* A new start project listed for Fiscal Year 2017 will see the US Army look for rotor-craft designs to fund the next-generation of Future Vertical Lift (FVL) helicopters. If approved by Congress, FVL could initially produce mid-weight replacements for the long-serving Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache types. The news comes as both Boeing-Sikorsky and Bell Helicopters are developing their own next-gen FVL contributions which aim to have their first flights by the end of 2017. The Boeing-Sikorsky offering, the SB-1 Defiant compound coaxial helicopter has been developed as a precursor FLV under the Army’s Joint MultiRole (JMR) technology demonstration, while Bell is offering its V-280 Valor tiltrotor.
* Despite a well publicized ongoing lawsuit, Oshkosh is to continue the production of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) after the US Court of Federal Claims denied Lockheed Martin’s request to stop the work on the case pending. The JLTV program, potentially worth up to $30 billion, was temporarily paused after Lockheed filed a complaint to the Government Accountability Office against the contract award to Oshkosh. This was dismissed by the GAO and a case was then taken by Lockheed to the federal court in December. The court’s decision to allow Oshkosh to continue manufacturing of the vehicles is a strong indicator that any appeals by Lockheed will be dismissed.
Middle East North Africa
* Israel’s tanker procurement plan, and whether it will acquire more F-35s, will depend on how much assistance it will get from the US Foreign Military Funding package over the next ten years. Sources commenting on ongoing negotiations say that the Pentagon is likely to increase funding by up to $1 billion, which will set funds at $4.1 billion annually. The increase would see Israel commit to selecting the Boeing KC-45A tanker which is currently undergoing advanced testing under its Milestone C demonstration. The increase in funding could also see further purchases of the F-35I, adding to the current order of 33, the first of which are due this year.
* Charles Woodburn is to replace Ian King at the head of BAE Systems when the CEO retires in 18 months time. Having worked in the oil and gas industry for 20 years, Woodburn will leave as CEO of UK oil services firm Expro Group to take a position as chief operating officer and eventually CEO of BAE, the country’s largest defense manufacturer. While an industry outsider, his experience in large oil and gas projects is said to have him well placed to lead upcoming large-scale BAE engineering projects which could include the Royal Navy’s Trident nuclear deterrent system. The announcement saw share prices for BAE take a 3% bump to 82.18p as investors welcomed the appointment.
* British arms sales to Saudi Arabia have come under fresh scrutiny and an increased pressure to be ceased as UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon accused the Saudi forces of indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Yemen. Arms export licenses from the UK to the Kingdom in the last year have amounted to nearly $4.3 billion, making the Saudis their biggest customer for arms and munitions. Moon stated that permanent members of the UN Security Council such as the UK had a responsibility to secure peace in intractable conflicts such as Yemen. Further condemnation for the UK over the trade came from the European parliament, with a vote planned for February 25 potentially seeing member states adopting an EU-wide embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
* Poland is to collaborate with the Czech Republic in the procurement and production of armored personnel carriers (APCs). The Defense Ministry has said that Poland will take a leading role in the project with the Czechs providing technical assistance for the vehicles. Further details are to be released over the next number of months, along with a series of other procurement projects, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and cruise missiles. A main priority of the Warsaw’s ring-wing government, formed last November, has been an increase Poland’s deterrence and defensive capabilities, while insisting on increasing domestic production of new equipment and technical knowledge transfers to local companies and subsidiaries.
* South African defense firm Denel is set to expand into the Asia Pacific market as it sets up a military factory in Hong Kong. Rising defense budgets by governments, amid a scramble for influence and security over territorial waters, has Denel hoping to increase exports of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems, artillery systems, armored personnel carriers, and advanced missile systems. To help with the expansion, the Hong Kong operation is being started in conjunction with local defense equipment manufacturer VR Laser. The partnership is set to increase the company’s knowledge of the region’s markets, as well as to expand on existing multi-million dollar contracts, which include the supply of missile systems and turrets for APCs of the Malaysian army.
* The executive vice-president of the aeronautics business at Lockheed Martin, Orlando Carvalho, has indicated the Asia Pacific market may see another 100 orders of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter over the coming years. With three regional allies; Japan, South Korea, and Australia so far ordering 154 of the aircraft across its three models, further additions could be added to these fleets, although no mention has been made about potential new customers. With Australia indicating that it may bring up its fleet from 74 to 100 and Japan potentially seeking to build more of their own under license, that number may be possible. Another potential purchase may be from Singapore, who is considering the F-35, although there has been no indication of the size of the order under consideration.
* Flying display preview of this week’s Singapore Air Show: