The Canadian Communication Security Establishment (CSEC) plays the same role in Canada that the ultra-secretive NSA (National Security Agency) does in the USA, and cooperates closely with its American counterpart. Unlike counterparts like the Canadian CSIS, or American CIA, both agencies stay firmly out of the public spotlight. They specialize in the tripartite domains of electronic eavesdropping, robust encoding, and cyber-security. The ECHELON interception system, which also features cooperation from the UK and Australia, is the allied agencies’ best-known cooperative venture.
The problem is that the agency’s activities are growing, and its buildings can’t hold them all. Since one can’t just rent random office space for an agency of this type, that means new buildings. One emergency contract is already underway. A second, much larger contract, is readying itself for a public-private partnership deal as the government seeks interested firms.
As video communications is integrated into robots, soldiers, and UAVs, and network-centric warfare becomes the organizing principle of American warfighting, front-line demands for bandwidth are rising faster than the US military can add it. The Transformation Communications Satellite (TSAT) System is part of a larger effort by the US military to address that need, and close the gap.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record – and TSAT is certainly significant. The final price tag on the entire program has been quoted at anywhere from $14-25 billion through 2016, including the satellites, the ground operations system, the satellite operations center and the cost of operations and maintenance. Lockheed Martin and Boeing each won over $600 million in risk reduction contracts to develop key TSAT SS satellite system technologies, and TSAT’s $2 billion TMOS ground-based network operations contract was already underway.
The TSAT constellation’s central role in next-generation US military infrastructure makes it worthy of in-depth treatment – but its survival was never assured. There was always a risk that outside events and incremental competitors could spell its end, just as they spelled the end of Motorola’s infamous Iridium project. This FOCUS article examines that possibility, even as it offers an overview of the US military’s vision for its communications infrastructure, how TSAT fits, the program’s challenges, and complete coverage of contracts and significant events.
The latest developments revolve around the end of the program. Despite a positive recent report from the GAO, TMOS/TSAT are being canceled outright as part of the program’s planned termination:
DID has reported extensively on research contracts related to Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductors, which offer significantly higher power and performance. Unfortunately, they present manufacturing and cost challenges that have stymied their use in commercial applications.
In May 2005, Compound Semiconductor Magazine offered an excellent overview of the GaN wide-bandgap semiconductors program and DARPA’s goals. Key program objectives include rapid transition of the technology developed into military systems. Other important goals include a “great” improvement in understanding the physical reasons behind device failures and the development of physical models to predict performance, reproducible device and MMIC fabrication processes, and improved thermal management and packaging. Reliability is expected to be a key challenge.
GaN represents an innovation in materials technology. DARPA’s approach adds innovative procurement strategies, via a 3-pronged approach that aims to speed the development of GaN-based microelectronics…
Afghanistan has forced a number of participating countries to upgrade their UAV fleets through purchase and rental, and Dutch forces are no exception. They have bought Aladin and Raven mini-UAVs, and a recent announcement indicates that they’re about to retire their old, limited Sperwer-A UAVs as of March 1/09. Instead of buying replacements, they will join the rent-a-UAV trend.
The concept of renting front-line military equipment would have seemed outlandish a very short time ago. Now, UAVs like Boeing’s ScanEagle are rented and operated by contractors on the front lines of battle, Britain has rented Elbit Systems’ mid-size Hermes 450 UAVs until its derivative Watchkeeper system is fielded, and Canada is renting IAI’s large, long-endurance Heron UAVs for use in Afghanistan. P.W. Singer’s recent book Wired for War even discusses examples of human rights groups inquiring about renting or buying UAVs to monitor key conflict zones. Private surveillance UAVs are already operating along the US-Mexican border, and additional examples around the globe seem to be just a matter of time. The times, they are a’ changing.
The Dutch have picked Aeronautics Defense Systems’ Aerostar UAV, and that firm has just confirmed the contract…
In 2008, the point was underlined by sales like the deal with Zimbabwe for 12 K-8/JL-8 jet trainers and light attack aircraft, but a number of deals are reportedly pending with various countries. These reportedly include everything from K-8 Karakorum jets and FC-1/JF-17 fighters, to WMZ-551 wheeled APCs, artillery, and of course the usual set of small arms and ammunition deals. One of the challenges that the July 2008 Forecast International report had discussed is the region’s economic weakness, but UPI Asia notes that China has a solution. Zambia has used its copper resources to pay China in a number of military deals, Kenya has been negotiating with China to trade fishing rights for arms, and similar deals are under discussion elsewhere.
While China’s economy has cooled as a result of the global recession, long-term, secure access to the resources needed to supply its growing economy is one of the regime’s top strategic priorities. Africa is poor by policy, but the continent has rich resources of oil and key industrial metals. This Chinese arms thrust is one component of a unified strategy that bundles weapon sales and economic ties. Other building blocks include soft-power approaches, and a key component block was added recently with the launch of a PLAN hospital ship. Few countries own dedicated hospital vessels, which can serve in quasi-diplomatic goodwill roles, or function in their traditional role as high-capacity medical support for amphibious assaults.
A combination of arms sales, naval activities, and economic ties is promising, but it will also require other forms of local relationship-building and military presence, in order to give China the full range of tools for influencing African regimes. Oddly, none of these sales, deal structures, or strategic considerations were even mentioned in a recent SIPRI(Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) analysis of China’s stepped-up deployment of peacekeeping troops. Troops whose chosen missions appear to have a strong focus on African operations.
In December 2008, the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault announced that France’s Structure integree de maintien en condition operationnelle des materiels aeronautiques du ministere de la Defense (SIMMAD) had signed a 10-year contract to maintain the 120 Rafale fighters France has ordered to date for its Air Force and Navy.
This contract follows the nascent global trend toward pay for performance in military maintenance. The 10-year “Rafale Care” global contract does use maintenance payments based on operational availability and flying hours, rather than materials and labor. The contract also includes a commitment to reduce those costs per hour over time, in a similar manner to many corporate outsourcing agreements. Unlike Britain’s fully comprehensive “future contracting for availability” model, however, “Rafale Care” covers the aircraft but not the engine (Snecma), radar (Thales), countermeasures and weapon systems.
Costs were not disclosed, but Defense News quotes a Dassault spokesman as saying that the larger twin-engine Rafale costs about 15% more per flight hour than the Mirage 2000 lightweight fighter. The French Armee de l’Air also refused to provide figures, saying that they were heavily dependent on key variables like flight and mission profiles. Dassault Aviation | Defense News.
The Netherlands is a notable player in the multinational F-35 program, as one of only two Tier 2 program partners, and the future site of a European maintenance hub. The government is still deciding whether it will join the Joint Strike Fighter’s IOTE (Initial Operational Test & Evaluation) phase and purchase 2 aircraft. Meanwhile, what was once a slam-dunk to replace RNLAF F-16s has now become a competition of sorts involving Saab’s JAS-39NG Gripen. To this point, the Dutch have invested over EUR 850 million in the F-35’s development phases.
The financing arrangements involved are highly unusual. They have now become a subject of possible legal action, as the government insists that industry players owe it more than EUR 300 million…
When Canada announced a program to replace its aging CC-130 Hercules fleet in November 2005, there was a great deal of speculation about where the C-17 might fit in. The fast answer was that it didn’t, but speculation revived following the Liberal government’s defeat and the formation of a new Conservative Party government. The new government justified that speculation, creating a separate Strategic Airlift competition – and the shape of its specifications suggested that Canada was about to reprise Australia’s recent move and buy at least 4 of Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Australia, Britain, and the USA already operate the C-17; NATO is scheduled to buy 3-4 as a shared strategic airlift solution, but the procurement is in limbo.
Canada has traditionally resisted buying strategic airlift, choosing instead to participate in NATO’s SALIS consortium that leases ultra-heavy AN-124 aircraft for such roles. Other leased alternatives to the C-17s were available to Canada, including one based on Canadian soil – but in the end, the C-17 was the sole realistic competitor for this C$ 3.4 billion (USD$ 3 billion) program, and is entering service in Canada as the CC-177.
Canada has now taken delivery of its “CC-177s,” and begun flying missions. With new planes, however, comes new ancillary equipment.
The Ceausescu regime was a poor performer even by communism’s low standards, which has left Romania with a long and difficult modernization task as it seeks to integrate into NATO. Romania certainly isn’t one of NATO’s bid senders in absolute terms, but it is one of only 4 NATO countries to approach or exceed the accepted defense spending commitment of 2% of GDP. At Black Sea Defense & Aerospace 2008, Romania’s Curierul National interviewed Defence Minister Teodor Melescanu regarding Romania’s future plans. Among other things, the recent official request for a used and new American F-16s does not appear to be the end of the competition to replace its upgraded MiG-21 Lancers. From the interview:
“The six strategic programs refer to the purchase of the new multi-role planes and of the multirole systems and ground-to-air long-range missiles for the Air Force, the purchase of 4 multifunctional corvettes and 4 mine-hunter boats for the Naval Forces, respectively to the acquisition of some armoured personnel carriers (8×8 and 4×4) and some armoured and non-armoured off-road vehicles for the Land Forces. These purchases are absolutely necessary for the Romanian Army, whose technique is obsolete in a proportion of 90%… the total is 13 billion euros, indeed, but I want to emphasize that we do not have this money… ready to spend it when necessary. However, the executive has given us the possibility, by Emergency Ordinance no. 111/2006, which allows ministries to contract loans on the international banking market, we can employ such loans up to the limit of 2.38% of GDP… in a predictable financing line for the period 2009-2013. We also consider achieving these acquisitions with the participation of internationally prestigious companies, which we would attract in the modernisation and privatisation process of the defence industry.”
Indeed, the MiG 21s will deplete their flight resource by 2010-2011 and therefore we must absolutely start the programme of purchasing a multi-role plane… The issue is the purchase of 48 planes, the budget effort exceeding 3.5 billion lei… financed by foreign loans, using the mechanisms of Emergency Ordinance no. 111/2006… As there appeared some information about the purchase of second-hand planes, too, I want to emphasize that, personally, I think we are too poor to buy cheap, used things. I do not think that the solution of second hand devices is the best option and therefore I feel inclined to the purchase of new aircraft. And I insist on the human resource. We have valuable pilots and we cannot waste this value we have… As I have said, there are five models of multirole planes that meet the technical-operational requirements set up by the specialists of the Romanian Air Force. We are considering the F-16 plane… the JAS-39 Gripen… the Eurofighter Typhoon… the F-18… and the Rafale [the F-35 was eliminated].
…To take a decision based on real and as complete as possible data, the Ministry of Defense has conducted information activities during the recent years, which have included working visits of delegations of specialists, organisation of presentations and sending requests for information to potential producers, suppliers and users of multi-role aircraft. As a result of these activities the 5 types of airplanes I mentioned above were identified. But no decision has been taken yet.”
In 2003, Thales UK received a 10-year contract to support the Royal Navy’s major sonar systems worth about GBP 100 million over the first 5 years. Over that period, equipment readiness rates have improved, and some overall savings have been achieved in the cost of support. With that kind of initial experience under their belts, the usual process under Britain’s “future contracting for avilability” initiatives has been to extend and broaden the contract, in preparation for a a future contract that features full availability-based contracting for the item in question.
The UK MoD/ Thales UK ‘Integrated Support Team – Sonar’ at Abbey Wood, Bristol have now done exactly that, finalizing a second 5-year term for GBP 134 million, while broadening its scope. The contract now covers the Sonar 2054 systems fitted to the UK’s SSBN Vanguard Class nuclear missile submarines, the Sonar 2074 / 2076 systems fitted to Britain’s SSN Swiftsure Class and Trafalgar Class fast attack submarines, mine-hunting Sonar 2093 / 2193 systems, and the new Sonar 2087 low-frequency active sonar (LFAS) upgrade being fitted to Britain’s Type 23 Duke Class frigates. Note that Britain’s new Type 45 Daring Class air defense destroyers, who will depend on the MFS 7000 sonar array from Ultra Electronics and EDO, remain outside this contract.
The total value of Thales UK’s 10-year sonar support contract is now over GBP 230 million. Thales UK will leverage its 300-perseon facility at Cheadle Heath near Manchester, which designs and builds sonar, as well as the 400-person Templecombe facility in Somerset, which manufactures mine hunting sonar systems and outboard arrays. Thales release.