contract award planned for 2020 allowing the first delivery in the mid-2020s.
HMS Argyll, the longest serving Type 23 class frigate in the Royal Navy, conducted the first live firing of MBDA’s Sea Ceptor air defense system. Sea Ceptor utilizes MBDA’s Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) and is competing with Raytheon’s RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile to meet global naval air defense requirements. The firing comes five years after MBDA was awarded a £483 million ($760 million) contract in 2012 to develop the Sea Ceptor for the Type 23 platform, replacing the ageing Sea Wolf system. Since this announcement, MBDA has won two export customers in New Zealand (ANZAC-class frigate) and Brazil (Tamandaré-class corvette) as well as securing a demonstration and production contract in 2016 for the UK’s future Type 26 frigates that will ultimately replace the Type 23 class ships currently in service. MBDA’s latest contract for CAMM production, which is also to be employed in a ground based air defense role, came in April 2017 and was worth £323 million ($414 million).
Following its life-extension program, HMS Argyll is being exhibited at DSEI. British Prime Minister Theresa May announced in August that the ship will take part in naval exercises with Japan in 2018. This will be the first time non-US forces have trained alongside the Japanese in their waters and is a sign of further co-operation between Japan and the UK.
On September 4, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd announced that it had signed a contract with the Indian Ministry of Defense for 41 new Advanced Light Helicopters. The contract is valued at Rs. 61 billion (USD $ 953 million), and will be completed in five years. Of the 41 rotorcraft ordered, 40 will go to the Indian Army and one will go to the Indian Navy. This order follows a previous purchase in March of 32 Advanced Light Helicopters for the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. The motivation behind the purchase is both to enhance the capabilities of the Indian Army, and to further a campaign for purchasing defense products made in India.
On September 6, US Army Contracting Command signed a $1.4 billion contract with MD Helicopters to provide 150 MD-530F helicopters as part of an FMS sale to support the Afghanistan Air Force. The five-year firm-fixed price contract will see the initial $176.6 million order for 30 aircraft delivered by September 2019, with the following 120 aircraft delivered by September 30, 2022. The MD-530F is configured to operate in high-and-hot environments, will be equipped with MDHI’s new Block I glass cockpit, and will be sold in armed configuration. The aircraft will be used to provide aerial escort, overwatch, and quick response fire support for Afghan forces.
Poland’s state-owned defense firm Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ) has deepened their cooperation with several foreign firms during Poland’s defense industry exhibition Miedzynarodowy Salon Przemyslu Obronnego (MSPO). On September 6, PGZ signed an agreement with Ukraine’s state-owned enterprise UkrOboronProm, while Military Electronic Works (WZE) and Nauta Shiprepair Yard S.A., both subsidiaries of PGZ, agreed to collaborate with Thales and Saab respectively. A second agreement signed by PGZ and UkrOboronProm focused on furthering their relationship with one another, exchanging technologies, and developing new ideas. WZE and Thales signed a letter of intent to collaborate on Thales’ Ground Master 200 air defense radar, in which WZE would be responsible for manufacturing parts of the radar system. Nauta Shiprepair and Saab have been building on their relationship since 2016 after Saab won a contract to build the Swedish Navy a SIGINT vessel and subcontracted Nauta to work on the vessel as well. Saab officials hope this cooperation with Nauta Shiprepair could be beneficial in competing for Poland’s submarine procurement, which is set to become the backbone of the Polish Navy.
According to the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation, the indigenously built N-219 light transport aircraft only needs to pass three more tests before production can begin, including a 500-600 hour flight test, a static maximum load test, and a fatigue test. The N-219 is being touted as Indonesia’s first domestically designed and built aircraft. However, it is a descendant of the Spanish C-212, which Indonesian Aerospace (PTDI) produced under license. The N-219 is designed to operate from short runways and will compete with the C-212. The Indonesian Navy is expected to replace a squadron of older GAF Nomads, which could lead to an order of nine to fifteen aircraft. PTDI is also moving forward with the N-245, which is being developed as a follow-on to the CN-235. PTDI expects that initial certification of the N-245 will cost roughly $225 million. A first flight is targeted for 2020.
On September 5, Kacific Broadband Satellites Group announced that it awarded the contract to launch the Boeing-built Kacific 1/JSAT 18 satellite in 2019, to SpaceX, adding to that company’s extensive backlog. In 2017, SpaceX has successfully launched 13 times in 13 chances. Avascent currently projects that SpaceX will conduct a total 18 launches this year.