Canadian firm Viking Air of Sidney, BC achieved a double-breakthrough with its recent sale to Vietnam. Its modern DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400 variant of the legendary global bush plane will become the Vietnamese military’s first western aircraft, and the Vietnamese Navy’s first fixed-wing aircraft.
While Vietnam has attracted a lot of attention for its recent submarine and fighter deals with Russia, its long coast and large Exclusive Economic Zone interests made its current lack of fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft a major handicap. The new Twin Otters will be used for transport, resupply, maritime surveillance, and search and rescue throughout Vietnam’s coastal regions. Their short takeoff and fresh water landing capabilities could even make them useful in parts of Vietnam’s interior.
Britain’s Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army, and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Police have about 1,450 small boats that need to be maintained. They include offshore raiding craft, pontoons up to 50 metres in length, police launchers, Pacific 24 rigid inflatable boats (RIBs), and inflatables. Large ships get a lot of attention, but many of day-to-day missions rely on these craft in various ways.
Over the next 5 years, the UK will maintain work among 6 UK companies to provide maintenance, upkeep, repair, chartering, defect rectification, technical support, provision of spares and replacements:
US Special Operation Command’s Mark V fast boats are known for their daring crews and SEAL passengers. They’re also known for back-breaking bumpy rides, and for an occasional tendency to have their entire pilot house collapse when hit by a wave. SOCOM has been interested in a replacement since 2003, and the Combatant Craft, Medium Mark 1 (CCM Mk1) was originally described as that Mk.V replacement – until that iteration was canceled in April 2010. The revised and re-issued program is sold instead as a replacement for current Naval Special Warfare Rigid Inflatable Boats (NSW RIBs), to be accompanied by a future CC-Heavy counterpart that would replace the Mk.V. Until CCH arrives, however, there’s always a a possibility that CCM will wind up being the only delivered program.
The CCM competition is currently in Phase III, with a final design selection for the 10-year, $400 million contract due in 2013.
The USCG wants to buy 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRC), and these Sentinel Class boats are sorely needed by an overstretched US Coast Guard. An attempt to extend the lives of their aged Island Class cutters ended as an expensive failure in 2005, and string of blunders has delayed replacements. In February 2006, the Coast Guard’s Deepwater system-of-systems program ‘temporarily’ suspended design work on the FRC-A program due to technical risk. FRC-A was eventually canceled in favor of an off-the-shelf buy (FRC-B), and on March 14/07, the ICGS contractor consortium lost responsibility for the Deepwater FRC-B program as well. By then, even an off-the-shelf buy couldn’t get the Coast Guard any delivered replacements before April 2012.
When the Island Class refurbishment program was terminated in June 2005, 41 Island Class vessels like the USCGC Sanibel, above, still plied US and international waters. DID discusses the programs, their outcomes and controversies, the fate of the Island Class and FRC-A programs, and the work underway to replace them. The Island Class’ safe lifetime is running out fast, but by the end of 2013 FRC Sentinel Class deliveries were set to ramp up to full production pace. Will that be fast enough?
Years of unswerving pressure from the Colombian army wore down the narco-terrorist FARC. Much of that pressure was led by the popular (former) President Uribe, who ruled out a bid for constitutional amendments and an attempt at a 3rd term of office in 2009. His legacy continued, however, thanks to a special 2006 tax was set up to back those military gains with about $4 billion worth of military hardware.
Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reported that the deals were set to include a wide variety of equipment from American, French, German, Israeli, and Russian suppliers. Colombia is well into the delivery phase, and has added key equipment buys along the way.
The ship was deployed on operations, and proved out a number of the concepts behind her construction, but questions about the long-term durability of composite hulls prevented the type’s adoption into full US Navy service. The ship has been pushed to a maritime technology experimentation and demonstration role, but her saga remains interesting.
As 2011 came to a close, Brazil’s buy of 3 in-stock Offshore Patrol Vessels from BAE, with an option to license-build 5 more, had the potential to cast wide ripples.
Brazil has very extensive coastal responsibilities, a sizable Marine Corps, and a Navy whose frigates are either British designs, or former British ships. That navy is set to expand and modernize, as Brazil moves to protect key assets like its deep-water oil production, but British shipbuilders will face stiff competition. Other key Brazilian suppliers like France’s DCNS will be bidding, alongside naval shipbuilders around the world. The Amazonas Class OPV purchase is certainly another piece of the naval puzzle for Brazil, alongside its future submarines. Is it also another piece of the puzzle for BAE?
Rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, coupling increasingly bellicose actions by Iran with pointed American warnings, have left international navies thinking hard about how to keep the Strait of Hormuz open for oil traffic. Naval mines, which can be laid by submarines or boats, remain one of the most difficult and inconvenient threats to counter. That was true during the last set of armed clashes between the USA and Iran in the 1980s. It remains true, and the USA has weakened its position by retiring its modern Osprey Class minehunter ships. Some are available for reactivation in an emergency, but their place was supposed to be taken by the MH-60S helicopter’s Airborne Mine Counter-Measures (AMCM) system.
The USA is looking to bolster its defenses in the Straits, but AMCM isn’t quite ready yet. That leaves them looking elsewhere for urgent operational buys. While countries like China counter mines using unmanned ships, the US Navy is turning toward a widely-bought German UUV…
ST Kinetics subsidiary Singapore Technologies Marine Ltd. has won a EUR 534.8 million (about USD $700 million) competitive contract from the Ministry of Defence of the Sultanate of Oman, to bolster that country’s inshore and mid-range patrol fleet. The 4 patrol vessels will based on ST Marine’s Fearless 75 Class of 75m ships, which are in turn derived from Singapore’s own fleet of 12 Fearless Class 55m boats. The project will begin immediately, with the first vessel expected to be delivered in Q2 2015 and the final vessel in Q3 2016.
ST Marine’s Fearless boats were once planned to have missile Fast Attack Craft capabilities, but Singapore’s smaller 500t boats ended up limited to an Oto Melara 76mm gun, torpedoes, and a Simbad twin-launcher for very short range Mistral air defense missiles. Oman’s larger vessels will add a landing pad for helicopters or UAVs, and could choose to introduce additional offensive capabilities like anti-ship missiles, which are explicitly specified [PDF] as options in the firm’s marketing materials. Neither party is talking about those choices, yet, or about the replacements for the Israeli equipment used in Singapore’s boats. Even without naval strike missiles, however, the new vessels will add punch to Oman’s presence guarding the tense Strait of Hormuz, the wider Persian Gulf, and/or to the country’s efforts against piracy around its Indian Ocean shores.
Latest updates: Civil war ends; Hydrocarbon output back up; Post-Gadhaffi, France to refurbish Mirage F1s.
SU-35 flight, 2008
After a long hiatus in major arms purchases, and an equally long fall from its status as an ultra-modern Soviet arms client, Libya was among the countries discussed by Forecast International in its review of African defense market opportunities.
Libya’s military has traditionally been Soviet supplied, alongside some equipment from France and Brazil. The demise of the Soviet Union, the 1990s drop in oil prices, and Libya’s pariah status all combined to choke military modernization – but Libya’s new political direction, and the rise in oil prices, were beginning to change that. Widespread reports emerged in 2007 that France and Libya had signed a Memorandum of Understanding covering arms deals worth up to EUR 4.5 billion, including the first foreign sale of the Rafale fighter. Those reports weren’t followed by contract announcements – but 2009 reports and 2010 contracts showed that Russia was willing to fight to keep its old customer. Now, the question is where all of old the players fit in the new Libya, after Gadaffi’s fall: