African countries need counter-insurgency and surveillance aircraft, but they aren’t about to buy top-end gear like an AC-130. Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano turboprop trainer and light attack aircraft is about the upper end – a few African countries have purchased them, and the USA’s LAS program offers them through an intermediary. Lower-end alternatives involve widely-used and easy to maintain light planes like the Textron Cessna C-208Bs fielded by Iraq and Lebanon, AirTractor’s AT-802Us, etc. A recent Pentagon contract shows that the low-end idea is catching on.
Reports out of Germany suggest that Rheinmetall Defense has signed a contract with Algeria for 980 Fuchs (Fox) 6×6 wheeled armored personnel carriers. They’re often used as NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) reconnaissance vehicles, but their blast-resistant features and good mobility make them perfectly appropriate as conventional APCs. The newest 1A8 variant adds substantially greater protection, including better resistance to landmines and IEDs, and includes an unmanned weapon station up top that can be controlled from within the vehicle.
The order would make the Fuchs Algeria’s largest single APC type.
In addition to its larger AN-74 and C-130 military transports, Egypt also operates a small fleet of very old DHC-5 Buffalo aircraft, which need replacing. Canada’s Viking Air has a notional design for an modern DHC-5NG re-launch, but it has no customers and no prototype yet. The EAF wanted a more standard product, which left it with 4 plausible options: Airbus Military’s C295, Alenia’s C-27J Spartan, Antonov’s AN-32, or Xian’s Y-7H.
Egypt chose to become a new Airbus Military customer, and they’ve been adding to their fleet ever since.
In 1999, South Africa became the Saab JAS-39 Gripen‘s 1st export customer, ordering 26 fighters. The country is generally considered to be one of Africa’s stronger economies, and a regional security partner. On the defense front, their arms firms have managed to survive, albeit with some adjustment pains and restructuring. They can still produce weapons that are relevant on the world stage.
Unless current trends change, however, outside views of the country’s regional security role may need a rethink.
DID has covered a number of contracts for wheeled armored personnel carriers; in Europe, the 3 perennial combatants are GD-MOWAG’s Piranha/LAV, GD-Steyr’s Pandur II, and Patria’s Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV). Now Denel Land Systems has announced a contract from the South African government’s Armscor procurement agency to develop the South African Army’s new generation infantry combat vehicle. The “Hoefyster” program aims to produce an 8×8 wheeled APC in the 25 ton class, designed as a family of vehicles that can be equipped with various turrets and on-board options.
The Rand 8.3 billion program for 264 vehicles involves the largest single contract Denel has landed in its 16-year history, and South African companies will deliver more than 70% of the total value of the contract. The other 30% will be delivered by Finland’s Patria Oyj, whose amphibious AMV will be Project Hoefyster’s base vehicle…
The global trend toward mine-resistant patrol vehicles actually added India back in the late 1990s, when it began to buy used South African Casspir vehicles. India ended up buying 165 Casspirs from 1999-2001, and they have seen extensive use in Jammu and Kashmir. The Casspir can be thought of with some justification as “the original MRAP,” and still serves with a number of national armies (South Africa, Djibouti, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Peru) as well as with private firms like Mechem De-mining.
The Casspirs India bought began production in 1979-1980, however, and many have served for a long time now. Even refurbished vehicles won’t last forever, and India’s Maoist Naxalites have demonstrated both signs of both informal co-belligerency with Islamist terrorists, and signs of cooperation further up the supply chain. With bomb-making skills spreading globally, and IED land mines a growing choice around the world, might there be an opening for an Indian MRAP program? BAE Systems thought so, hence its DLSI joint venture with Mahindra.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) spent 6 years chasing BAE Systems, over allegations that bribes were paid to secure foreign deals in a number of countries. Bribes are the least of the allegations involved in some international defense deals, and contract wins without inducements would be far more surprising in countries like Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, and South Africa. Nevertheless, the UK does have laws to prevent British firms from paying them.
An SFO investigation into the giant Saudi Al-Yamamah aircraft deal was killed in December 2006 on national security grounds, after the Saudis threatened to cut off anti-terrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing. The government’s decision was upheld by the British House of Lords, but the SFO continued to pursue other reports concerning Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, and Qatar. The US Department of Justice, meanwhile, never let go of the Saudi deal.
In 2010 a settlement was reached that included the SFO – and the US DoJ, which got the lion’s share. A held-up deal with Tanzania then settled in early 2012. By 2013 this left an “investigation” in South Africa, and a Czech case with little apparent progress.
General Dynamics is one of the biggest suppliers of land equipment to the US Army and Marines, alongside firms like BAE and Oshkosh. As IED land mines became an unmistakable trend in modern warfare, however, the company had nothing of its own to respond with. To fix that, they fell back on a focused partnership with BAE and the Canadian government, and created another limited partnership with newcomer Force Protection. Those kinds of partnerships can be preludes to an acquisition, and that was true in this case as well. In late 2011, the firm bought Force Protection, bringing all of its vehicles, technologies, and experience in house.
General Dynamics Land Systems is now a legitimate player in the global marketplace for blast-resistant vehicles. The long-term question involves competitiveness, as both the RG-31 (BAE) and Cougar (Force Protection) faded in the face of newer MRAP competitors. GDLS will reap maintenance and upgrade contracts for the RG-31s and Cougar in the US fleet, and consolidating accountability may strengthen their position if the Army decides to rationalize its MRAPs. That cash flow buys time; beyond, exports beckon. The Cougar family has a strong customer in Britain, where General Dynamics is supplanting BAE as a major land forces supplier, and it is used by several NATO and Middle Eastern countries. The Buffalo heavy mine-disposal vehicle has a unique niche, and offerings like the Ocelot and Jamma light patrol vehicles may yet pick up. Will it be enough?
It seems recent outreach efforts from US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his deputy Ash Carter might be paying off: according to the Times of India a $1.4B order for 22 AH-64D Apache helicopters (and assorted weapons) is about to be signed. However such reports that Boeing had won the competition already surfaced up in October last year, while the initial DSCA request dates from December 2010.
Separately the Indian Navy has issued an RFP for 56 light naval utility helicopters that may be worth $1B. Induction planned for 2016.
Russia will deliver 55 Mi-171E transport helicopters to China at an estimated $10M+ each.
Acting US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management Frederick Vollrath testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee on the timeline of announcements leading to the reduction of the Pentagon’s civilian workforce to comply with sequestration. A first deadline is around September 21st, less than 2 months from now. Yet the Pentagon maintains its focus on rolling back sequestration, a matter that is out of its hands and is for Congress to address. This is starting to look like a reckless bet, if DoD is actually not planning for the sequester that is. Video abstract of the hearing at the bottom of this entry.
This comes just as the GAO states that it “remains concerned that DOD lacks critical information it needs to effectively plan for its workforce requirements.”