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.
In July 2009, The Korea Times reported that ROKAF was looking to upgrade its F-16C/D fleet’s radar and armament, as part of the 2010-2014 arms acquisition and management package submitted to President Lee Myung-bak for approval.
Under the Peace Bridge II and II deals, The ROKAF bought 140 “KF-16” Block 52 fighters, which were assembled in Korea between 1994-2004 under a $5.5 billion licensing agreement. Key upgrades to this fleet will include new radars to replace the existing APG-68v5/v7 systems, modern avionics and computers, and upgrades of the planes’ cabling and databuses to MIL-STD-1760. The centerpiece AESA radar competition has a winner now, and South Korea has picked its contractor for the overall upgrade program. Now the effort is turning that into binding contracts, and beginning the upgrade process. Other countries within the region and beyond are interested in similar high-value F-16 upgrade programs, so the ROk’s experiences will be watched carefully.
Latest updates[?]: A former aide to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been placed under formal investigation by French financial prosecutors as part of a probe into the 2002 sale of two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia. The accused, Razak Baginda, has denied wrongdoing when he was advisor to Najib during his stint as defense minister, and who oversaw the procurement from French shipyard DCN International—who then became a new entity called DCNS, which in turn rebranded itself as Naval Group this year. Last month, two French former defense industry executives were placed under investigation as part of the same probe into alleged kickbacks from that submarines deal. The investigation began after Malaysian human rights group Suaram alleged that the EUR 1 billion sale resulted in some $130 million of commissions being paid to a company linked to Najib.
The Franco-Spanish Scorpene diesel-electric attack submarine competes on the global market against an array of competitors, especially ThyssenKrupp HDW’s U209/212/214 family. In June 2002, the Malaysian government signed a EUR 1 billion contract with Armaris (now DCNS) and Spanish naval shipbuilder Izar (now Navantia) for 2 SSK Scorpenes and associated support and training. Both submarines have been delivered to Malaysia, though there have been some technical problems. Which pale in comparison to the deal’s other problems.
Within Malaysia, the sale has been compromised by an ongoing trial and set of legal actions around the public kidnapping and private execution of Mongolian modeling student, translator, and paramour Altantuya Shaariibuu. Full and impartial accountability for public figures is not a prominent feature of Malaysian justice, but French Journalist Arnaud Dubus added to the pressure with a March 5/09 report in France’s Liberation, “Un cadavre très dérangeant: L’étrange affaire du meurtre d’une interprète mongole qui gène le pouvoir en Malaisie” (Page 30-31). It named very prominent names, offered details, and revealed the contents of documents that Malaysian courts had refused to admit. A subsequent bribery investigation by French authorities has led to the emergence of even more documents, and the scandal is becoming a significant presence in Malaysian politics.
Latest updates[?]: The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier, will have the Kalibr missile system installed during upcoming refit work. The new platform will replace the P-700 Granit anti-ship missile currently equipped onboard, utilizing a unique vertical launch system that is unified to launch both the Onyx and Zircon supersonic missiles. Other additions involved in the $715 million modernization include an upgraded electronic warfare, communication and aviation network. The vessel had previously spent 2016 in the Mediterranean Sea where aircraft onboard conducted some 420 air operations against militias fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Adm. Kuznetsov, 1996
Russia’s “heavy aircraft-carrying cruisers” have received a lot of unfavorable attention from India’s snake-bit deal to refurbish the Admiral Gorshkov; in fairness, however, the Russians haven’t had much more luck with their own ship. Launched in 1985, it was not commissioned until 1995 – and since then, it has endured extremely long dockings and seen only limited deployment. When it’s operational, the The 55,000t Admiral Kuznetsov is a big step up from the smaller Kiev Class’ combination of Yak-38 Forger V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing) jets and naval helicopters, flying navalized SU-25 close air support fighters, multi-role SU-33s, or MiG-29K jets.
Natural resource exports have eased Russia’s budget woes, and the country wants to maintain carrier capabilities as it tries to rebuild its damaged defense industrial base. The current plan intends to begin designing a new carrier class in 2012 – and to dock the Kuznetov once again, in order to make major design changes and fix some long-standing issues.
Latest updates[?]: Sikorsky has delivered an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter to be used as a prototype for the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP). The delivery coincides with the signing of a “cooperation agreement” with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), aimed at enhancing business between the two companies in the next 10 years. Sikorsky is collaborating with Turkish industry on developing its new T-70 utility helicopter, and later into Turkish-built Black Hawks, in a program that is worth approximately $3.5 billion. The delivered Black Hawk will now be equipped with a new avionics suite jointly developed with Sikorsky and TAI, with work to be carried out by Turkish arms manufacturer Aselsan. Ankara is initially planning to produce 109 T-70s but this could later reach a production total of 300 if the helicopter is rolled out to meet future Turkish requirements.
In 2011, the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program picked Sikorsky to continue providing its S-70 Black Hawk & Seahawk helicopters over the next 10 years. Turkey’s attack helicopter program wasn’t exactly a model procurement approach, and it should be no surprise that its TUHP contract would also come years after the initially-promised date.
The contract was finalized in February 2014, and its impact will be far-reaching. These “T-70” helicopters will equip every branch of Turkey’s armed forces, and some civilian organizations. As an added bonus, Turkish Aerospace Industries’ experience manufacturing components and assembling the S-70s will help them pursue a new light helicopter design of their own…
Latest updates[?]: Jordan has requested a repair and return of its F-16 engines alongside sustainment and support. The $115.1 million contract was approved by the US State Department with prime contractor of the work being Pratt & Whitney. The request by the Jordanian government was to amend its F-16 engine program for repair and return of its F100-PW-220E engine modules. The Jordanian F-16s have been engaged in military intervention in both Iraq and Syria against Islamic State positions since 2014.
The Royal Jordanian Air force’s fighter fleet currently consists of F-16 A/B, Mirage F1, and F-5 E/F Tiger II fighters. In recent years, the Jordanians have sought to strengthen their air force with surplus F-16s from European countries. “Jordan Buys 20 F-16 MLU from Holland, Belgium” covered an earlier purchase set, and deliveries have begun. Now, another purchase may be on the way.
DID subscriber David Vandenberghe has looked at Parliamentary documents, and also at a Jan 15/09 De Standaard article. Current estimates peg maintenance savings at EUR 3 million per aircraft, and a certain portion of that could be expected to come out of Belgian firm SABCA’s maintenance contract. According to Forecast International, De Standaard has reported that officials from Jordan and Belgium are finalizing a deal for 8-9 more F-16s, at the bargain price of EUR 7 million (about $9.25 million). A Parliamentary Defence Committee document dated Jan 14/09 [PDF] states a set transaction price of EUR 32 million, however, which seems more reasonable.
Under Belgium’s 2000-2015 Modernization plan, the Belgian Defense Forces plan to keep just 60 F-16s in the fleet, to create a total of 48 operational aircraft (46 for NATO duties and 2 for domestic air defense). At present, 68 upgraded F-16 MLU aircraft are reported to remain. with foreign sales, wear, operational losses, and storage accounting for the rest of the 160 F-16A/B aircraft that were bought in 1979.
February 29/16: Jordan has requested a repair and return of its F-16 engines alongside sustainment and support. The $115.1 million contract was approved by the US State Department with prime contractor of the work being Pratt & Whitney. The request by the Jordanian government was to amend its F-16 engine program for repair and return of its F100-PW-220E engine modules. The Jordanian F-16s have been engaged in military intervention in both Iraq and Syria against Islamic State positions since 2014.
Latest updates[?]: After sensationally backing out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Canadian government will not exclude the jet from the renewed CF-18 replacement competition. Canadian minister of national defence Harjit Sajjan said at the annual Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) that once the government determines its needs, and capabilities are specified, potential contractors will be allowed to bid, including Lockheed Martin with its F-35. The announcement marks the first time that Sajjan has explicitly said that the F-35 could still be in the running, after weeks of hinting at the possibility.
Liberal versus Conservative politics are dominating the coverage of Canadian self examination of their defense procurement process. Conservatives came to power criticizing a broken and opaque process run by the Liberals, and now the Liberals are enjoying throwing similar barbs at the majority party. But in the fray, several interesting analyses have surfaced that the defense establishment is taking seriously.
The Harper government insists that a defense procurement overhaul conducted last year has yet to toll, and that patience is needed to prove that things have improved. By far, the largest effect is exerted by the major fighter and ship programs, which evolve in year and decade timescales.
As to the actual content of the report, much blame is placed at the cutting of procurement staff levels, which have been halved over the past 20 years. Also unpopular among the procurement officials are rafts of the new reporting requirements – reportedly up by about 50 percent – that are part of the Harper governments reforms.
Separately, the objectives of major defense procurement projects have also been called into question. Because the F-35 has greatest advantage in the objective of overpowering a state with top anti-air resources, Canadian officials are now questioning whether this is something relevant to Canada, especially in the face of a lopsided price disadvantage versus other fighters. Reportedly, the only other fighter contending still against the F-35 is Boeing’s Super Hornet. This analysis, a product of the 2012 decision to delay what was to be a $45 billion purchase of F-35s, did not draw a conclusive recommendation, although it did note that the likelihood of requiring a mission profile uniquely suited to the F-35 was low.
The F-35 program has been controversial in Canada, even more so than in other countries, complete with alleged plots to conduct secret initial procurement of four fighters to be delivered in 2015, with a commitment for 9 more two years later. Internal pressures led the Harper administration to develop a more explicit offset seeking program, called the Value Proposition Guide, as in show-us-what-industrial-value-we-can-bank domestically.
February 26/16: After sensationally backing out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Canadian government will not exclude the jet from the renewed CF-18 replacement competition. Canadian minister of national defence Harjit Sajjan said at the annual Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) that once the government determines its needs, and capabilities are specified, potential contractors will be allowed to bid, including Lockheed Martin with its F-35. The announcement marks the first time that Sajjan has explicitly said that the F-35 could still be in the running, after weeks of hinting at the possibility.
February 23/16: Major defense purchases through Canada’s problem-plagued procurement process is to be guided by a cabinet-level committee. The committee will have direct access to support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and is tasked with seeing that billion dollar sales, which include all aircraft purchases, will not be held up in federal bureaucracy. While details of the committee have not been disclosed, it will include high ranking members of the Liberal government including Procurement Minister Judy Foote, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Scott Brison, the president of the Treasury Board.
Latest updates[?]: Russia has reportedly delivered six MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors to the Assad regime in Syria, with Turkish media first reporting the delivery. The two states are thought to have signed a contract for the aircraft in June 2007, with Russia previously supplying Syria with significant quantities of military hardware, including deals for Yak-130 light attack jets and MiG-29 fighters.
In June 2007, Russian newspapers claimed that Russia had begun delivering 5 MiG-31E Foxhound aircraft to Syria, under a deal that was reportedly negotiated in autumn 2006. The Russian newspaper Kommersant added that part of the deal was being financed by Iran as a back-door purchase. A series of other deals have been announced since, for items that include advanced anti-ship missiles and air defense systems.
To call these deals opaque would be an understatement, and the lack of transparency exists in several layers. Russia has been Syria’s main arms supplier for decades, and both regimes are very secretive about their activities. Russia’s growing relationship with Israel, especially in the oil and gas fields, adds another layer of opacity to decisions, and appears to have delayed or canceled some sales. The third layer was created by Syria’s civil war, which has been raging since April 2011. This article covers public reports of new arms sales to Syria, though we also welcome any conclusive public IMINT or inside information readers wish to refer our way.
Latest updates[?]: The Indian government has officially withdrawn the comatose MMRCA fighter competition, following an agreement in April to purchase 36 ready-to-fly Rafale fighters from France in a government-to-government deal which sidestepped negotiations with manufacturer Dassault. The competition intended to procure 126 Rafale fighters, following selection of the French bid in January 2012, with negotiations between Dassault and the Indian government stagnating and ultimately leading nowhere. To fulfill operation necessities, the Indian executive stepped in and directly negotiated a deal with the French President for the 36 jets.
India’s planned multi-billion dollar, 126+ plane jet fighter buy certainly captured the attention of global fighter manufacturers. Boeing’s Mark Kronenberg, who runs the company’s Asia/Pacific business, put it succinctly: “[India’s M-MRCA program is] the biggest fighter aircraft deal since the early 1990s.”
What began as a lightweight fighter competition to replace India’s shrinking MiG-21 interceptor fleet soon bifurcated into 2 categories now, and 2 expense tiers. What changed? In a word, lots. The participants changed, India’s view of its own needs changed, and costs changed dramatically. With the long-delayed release of the official RFP, the competition began at last – and like all Indian decisions, it takes a very long time.
DID offers an in-depth look at the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition’s changes, the RFP, and the competitors. After a decade-long slog, Dassault’s Rafale appears to be closing in on its 1st export order.
Latest updates[?]: Iran is rumored to be buying 150 Chengdu J-10 fighters from China. Reports from 2007 alleged that China planned to sell 24 of the fighters to Iran, however the Chinese government subsequently denied these claims. Pakistan is also a possible regional customer for the J-10, with reports in November 2009 indicating that a deal had been signed for 36 of the jets. The J-10B model entered mass production last year, with China looking to develop an indigenous engine to power the fighter to get around Russian objections to the export of its AL31FN-S3 engines currently powering the J-10.
DID’s Benelux reader David Vandenberghe tips DID to the original RIA-Novosti report that Iran has signed a contract with China for the delivery of two squadrons (24) of its J-10 fighter planes, which are powered by Russian engines and avionics. Representatives of the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company said China would deliver the jets during the in 2008-2010 time frame. Novosti adds that “Experts, estimating one fighter at $40 million, put the contract’s value at $1 billion.” Iran’s most advanced fighters are currently MiG-29s, many of which once belonged to Saddam Hussein and fled to Iran during the 1991 Desert Storm war, and a handful of F-14 Tomcats that have been ingeniously maintained over the years.
The Chinese J-10 is based on plans sold by the Israelis in the 1980s, after their Lavi fighter program had been canceled. The massacre at Tiananmen Square ended cooperation with western aerospace firms, however, forcing China to install Russian AL-31FN engines instead of American F100/F110s. This in turn forced a slew of alternations owing to changes to the aircraft’s new inlet requirements, weight distribution, center of gravity, et. al. Russian avionics with their own set of space requirements also had to be installed and tested to replace American/Israeli equipment, which led to further design changes. Then there were the indigenous Chinese efforts, including the Type 1473 pulse-Doppler (PD) fire-control radar to replace Israel’s Elta or the American APG-68. The end result entered service in 2003 after well over a decade in development, and is a rather different aircraft than the Lavi. Nonetheless, it retains the aircraft’s canard-delta layout and some of its capabilities, and its aerodynamic layout and known/reported characteristics suggest an aircraft that is equal or slightly superior to American F-16 C/Ds. This could complicate Israeli strikes on targets related to Iran’s nuclear program, though many other variables would also come into play for such scenarios.
If the deal pans out at all… recent reports have thrown it into question.