Latest updates[?]: Myanmar has received an upgrade package for their MiG-29 from Russia's RAC MiG. The upgrade carried out on the 10 fighters, referred to as MiG-29SM, is a cheaper alternative to the MiG-29UPG modification undertaken by India, retaining the aircraft's original N-019E radar but with some technology improvements and new parts. Malaysia and Bangladesh are now being offered the same upgrade package for their respective MiG-29 fleets.
In late December 2009, reports surfaced that Myanmar (formerly Burma) had signed a EUR 400 million (about $571 million) deal with Russia’s Rosoboronexport for 20 MiG-29D fighters. Some sources add a deal for more Mi-35 attack helicopters, and place the entire package at EUR 450 million.
By comparison, the Tripartite Core Group (UN, ASEAN, and Burma’s Junta) launched [PDF] a 3-year Post-[Cyclone] Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) in February 2009, appealing for international donations of $691 million…
Latest updates[?]: PIT-RADWAR has received an order for 79 Poprad self-propelled surface-to-air missile systems from Poland. The $273 million contract will also include the upgrade of two previously delivered systems. The short-range anti-aircraft system uses the Polish-made Grom MANPADS. Poland's new government, led by the right-wing Law & Justice Party, has sought to increase military spending as part of NATO directives, but also holds a desire to increase production of armaments domestically.
In the wake of events in Georgia and Crimea, Poland has emerged as NATO’s key eastern bastion. The Tarcza Polski (Shield of Poland) aims to give it an advanced air defense system to match.
Poland’s military rise has been slow, but steady. Smart economic policies have created growth, and a willingness to finance national defense is slowly improving their equipment. Combat deployments abroad to Iraq and Afghanistan have both sharpened training, and highlighted areas that still need fixing. Missile proliferation in the Middle East, American fecklessness, and a rearming Russia have all led Poland to the conclusion that they can no longer depend on old Soviet-era air defense equipment. They need their own advanced national air defense system, which can benefit from allied contributions without being dependent on them.
The F-4 Phantom II fighter still flies with a number of air forces, including Egypt, Germany, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and possibly Iran. These large 2-seat multi-role fighters were a triumph of thrust over aerodynamics, and formed the mainstay of the USAF and US Navy fleets for many years. QF-4s are former F-4s that currently sit in storage at the AMARC “Boneyard” near Tucson, AZ. They are refurbished for flight at AMARC, then flown to BAE in Mojave, CA and fitted with remote-control equipment in a process that takes about 160 days. Once fitted for the UAV role, they are used as aerial targets and decoys for testing against air-air missiles, radars, surface-air missiles, et. al. As of April 2007, BAE Systems had converted 217 F-4s to the QF-4 configuration.
It’s financially prudent, and fitting in a way for an old warrior to go out in a fireball of glory – but sad, too, somehow. Recent announcements indicate some interesting possibilities ahead, however, even as the very last QF-4 order comes in.
Latest updates[?]: The United Kingdom has awarded a contract to Raytheon's UK subsidiary for the development of a penetrating warhead for the Paveway IV guided bomb. Intended to equip the Royal Air Force's fleet of Eurofighters, the new munition is scheduled to enter service in 2019 and replace the current penetration capability provided by the RAF's Tornado GR4s and Paveway III bombs. The new warheads will fit existing stockpiles, with BAE Systems handling the integration work. Raytheon UK has stated that the new warhead will likely equip the RAF's F-35Bs and could do the same with Reaper UAVs.
Paveway-IV components (click to view larger)
In 2003, Raytheon UK operation won the GBP 120 million pound contract to develop and produce Paveway IV, beating Boeing’s INS/GPS guided JDAM. The GPS/INS and laser-guided 500-pound bombs are a British project, and will add a number of other enhancements, including longer range than previous Paveway versions.
The British military had wanted to deploy Raytheon’s latest Paveway IV bombs in Afghanistan by September 2007, on board its newly-upgraded Harrier GR9 aircraft. Unfortunately, testing problems with Thales UK’s Aurora fuze removed that option. The MoD found a way to deploy the smart bombs with lesser capabilities by December 2007, and eventually deployed full Paveway IVs on its Harriers in Afghanistan. The weapon is now ready for use with its Tornado GR4 strike aircraft, which are replacing the Harriers, and has been qualified on the RAF’s Eurofighters.
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.
The Swiss Pilatus PC-9M was a recent candidate to an RFP for COIN aircraft issued by Iraq. An incident involving the African nation of Chad would appear to have removed this possibility for them, and shrunk Pilatus’ market sharply in favor of competitors in Korea (KT/A-1), Brazil (EMB 314), etc.
Chad’s government borders Sudan, and the same janjaweed forces that perpetrated the Darfur genocide have also been involved in attacks inside neighboring countries like Chad. Relations between Chad and Sudan have deteriorated badly in response, with Chad accusing Sudan of having a destabilization plan for their country, and of using the same Darfur tactic of arming and unleashing terrorists to that end. A series of mediation efforts and agreements have followed, which have mostly been ignored as the fighting continues. Now, one of those battles has wider ramifications.
Brazil’s submarines are seen as a key part of the country’s new national armaments and defense strategy, which was released on Dec 18/08. It places a higher priority on protection of Brazil’s offshore energy reserves, and sees submarines as key players in that effort. The experience of the 1982 Falklands War, in which Argentina’s entire fleet was kept in port by Britain’s nuclear fast attack boat HMS Conqueror, is often cited as instructive.
In 2008, Brazil and France signed an agreement to build 4 diesel-electric submarines (SSK), and provide assistance in developing and fielding the non-nuclear parts of 1 nuclear fast attack submarine (SSN). Key specifics, such as the presence or absence of SSK Air Independent Propulsion technologies, have yet to be made public, but the terms of the agreement leave the possibility open. Reports regarding the submarine deal’s value have varied, but the budget is now set at almost EUR 7 billion. Financing now appears to be in place, and recent releases explain the budgets, the timing, and some of the key players in Brazil’s Prosub program.
Russia is reported to have just over 115 IL-76 medium-heavy strategic transport planes, but they’re leftovers from the Soviet era. On Oct 1/12 they unveiled the modernized “IL-476” variant, and within days Russia’s Defense Ministry had signed a RUB 140 billion contract to begin recapitalizing the VVS fleet, alongside the 60 AN-70 medium tactical transports ordered in August 2012.
The order also launches the IL-476 as a competitor in the global medium-heavy transport market. Production of Ilyushin’s design will be undertaken by state-owned UAC’s Aviastar subsidiary in Ulyanovsk.
Sikorsky’s demurral in Poland’s $3 billion utility helicopter competition comes as a bit of a shock. Sikorsky has deep roots in Poland, and their PZL Mielec subsidiary has served as the S-70i Black Hawk helicopter’s global center for several years now, selling an international export variant of the UH-60 to customers from Colombia to Saudi Arabia and beyond. As the only competitor with proven helicopters in all roles and a deep industrial relationship, it was hard not to see them as the favorite.
The whole episode serves as a fine reminder that key information like full RFP specifics and relationship dynamics is often privately-held. Sikorsky’s pullout leaves Poland with an arguably riskier set of acquisition choices, and a significant industrial question.
The USA’s Global Positioning System service remains free, but the European Union is spending billions to create an alternative under their own control. In addition to civilian GPS (the Open Service), services to be offered include a Safety of Life Service (SoL) for civil aviation and search and rescue, a paid Commercial Service with accuracy greater than 1 meter, plus a Public Regulated Service (PRS) for use by security authorities and governments. PRS/SoL aims to offer Open Service quality, with added robustness against jamming and the reliable detection of problems within 10 seconds.
Organizational issues and shortfalls in expected progress pushed the “Galileo” project back from its originally intended operational date of 2007 to 2014/15. After a public-private partnership model failed, the EU gained initial-stage approval for its plan to finance the program with tax dollars instead of the expected private investments. Political issues were overcome in 2007 by raiding other EU accounts for the billions required, but by 2011, it became clear that requests for billions more in public funds were on the way. Meanwhile, doubts persist in several quarters about Galileo’s touted economic model. Security concerns regarding China’s early involvement, and its potential Beidou-2/Compass projects, have been equally persistent, and there is good reason to expect that the constellation has a military purpose. On a European political and contractual level, however, Galileo is now irreversible.
This article offers background, players, developments, contracts, and in-depth research links for Galileo, as well as linked EU programs like GIOVE and EGNOS.