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.
Britain’s E-3D Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) is based on Boeing’s 707 family, and its ability to see and direct air operations within hundreds of miles provides vital strategic support. Since its introduction in 1992, the RAF’s fleet of 7 E-3s has been used in every major UK military operation, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.
That availability depends on effective maintenance, and the UK MoD has a new approach. It’s meant to give them more flyable planes, while costing less money. The new Sentry Whole Life Support Program (WLSP) began in August 2005, when Northrop Grumman won a 20-year, GBP 665 million (then $1.2 billion) contract. Under that contract, NGC’s team is providing aircraft maintenance and design-engineering support services through 2025, in order to improve availability and reduce overall ownership costs. As is typical of recent British contracts, the government has chosen a public-private partnership founded on an unusual military combination: fixed base costs, and guaranteed time in-service percentages for the planes.
The USCG wants to buy 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRC), and these Sentinel Class boats are sorely needed by an overstretched US Coast Guard. An attempt to extend the lives of their aged Island Class cutters ended as an expensive failure in 2005, and string of blunders has delayed replacements. In February 2006, the Coast Guard’s Deepwater system-of-systems program ‘temporarily’ suspended design work on the FRC-A program due to technical risk. FRC-A was eventually canceled in favor of an off-the-shelf buy (FRC-B), and on March 14/07, the ICGS contractor consortium lost responsibility for the Deepwater FRC-B program as well. By then, even an off-the-shelf buy couldn’t get the Coast Guard any delivered replacements before April 2012.
When the Island Class refurbishment program was terminated in June 2005, 41 Island Class vessels like the USCGC Sanibel, above, still plied US and international waters. DID discusses the programs, their outcomes and controversies, the fate of the Island Class and FRC-A programs, and the work underway to replace them. The Island Class’ safe lifetime is running out fast, but by the end of 2013 FRC Sentinel Class deliveries were set to ramp up to full production pace. Will that be fast enough?
In late November 2008, Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) announced its intention to combine 3 programs into one general set of upgrades to its armored vehicle fleets. The C$ 5 billion meta-program would include:
(1) “Close Combat Vehicles” that perform as tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles or Armored Personnel Carriers, alongside Canada’s new Leopard 2A6 tanks. Canada’s wheeled LAV-IIIs showed limitations in Afghanistan. Canada’s old M113 tracked APCs were a successful supplement, but the Canadians appear to be leaning toward a heavier vehicle for their future CCV. (2) A new “Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicle” that’s similar to the blast-resistant vehicle buys in other NATO countries. (3) LAV-UP upgrades to the existing LAV-III 8×8 wheeled APC fleet completed the set. July 2009 saw the roster expand to add (4) “FME”: dedicated Armored Engineering Vehicles based on the Leopard 2 tank, and engineering-related attachments for Canada’s new Leopard 2 tanks.
The “Close Combat Vehicle” appeared to be the most urgent purchase, but Canada’s procurement approach wasn’t structured to deliver urgency, and CCV has suffered the most from that failure. CCV is now the last unresolved contract, but all 4 sub-programs failed to deliver vehicles in time to help Canada in Afghanistan. Even so, all 4 programs continue to move forward.
The last quarterly report [PDF] from SIGIR (the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) included an interview with OSC-I (Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq) head Lieutenant General Robert Caslen.
Among other things, it provides an interesting breakdown of Iraq’s planned future purchases. Overall:
Lou Kratz, Chairman of NDIA Logistics Management Division and a Vice President of Logistics and Sustainment at Lockheed Martin, introduced the event with an assertive view of American overwhelming force and power projection, facing an immediate insidious threat (i.e. terrorists and insurgents) with a peer competitor (the official euphemism for China) rising over the long run. The rest of the morning unfolded with more reserved speakers who tried, but not always succeeded, in convincing industry attendants that there’s light at the end of the tunnel in a context of not just declining, but more importantly messed up budgets.
The $300+ billion, multi-national F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the largest single military program in history. It’s also reaching a critical nexus. In order to keep costs under control and justify the industrial ramp up underway, participating countries need to sign order agreements soon. The problem is that the F-35 isn’t a proven fighter design, with a demonstrated baseline of performance in service. It’s a developmental aircraft in the early middle of its test program, which is now scheduled to continue until 2018 or even 2019.
As one might expect, this status makes the F-35 a controversial long-term bet in many of the program’s member countries. Costs aren’t certain, numbers ordered are slipping in many countries, and timelines aren’t certain after numerous schedule delays. With combat testing still a year or 2 away, even operational performance isn’t certain. That performance is a big deal to many air forces that expect to field the F-35 as their only fighter.
This article takes a much closer look at the F-35’s real air superiority potential and weaknesses, from the 2008 RAND Pacific Vision study that triggered so much controversy, to other analyses and subsequent developments. Understanding and their implications for partner nation participation has only grown in importance since 2008. Let us begin…
As fiscal year 2012 came to a close Congress bought time with a continuing resolution. And as the new civil year started, Congress begrudgingly applied a short-term patch to avoid the fiscal cliff, while the President eventually signed a FY13 authorization bill containing language he had threatened to veto for months. By March 2013 everyone seemed to capitulate to wrap up appropriations for the rest of the year. But FY13 appropriations ended up including sequestration, an outcome that few had predicted since the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011. The FY14 budget cycle then started late, with only dim hope of a more reasonable outcome.
The UK’s long-established International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) recently published a Military Balance 2013 report which makes some reasonable observations about the current state of global affairs, but unquestioning media parroting of some of its talking points invites more scrutiny. Namely, one of the report’s charts puts Chinese defense spending possibly above the US within a dozen years, and continues to project current spending trends until 2050, in current dollars, with today’s exchange rates. Unfortunately, if this is taken at face value as a prediction, it’s misleading and pointless…