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.
The United Arab Emirates’ AED 3.4 billion (EUR 703 million/ $925 million) “Falcon Eye” optical observation satellites are meant to provide a wholly new capability to their military by 2018, and represented the most advanced optics France had ever sold to another country. France’s CNES cites 0.7m / 2′ 4″ spatial resolution for the Pleiades Class at nadir, and a field of view of 20 km. EADS DS/ Astrium touts up to 100 km x 100 km in strip mapping mode.
The deal has had a rough road lately, and is currently hung up in re-negotiations…
In 1991, Taiwan’s $2.8 billion buy of 6 Kang Ding Class multi-role stealth frigates from France, purchased the navy’s current high-end surface combatants. These ships are derivative of the Lafayette Class, which has been used as the base platform for several nations’ frigate designs – but they have critical weaknesses due to technologies not transferred to Taiwan.
That’s not the only weakness associated with this purchase. A major bribery scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars has percolated for several years – and is also associated with a murder. It’s now associated with a demands for around $950 million in fines, most of which is already owed by Thales and the French state under international court rulings. The rest is tied up in a 2nd lawsuit, against DCNS.
Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and ongoing mobilization near Ukraine’s borders, left Ukraine in a difficult position. The new government was still trying to come together after the sudden popular overthrow of its predecessor, and faced an array of serious problems, but national defense remains top of the list. One of their early steps has been to appoint a new head of state firm Ukroboronprom, which runs the military-industrial complex. The task before temporary Acting Director Yuriy Tereshenko is huge, as he tries to reform an inefficient industry with quality and corruption problems. As one of his first acts, he’s offering 100 wheeled APCs to the new Ukrainian National Guard, mostly BTR-4 models.
Where do they come from? Well, that’s the bad news…
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?
The nuclear-powered Improved Los Angeles Class (SSN-688i) submarine USS Miami (SSN 755) was ordered in 1983 and built by General Dynamics Electric Boat. She was commissioned in 1990, is homeported in Groton, CT, and was the focus of Tom Clancy’s 1993 non-fiction book Submarine: A Guided Tour Inside a Nuclear Warship. In May 2012, a civilian shipyard worker in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard caused a fire, which quickly spread through its forward compartments. It took the efforts of more than 100 firefighters to save her. The cost of the necessary facelifts and fixes was so high that the Navy eventually decided to retire the boat.
In June 2006, the Slovenian Ministry of Defence picked Patria’s 8×8 wheeled Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV) as the preferred choice for its 135 vehicle armored personnel carrier program. The APCs would come in 4 different versions, including a variant with Patria’s new unmanned NEMO 120mm mortar turret. The deal was worth over EUR 275 million, with deliveries to take place from 2007-2013.
An ongoing bribery investigation led to the resignation of Patria’s President and CEO, and eventually to his arrest. A long-running controversy became a continuous distraction, and there were issues with sub-contractor performance along the way. In 2011, a new government cabinet unanimously voted to try and cancel the deal. In 2012, they succeeded.
One country’s disaster can be another country’s good fortune. After Australia’s bargain-hunting naval helicopter program had turned into a A$ 100 million per helicopter upgrade nightmare, they had some unpleasant choices to make. In 2007, Australia’s Liberal Party government elected to continue the Super Seasprite program – but their successor Labor Party government reversed that decision in 2008, and come to an interesting agreement with Kaman: We stop development, you get the helicopters for resale, we agree on financial terms for both items.
In 2013, New Zealand decided that replacing their 5 existing SH-2Gs helicopters with 8 upgraded, low airframe life SH-2G(I)s was an attractive deal. Especially with missiles and training simulators thrown in. Australia’s problem had become their opportunity.
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.
Former National Security Council (NSC) non-proliferation staffer and potential Pentagon AT&L advisor Jofi Joseph isn’t the first person to be undone by social media, and he won’t be the last. The inconvenient truth is that social media security isn’t even close to the main takeaway from this episode.
Our advice re: social media still stands, but we should begin by acknowledging that Twitter just did the US government a big favor…