In December 2005, the U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a contract as Product Support Integrator (PSI) for the USAF’s E-4 National Airborne Operations Center fleet. These 4 modified 747-200s were introduced in 1974, and serve as complete flying command posts for national and military authorities. As one might imagine, they are hardened to resist the side-effects of nuclear attack, such as electro-magnetic pulse effects.
The 2005 contract was a 5-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract vehicle, with one 5-year option and a $2 billion cost cap. That’s a lot of money for a small fleet, but the E-4’s plays a military and civil role that gives the program enough leverage to justify it. A long history of support from Boeing includes a number of modernizations, and those continue for various systems within the fleet. DID looks at the aircraft, the program, and ongoing awards.
Australia’s long coast is also its border, and they’ve taken an innovative approach to the problem. Unlike, say, the US Coast Guard, Australia has semi-privatized the coastal patrol function, placing contractors under the Customs service. Once intruders are detected, these contractors can then call on pre-arranged support from civil authorities and/or the Royal Australian Navy and Air Force. Contracted services of this nature are becoming more common around the world, but Australia was really breaking new ground when they began Coastwatch on such a large scale in 1995.
Coastwatch was re-competed, and in 2006, Cobham’s subsidiary Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd retained the contract through the A$ 1+ billion next phase, called Project Sentinel. The new contract under Australia’s CMS04 (Civil Maritime Surveillance 04) program has expanded the fleet and addressed some concerns, but there are still areas where Australia lags a bit behind the leading edge. Even so, Coastwatch remain a touchstone program for countries considering a similar path.
Latest updates[?]: A US funded Jordan Border Security Project with the government of Jordan and US contractor Raytheon is entering its final phase . The $100 million program aims to secure the Hashemite Kingdom against infiltrators from the Islamic State and other extremist organizations operating beyond its border with Syria and Iraq. Under the program, Raytheon and Jordanian subcontractors have been deploying and testing the sensor-fused border barriers while, in parallel, training other Jordanian partners to maintain and operate the system. As well as the barriers, patrol paths and watchtowers, the system is integrated with day and night cameras, ground radars, and a full command, control and communications suite. The system will be completed by the end of next year.
In May 2008, the U.S. Army’s Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM) chose DRS Technologies, Inc. in Gaithersburg, MD (since acquired by Italy’s Finmeccanica) for the initial phase of the Jordan Border Security Program. The overall system will include Distant Sentry(TM) mobile and fixed surveillance towers that utilize a variety of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) sensors, communications between the towers and mobile and fixed Command and Control (C2) Centers, and electronic infrastructure, software, and computing systems for the centers themselves. The Iraqi border is reportedly the focus of the JBSP program, but that country’s borders with Syria are also a concern.
A number of other countries are building or have built similar virtual and/or physical systems, from Saudi Arabia along the Iraq border, to India in Kashmir, to Israel along its hostile borders with Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Note, however, that these systems are not a panacea. Israel’s high-tech systems did not detect or prevent the cross-border Hezbollah kidnappings that led to the 2006 war in Lebanon, however, and the US GAO has been less than complimentary concerning Team Boeing’s SBInet system along the USA’s southern border.
Latest updates[?]: Ghana has acquired a third C-295 from Airbus, following delivery of the first two aircraft also referred to as the C-27J Spartan. The country received the first aircraft in November 2011, the second following in April 2012, with the country's president John Dramani announcing in November last year that the government would acquire a third C-295.
In September 2009, a US DSCA request for 4 C-27J aircraft plus ancillaries and support, at a price of up to $680 million, sparked considerable controversy in Ghana. As we noted at the time, a DSCA request is not a contract. It’s a legal notice under American export laws, and if Congress does not block the sale within 30 days, negotiations may begin.
Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. Its parliament was chosen to host President Obama’s 2009 Africa speech, and the DSCA describes the country and the sale as “…a U.S. Government partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and democracy in Africa.” As of 2011, however, Ghana is not listed or cited among the C-27J’s buyers or operators. On the other hand, it has become a confirmed buyer of Airbus Military’s rival C-295.
In February 2011, with unrest engulfing the Middle East, ATK announced a project with Jordan to turn 2 Jordanian CN-235 light transport aircraft into small aerial gunships. In June 2014, they were so pleased by the results that they decided to convert one of their larger C295s.
The aircraft pack electro-optical targeting systems that include a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, and a weapons suite of Hellfire laser-guided missiles, laser-guided APKWS-II 70mm/2.75 inch rockets, and the same M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun that equips AH-64 Apache helicopters. The weapons are all controlled by ATK’s STAR mission system, turning the Airbus light transports into lethal but relatively inexpensive counter-insurgency platforms…
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?
Brazil’s EMB-314/ A-29 Super Tucano continues to be the aircraft of choice for Latin American air forces who want to conduct drug interdiction and counterinsurgency missions. Their modern trainer/ counterinsurgency concept is slowly replacing the brilliant but under-appreciated OA-37 Dragonfly in the region. The Dominican Republic became the latest example of that trend in 2009, but now American officials are pushing bribery allegations against Brazil’s Embraer.
In a strong-commodity, weak-dollar/Euro world, Russia has the finances it need to replenish its badly depleted military. What it doesn’t have yet is the industrial and engineering capacity, which was lost during the state’s budgetary collapse. The Russians have been paying close attention to global trends, as evidenced by their interest in amphibious assault ships. It’s certainly hard to ignore the big global shift toward blast-resistant vehicles, especially in a state already plagued by various insurgencies within and near its borders.
In 2010, media reports began to surface that Russia was negotiating with Italy’s Iveco, with the aim of buying and license manufacturing the firm’s LMV/MLV/Lince blast resistant vehicles. Russia has little experience in this area, but rather than go with a partnership involving South African players, they targeted the higher-cost end of the global MRAP (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected wheeled vehicle) market. Iveco’s M65 Lince has received praise for its performance in Afghanistan, while receiving orders from Italy, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Norway, Slovakia, and Spain. At over 350 ordered vehicles, Russia’s “Rys” fleet is already one of the firm’s largest contracts – with the potential to become Iveco’s largest customer by far.
China has ramped up mass production techniques and coordination between its shipyards to allow a rapid modernization of its fleet, with some degree of versatility thanks to modular construction. The Diplomat.
Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov is expecting his country’s shipyards to launch 5 combat and support ships per year in years to come. RIA Novosti.
Australia is not the only country where high commodity prices make it harder for its Navy to retain qualified personnel: Norway is facing similar issues.
The administrative surcharge rate charged by the US through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) is down from 3.8% to 3.5%, effective today.
The Center for American Progress and the Institute for Policy Studies, two left-wing American think tanks, are advocating the implementation of a unified security budget, and defense budget cuts at the scale, but not in the shape, of the sequester. PDF report.
In the US Army’s latest Q&A about the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) it plans for its fleet of Landing Craft Utility 2000 (LCU 2000) vessels, a point small businesses need to understand beyond this one program: “component (replace/refurbish) decisions would be made by the prime contractor.” An Industry Day should take place next December or January. TACOM.
Switzerland’s intelligence service reportedly advised in its weekly report for the Swiss Federal Council to consider participating in NATO’s European missile defense system. That would obviously be quite a break from neutrality. Tages-Anzeiger [in German].
A single plant, dating from World War 2, still provides almost all of the US military’s small arms ammunition (up to 12.7mm). The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Missouri has been operated by ATK for a long time, and was the USA’s only facility until recently. Ammunition shortages forced the Army to add General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems in St Petersburg, FL as a limited 2nd supplier in 2005. That effort went hand-in-hand with modernization at Lake City, however, and even if orders escalated to 2 billion rounds per year, GD-OTS would provide only 300-500 million of those rounds.
In 2012, the US Army competed the management contract for Lake City, and Alliant Techsystem Operations LLC in Independence, MO won the contract again. The totals really add up.