Latest updates[?]: The first flight of India's Rustom-II UAV has been successfully completed. Conducted by India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the drone accomplished all main objectives during the test, including takeoff, bank, level flight, and landing. While this marks a good milestone for the program, officials maintain that a lot more evaluation and testing needs to be done before operational evaluation and eventual entry into service with India's military branches can take place.
India has not been left out of the global UAV push. The country operates Israeli Searcher tactical UAVs, and Heron Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs, placing an additional Heron order in 2005. It has also undertaken development programs for a smaller UAV, the “Nishant”. With its “Rustom” program, however, India hopes to offer a UAV in the Heron/ Predator/ Watchkeeper class of MALE UAVs.
It had also hoped to begin to change a culture and tradition of wholly state-owned development of military hardware, which has not always performed well, or served India’s needs. A recent award has selected a winner, and moved the project forward. It may also serve as a reminder that bureaucracies are very difficult to change.
Latest updates[?]: Israel's Space Communication Ltd may seek either $50 million or a free flight from SpaceX, following the destruction of a Spacecom communications satellite last week by an explosion at SpaceX's Florida launch site. The failed launch has had a profound impact on Spacecom with its equity expected to decline by $30 million to $123 million following a 9% dip in its share price on Thursday, followed by a further 34% drop when trading resumed. SpaceX said on Friday that it would shift flights to a second launch site in Florida, which is nearing completion and which was last used to launch NASA's space shuttles.
AMOS-6 signing (click to view larger)
In November 2012, Israel Aerospace Industries signed a minimum $185 million contract with Israel’s Spacecom satellite company. In return, IAI will build and operate the dual-use AMOS-6 communications satellite, covering Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The launch contract will be a separate transaction.
Like most providers, Spacecom has already sold capacity on the satellite, including a $20 million lifetime contract from the Israeli government, who will receive a beam in an agreed-upon frequency band…
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.
Brazil took long enough to modernize its future fighter fleet, and they’re waiting even longer to modernize another important air force capability. Their KC-137 Boeing 707 derivatives were built in the 1960s, and Brazil took delivery in 1986. In 2008, Brazil’s air force general staff (EMAER) launched the KC-X2 program to replace them – but the planes retired before a replacement contract was in place…
The Republic of Singapore Air Force currently relies on 4 re-engined KC-135R aerial refueling tankers, in order to extend the range of its fighter jets, and perform some long-range transport and cargo missions. This means that they share their aircraft type with the USAF, but it also means that they share the problems and rising operating costs that accompany aging aircraft.
In February 2012, the RSAF set a process in motion to replace their KC-135Rs with a new refueling aircraft. Two of the expected contenders are familiar. The 3rd is less so.
In December 2006, Australia bought a new tactical UAV to go with the Israeli Skylark mini-UAV. Australian Minister of Defence Senator Hill said the Government had agreed to the A$ 145 million (USD $109 million) UAV project to provide its Army with a high precision day and night surveillance and targeting capability.
The initial winner was IAI’s short-range I-View Mk. 250 UAV, but that didn’t last. Issues with the platform led to contract cancellation, and the use of leased solutions as interim options on the front lines. JP129 didn’t go away, though. Australia was still interested in owning a tactical UAV solution, and events in Afghanistan upped the urgency level. Finally, an August 2010 deal got them their JP129 UAVs.
Israel isn’t the first country that comes to mind when one thinks of naval exporters, but it has enjoyed success in one limited field: patrol craft. Its Dvora family, whose largest Mk.III boats are 90 feet long and just 70t, has been sold beyond Israel to Eritrea, Gambia, India, Paraguay, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. Taiwan fitted its boats with missiles, but otherwise, the Dvoras have been a gunboat class.
Israel’s frigate plans are in limbo, but the country needs to move fast in order to protect its recently-discovered offshore natural gas fields against stated threats from Turkey and Syria. They’ve just ordered another 3 Super Dvora Mk.IIIs to that end, while IAI reconsiders the class’ status as a mere gunboat…
The Israeli Air Force has known since December 2008 that its fleet of A-4 Skyhawk jet trainers and light attack aircraft would leave service. It took until July 2012 to sign a contract for the Skyhawk’s successor, despite justifiable complaints from South Korea that the process lacked full professional formality. The first M-346 Master trainers should begin arriving in Israel around mid-2014, where they will be operated by the IAI/Elbit “TOR” joint venture as a public-private partnership service to the IAF.
Italy’s M-346 eventually beat KAI’s supersonic T-50, thanks to a combination of air force evaluations, geo-political considerations, and countervailing industrial offers. For most countries, “industrial offsets” mean sub-contracting work in their country, sometimes even in sectors of their economy outside of the defense industry. Israel’s weapons industry is far more developed, however, and so their advanced trainer competition saw “industrial offsets” as the purchase of full-fledged Israeli weapons systems. South Korea was already a customer for Israeli radars, UAVs, and missiles, and was seen as the favorite thanks to their relationships and their jet. Italy was a much smaller customer, but relations between Silvio Berlusconi and the Jewish state had been good for a long time. By October 2011, reports surfaced that Italy had made Israel a very impressive offer – one that would make Italy a major export customer for strategic systems, even as it equalized purchases on both sides. In the end, it was an offer the Israelis couldn’t, and didn’t, refuse.
In March 2012, Peru announced the winner of its competition to upgrade its air defenses. The country’s air defense needs are most sharply focused on the relatively narrow border with Chile, but the country does have borders with Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil, and has facilities it may wish to protect. Mobile and portable systems have been a priority for Peru, and their current architecture relies on a combination of upgraded SA-3/S-125 medium range missiles, Russian/Chinese derivatives of the very short range SA-16/18 man-portable missile, and guns.
Russian and Chinese firms competed for the deal, but the winner of its $140 million competition was the TRIAD consortium of Poland’s Bumar, Israel’s RAFAEL, and Northrop Grumman from the USA.
In February 2012, IAI revealed that it has secured a $150 million contract for its EL/M-2032 fighter radar, from an unnamed customer. A Globes report places the customer within Asia.
The EL/M-2032 can be delivered in different sizes, and equips a number of different aircraft. It has been fitted to F-16s, including Israel’s own fleet. It has also been used to upgrade V/STOL Sea Harriers, F-5E/F Tiger light fighters, and F-4 Phantom, Kfir C10s, and Jaguar strike fighters around the world; and was recently picked for South Korea’s TA-50 and India Tejas lightweight fighters. So the question is, who’s the customer?