Latest updates[?]: In order of coping with expanding air vehicle inventory, the French Air Force is introducing a new UAV pilot training. The French Air Force is planning to have 24 MQ-9 Reaper MALE UAVs operational by 2030, generating a requirement for 80 to 100 crews. To cope with this expansion the service will establish a new course into its flying schools. Students will fly the Cirrus light aircraft and the Grob 120 basic trainer before moving on UAV Operational Conversion Squadron and the 1/33 Belfort to acquire the particular tactical know-how required to operate the Reapers. The MQ-9 Reapers are remotely piloted vehicles and the first hunter-killer UAVs designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. Up until now the 1/33 Belfort UAV Squadron flew five GA-ASI MQ-9 Reapers. The first two Reapers to enter French service are designated Block 1 and use US equipment.
Harfang UAV, DGA
France is wondering what to do about its next high-end UAV buy. They bought mini-UAVs off the shelf, but turned to a build-in-partnership approach for their current set of Predator-class Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) machines. That sacrificed some fielding speed and cost more, in order to build the industrial capabilities of key French firms. Unfortunately, their Harfang/ SIDM IUAV Program to field an IAI Heron derivative hit some snags. Harfangs have been very useful in several conflicts now, but the fleet isn’t keeping up with France’s growing land and naval needs. Which leads to the question: what’s next?
The answers to that question remain unclear, several years after French efforts began. What is becoming clear is that France needs UAVs of this type. By mid-2013 a request for MQ-9s came. Will it be more than a stopgap?
Latest updates[?]: Greece received 70 Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopters and one Boeing CH-47D Chinook heavy-lift helo. The Hellenic Army purchased the OH-58Ds through the US Excess Defense Articles program. The shipment consists of 36 fully equipped aircraft, plus 24 that lack certain avionics, navigation, and communication equipment, and will be dedicated to training. The remaining 10 airframes are to be used for spares. Six of the helicopters came ready to fly. The deal for the Kiowa Warriors is valued at $44,2 million.
YRH-70 test, 2005
The US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program aimed to replace around 375 Bell Textron OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, after the $14.6 billion RAH-66 Comanche program, was canceled in 2004. Instead, the Army would buy a larger number of less expensive platforms, with reduced capabilities. Bell Helicopter Textron initially won the ARH competition with a militarized version of its highly successful 407 single-engine commercial helicopter, but despite significant private investment after Army funding stopped in March 2007, spiraling costs killed the ARH-70 in October 2008.
What hasn’t changed is the battlefield need for on-call, front-line aerial surveillance and fire support. With its existing OH-58D stock wither wearing down, or shot down, the Army needs to do something. But what? The eventual answer: scrap the Kiowa fleet for a combination of attack helicopters and UAVs.
Latest updates[?]: The last of 36 F-16IQ Fighting Falcon aircraft arrived in Iraq on May 3. Having ordered its F-16IQs in two batches of 18 aircraft during 2011 and 2012, the Iraqi Air Force received its first one in late 2014. However, because of the critical security situation in the country at that time, Iraqi pilots and maintainers trained on their new aircraft alongside the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing at Tucson, Arizona. The F-16IQ's first reported combat mission came in April 2018, with a raid being flown against Islamic State targets in Syria. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced in early April this year that a new batch of F-16s would soon arrive at the Balad Air Base as part of the agreement between Iraq and the US.
Iraq’s military has made significant strides in recent years, and the country is ordering more advanced military equipment to match. A slew of 2008 requests aimed to spend over $10 billion to buy advanced armored vehicles, strengthen its national military supply chain, build new bases and infrastructure for its army, and even buy advanced scout helicopters. Budget shortfalls have stretched out those buys, but that situation is easing, even as Iraq’s air force continues to make progress.
Anxious to complete its transformation and stand fully on its own, Iraq is pushing to begin flying its own fighters within the next couple of years – and is looking to buy American F-16s, rather than the Soviet and French fighters that made up Saddam’s air force.
Latest updates[?]: During the LAAD 2019 Defense & Security exhibition, Saab revealed details of the current development status of the F-39 Gripen, the multi-mission fighter aircraft developed in a partnership between Sweden and Brazil. According to Mikael Franzén, head of Saab Brazil’s business unit, the Swedish and the Brazilian Gripen fighters will have the same configuration for the displays, harmonizing the programs. This would mean great savings to the aircraft maintenance and in future software development. The transfer of technology program also continues to advance. So far, 165 Brazilian engineers have been trained in Sweden and completed their technology transfer program. The Gripen’s FTI (Flight Test Instrumentation) aircraft is due to take flight for the first time in 2019.
As Brazil started boosting its defense budgets in past years, its Navy and Army received funds to replace broken-down equipment, while new fighters will be a critical centerpiece of the Forca Aerea Brasileira’s (FAB) efforts.
Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, France’s Dassault’s Rafale, Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen NG were picked as finalists. But after repeated stalling, for years the question was whether Brazil would actually place an order, or fold up the competition like the ill-fated 2011 F-X process. At the end of 2013, Brazil unexpectedly picked the Swedish offer, thanks to its offsets, price, and lack of diplomatic baggage. An initial contract is now in place, and this Spotlight article takes you through the competition, choices, and ongoing developments in a country that seems likely to become the world’s largest Gripen fleet.
Latest updates[?]: Poland is adding four M-346 Advanced Jet Trainers to its contract with Leonardo. The contract option is priced at $147 million and extends Poland's fleet to16 aircraft, making it the 2nd largest M-346 export customer. The M-346 is a 5th generation lead-in fighter jet that offer a high level manoeuvrability and controllability at a very high angle-of-attack using a fly-by-wire control system. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Since the jet's introduction in 2004 Leonardo has sold 76 M-346s to Italy, Poland, Singapore and Israel.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
Latest updates[?]: Rheinmetall announced Wednesday the receipt of a USD$77 million contract to supply various types of its Assegai ammunition, fuses and propelling charges to the government of Australia. The order falls under the Land 17 Phase 1C.2 Future Artillery Ammunition project and includes options for additional five-year periods as well as war reserve stocks. First deliveries will occur during the year with a second lot coming in 2019. The order marks the first time that Assegai ammo will be used on the M777A2 field howitzer, a platform that is also in use with Canada and the United States.
Now: M2A2 105mm
In February 2006 the Australian Government gave first pass approval for the replacement of the ADF’s current 105mm and 155mm artillery pieces with new, more capable, artillery systems that feature improved mobility, protection, range and accuracy. Current systems are all towed, and include the aged 105mm M2A2, the L119 Hamel 105mm Field Gun, and the M198 155mm Howitzer. Options for replacing them include a mix of self-propelled artillery systems and lightweight towed artillery systems under an A$ 450-600 million project known as LAND 17. The project will also examine advanced high precision munitions and a networked command and fire control system.
So, how does this project fit into Australia’s larger defense plans? What’s the expected program timeline? And who are the declared and potential contenders? That matters even more now that the solicitation has been released. DID covers the program, and a number of the confirmed or likely competitors… but one category has now been decided.
Latest updates[?]: Three European companies have entered tenders to Poland's Ministry of Defense to supply three new submarines to replace the Polish Navy's ageing Kobben-class subs. The contract is believed to be worth approximately $2.9 billion. Joining the fray are France's Naval Group with its Scorpene-class subs armed with MBDA’s naval cruise missiles; Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems is bidding with its Type 212CD-class subs; while Sweden's Saab-owned company Kockum is offering its A26-class subs. Naval Group's entry is the only tender to include cruise missiles as part of its deal, which some local observers say may give them the edge, while the German Type 212 has already been selected by Norway to replace its own ageing submarines—so if Warsaw was to join the procurement, it may drive down costs. According to the ministry, the new vessels will "constitute the essential combat and flagship element of the Polish Navy, and, at the same time, as they will be fitted with cruise missiles, they will be a key element of the state’s and alliance’s military deterrence.” Deliveries of the selected sub will take place between 2024 and 2026.
S304, KNM Uthaug
Norway’s 6 Ula Class/ U210 diesel-electric submarines were commissioned from 1989-1992, and play an important role in their overall fleet. The 1,150t design combined German design, sonar, and torpedoes with a French Thomson-CSF (now Thales) Sintra flank array sonar. Integration happens through a Norwegian Kongsberg combat system, which has become a mainstay for German submarine types. The U210s are a bit on the small side compared to more modern diesel-electric boats, but they remain well suited to Norway’s long coasts and narrow fjords.
The Ula Class has received a number of upgrades since 2006. A new combat system, added cooling for warm water operations, upgraded periscopes, sonar improvements, TADIL-A/Link 11 communications, etc. Even so, the continuous cycle of compression and release inherent in submarine operations will make operations past 2020 a risky proposition. Norway wants to keep a submarine fleet, and by the end of 2014 decided it would need new boats to do so.
Latest updates[?]: A Leonardo Helicopters AW-101 search and rescue (SAR) helicopter recently delivered to Norway overturned during a ground run on 24 October. No injuries were sustained to the two crew onboard at the time of the accident, but the helicopter itself was spotted on its side, sans its main rotor blades. The AW101 was scheduled to enter service in Norway in 2018 so the incident is a setback to Oslo's replacement of its ageing SAR fleet.
NH90 NFH: Out
In September 2001, the NH90 medium helicopter was chosen as the common helicopter for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, serving the navies of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Norway’s share was up to 24 machines: 14 NFH naval variants (6 for Norwegian ships and 8 for the coastguard), with an option for 10 more Search & Rescue machines. The follow-on SAR contract would replace Norway’s aging Sea King helicopter fleet.
That plan triggered warnings from people in the rescue service that the mid-range NH90 lacked the range and capacity required. Some Norwegians also pointed to Denmark’s departure from the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, precisely because the Danes needed the larger EH101 for the SAR role. Norway certainly has a lot of territory to cover. Its own long and deep maritime economic zone over the treacherous North Sea includes shipping, fishing, and abundant oil; and the American withdrawal from Keflavik AFB Iceland is stretching Norway’s patrol zones toward that country. Sikorsky’s Norwegian agent “Aircontactgruppen” has even taken the Norwegian government to court twice, demanding an open competition for the SAR helicopter contract. In 2007, they received their wish, and in 2013, Norway revealed their pick… not the S-92, and not its NH90 competitor.
Latest updates[?]: Ukraine and Poland are to collaborate on helicopter production that ranges from undertaking modernization efforts, to designing and serial producing their own models for their armed forces. Announcing the new plan, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv said that his country could not undertake such efforts on its own and needed help from Polish industry as well as potentially other Western companies. The statement follows comments made in late 2016 by Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who said Warsaw and Kiev are discussing plans to launch a joint production effort of helicopters that could be used by the militaries of Central and Eastern European allies.
Recent Russian aggression in the Ukraine has sharpened Poland’s awareness of its status as NATO’s new linchpin state, and an ambitious 10-year military Technical Modernization Program (TMP) is underway. The country’s open, rolling terrain from East to West is very friendly to cavalry warfare, which makes good attack helicopters a necessity. Poland’s current fleet of 29 late Soviet-era Mi-24D/Vs has served them well, but they need more and better machines. Unsurprisingly, the planned Kruk (“Raven”) attack helicopter replacement competition was one of the TMP projects targeted for acceleration in the wake of recent events.
Contracts and Key Events
April 27/17: Ukraine and Poland are to collaborate on helicopter production that ranges from undertaking modernization efforts, to designing and serial producing their own models for their armed forces. Announcing the new plan, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv said that his country could not undertake such efforts on its own and needed help from Polish industry as well as potentially other Western companies. The statement follows comments made in late 2016 by Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who said Warsaw and Kiev are discussing plans to launch a joint production effort of helicopters that could be used by the militaries of Central and Eastern European allies.
March 7/17: Leonardo and Polish Armaments Group have signed a cooperation agreement on helicopter production for the Polish armed forces. The deal will facilitate further industrial collaboration on production, servicing and maintenance for various military rotorcraft. Leonardo is currently offering the AW139, AW101 and W-3PL models to Warsaw as part of several helicopter requirements by the defense ministry and if selected, PGZ will assist with producing components and other supporting systems in Poland.
February 22/17: Poland’s Defense Ministry has begun negotiations with three bidders for various helicopter mission requirements. Eight are being sought to fill an urgent need for special forces missions, while eight more are required to fill a 2019 naval requirement for anti-submarine warfare and maritime search and rescue operations. The urgent nature of the acquisitions will allow Warsaw to bypass certain lengthy procurement procedures and they are believed to be talking to Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Sikorsky. Despite the apparent urgency, however, the government is still insisting on offset requirements, which must be an “integral part of the contract.”
February 14/17: Poland will purchase 16 new helicopters this year, half destined for the Navy and the rest to the country’s special forces. Two will be Sikorsky Black Hawks, with the remainder to be chosen from offers from Lockheed Martin, Leonardo and Airbus Helicopters. Delivery of the Black Hawks is expected for next month after being produced by Lockheed Martin’s Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec. The 16 aircraft will go toward the replacement of Poland’s Soviet-designed Mil Mi-8, Mi-14 and Mi-17 helicopters.
January 20/17: Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has said that his government is considering a 2017 splurge on new military hardware. Macierewicz name-dropped Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky subsidiary, Leonardo, and somewhat surprisingly Airbus, as potential suppliers of 14 helicopters to the Polish army. While both Sikorsky and Leonardo have plants located in Poland, relations between Airbus and the ruling Law & Justice Party soured last year following the cancellation of a $3.2 billion deal to provide 50 H225M Caracals. The ministry has also proposed a plan to buy between 50-100 F-16s as well as three new submarines with contracts to be signed by either the end of the year or in early 2018.
November 8/16: Egypt and Russia have been dragged into the ongoing war of words surrounding Poland’s dropped Caracel helicopter deal with Airbus and France. Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz accused Egypt of reselling French-built Mistral amphibious assault ships initially intended for Russia to the Russian Navy for the princely sum of €1. Yes, one Euro. The comments, made during a parliamentary session, outraged France, who abandoned the Russian sale under pressure from NATO allies. However Macierewicz’s remarks pale in comparison to his deputy who dismissively said that the Poles had taught the French “to eat with a fork a couple of centuries ago” after France revoked Poland’s invitation to the Euronaval 2016 defense expo in Paris.
November 1/16: Polish prosecutors are to investigate the recently scrapped Caracel military helicopter deal with Airbus to see if the move circumvented Polish law or was linked to corruption. Speaking to local media, prosecutor Michal Dziekanski said “this will be a complicated, comprehensive investigation, encompassing a very large set of evidence.” Tomasz Siemoniak, the defense minister responsible for originally brokering the deal during the previous administration, called the Airbus tender “fair and transparent” and said it was canceled by his rivals for political reasons.
FY 2015 – 2016
October 27/16: Airbus will seek compensation from Poland following the government’s shooting down of the previous administration’s 50-unit order for H225M multirole helicopters. Following four years of work on the tender, the company’s chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm said the group “had spent years trusting that it was in a fair competition” and that it would now “seek remedies” from Warsaw. Wilhelm added that the deal “would have committed us to build a competitive aerospace industry in Poland.”
October 20/16: Negotiations are underway between Poland and Ukraine to launch a joint production effort of helicopters that could be used by the militaries of Central and Eastern European allies. But while Poland is currently in the midst of two increasingly complicated helicopter tenders, Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said any joint effort would most likely be on a new model “based on the industrial potential of both countries. We know that the Ukrainians make excellent engines, produced by Motor Sich.” Based in southeastern Ukraine, Motor Sich has supplied engines for a variety of Ukrainian and Russian aircraft including the Antonov An-8 and An-10, the Yakovlev Yak-40 and Yak-42, and the Mil Mi-8MT, Mi-14 and Mi-171.
October 12/16: Airbus struck back at the Polish government yesterday following the dropping of a multi-billion Caracel helicopter deal. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Aerospace giant accused the government of shifting the goalposts as Airbus competed with US and Italian rivals, and attempting to contravene European Union regulations. Speaking in a separate email, Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders said “never have we been treated by any government customer the way this government has treated us.” Industry sources estimate Airbus’ cost of running the helicopter sales campaign at several tens of millions of euros.
October 11/16: France has reacted angrily to Poland dropping a multi-billion helicopter deal with Airbus, warning that it would review defense cooperation with its NATO ally and cancelling a presidential visit to Warsaw. Winning support as a populist, right-wing, eurosceptics, the ruling Law & Justice party (PiS) said they would rather see the deal awarded to a company that could build the helicopters locally. Polish media reports that Warsaw has already begun negotiations with Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky, manufacturer of locally-produced Black Hawk helicopters that could be purchased by the Polish army as soon as this year.
October 8/15: Poland has progressed its competition to replace the country’s fleet of Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters, with talks scheduled to soon begin with the four bidders. The ‘Kruk’ (‘Raven’) competition has attracted bids from Airbus with the EC665 Tiger; Bell Helicopters with the AH-1Z Cobra; Boeing with the AH-64 Apache and Turkish Aerospace Industries with the T129 ATAK. Despite the Polish Defence Ministry announcing in April that a winner is due for selection by the end of the year, these talks are scheduled to last one week per company, concluding by the end of November and a contract is now expected in the latter half of 2017.
April 22/15: In addition to the Patriot announcement, Poland has selected the Airbus H225M to fulfill its tri-service helicopter requirement. 50 of the Airbus helicopters will replace the current 40-strong fleet of Mil Mi-17s; a figure revised down from the original requirement for 70 units. The H225M beat out AgustaWestland’s AW149 and Sikorsky’s S-70i Black Hawk and S-70B Seahawk, with the winning helicopter set to undergo checks this May and June to verify its capabilities against Poland’s requirement set. The Eastern European state is also looking to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet. Combined with the Patriot program, the helicopter procurement will account for approximately a quarter of Poland’s eight-year defense modernization budget.
Aug 5/14: The Polish defence ministry has said that it is considering bids from 10 manufacturers under the Kruk competition. They wouldn’t name names, saying only that it involved “foreign and domestic companies offering both ready-made helicopters and components for assembly.”
The difference between ready-made and assembly kits is a bidder’s choice, and the kits option is often used to comply with local industrial offset rules. The harder question is how to get to 10 manufacturers, given the limited number of attack helicopter options out there.
Obvious leaders include Airbus (EC665 Tiger HAD), AW/TAI (T129 ATAK), Bell Helicopter (AH-1Z) and Boeing (AH-64E). South Africa’s Denel offers the Rooivalk, which hasn’t been exported but has competed elsewhere. Sikorsky is working very hard to win Poland’s utility helicopter competition with the S-70i, which is the focus of that company’s 2nd largest helicopter plant. Their Battlehawk add-on kit could offer Poland a single-type force that’s able to perform both utility and attack roles. That’s 6 possible competitors; beyond this list, one must either stretch the boundaries of the term “attack helicopter” to incorporate armed scouts, or entertain far less likely options. Russian Helicopters’ Ka-52 and Mi-28 are absolute non-starters, but there are rumors that Poland’s MRO and upgrade shop WZL-2 S.A. has bid, and that Israel’s IAI and RAFAEL also responded. Sources: Polskie Radio, “10 bidders to modernize Poland’s combat helicopter fleet”.
July 8/14: Kruk program launched, deadline to respond to the RFI is Aug 1/14. The program was originally supposed to launch a tender in 2018, with deliveries beginning in 2020, but the tender has now been moved up to 2015. Quantities may also be changing: the program’s original goal was 32 helicopters, but current reports indicate that Poland may increase that to 40.
In the mean time, Phase 1 involves setting technical and operational requirements, following market research. Hence the RFI. Next comes a more detailed feasibility study and staffing requirements based on the responses, followed by the formal RFP in 2015. Sources: Polish MON, “Rusza program smiglowcow uderzeniowych” | Emirates 24/7 News, “Poland launches tender for assault helicopters” | Flightglobal, “Poland launches attack helicopter acquisition” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Poland starts ‘Kruk’ attack helicopter acquisition programme”.
The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) originally planned to buy 120 advanced, high-end fighters as its next-generation platform, in order to replace its existing fleet of F-4 Phantom IIs and other aircraft. So far, it has bought 60 fighters in 2 phases. Back in 2002, the South Koreans picked the advanced F-15K derivative of the F-15E Strike Eagle for its F-X Next Generation Fighter Program, and bought 40. In 2008, a 2nd F-X Phase II contract was signed for 20 more F-15ks, with slight modifications.
As the 3rd phase loomed, the question was whether it will be a variant of their existing fleet, or something new. While the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) dreamed of developing their own “5th generation” aircraft for Phase 3, reality eventually had its say. Now, foreign manufacturers are offering the ROKAF a number of off-the-shelf options. But throughout 2013 DAPA couldn’t seem to be able to reconcile the air force’s desire for advanced technology with its budget constraints. Boeing seemed on the edge of winning with its F15-SEs as the sole contender within budget, only to be rejected by the end of September 2013. This reopened the tender with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as the likely favorite, a choice which was confirmed as 2014 unfolded.