In June 2006, Australian Minister of Defence the Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson announced that Government has approved an A$ 2 billion (USD $1.475 billion at current rates) buy of 34 more NH90 multi-role helicopters.
Australia had already signed a contract for 12 “MRH-90” multi-role helicopters in June 2005 as additional troop lift for the Army, and delivery of that batch is scheduled from December 2007 – December 2009. These additional aircraft will bring the total MRH-90 fleet to 46. Initial deliveries of all MRH90s are still slated for December 2007, with 3 more MRH 90 delivered in 2008 and then 7-8 per year delivered until 2014. Deliveries of Australian-assembled helicopters will commence in December 2008. As these new helicopters are delivered, Australia’s old Sea Kings will be retired in 2010, followed by progressive replacement of the smaller S-70A-9 Black Hawks between 2011-2015.
Anticipated benefits from this consolidation into a single helicopter type include greater operational flexibility and efficiency through common operational, training and logistic systems and a capability to rotate personnel, aircraft, spare parts and role-specific equipment between troop lift, special operations and maritime support commitments. Some of the language and initiatives in the Minister’s statement may also have long-term implications for Australian procurement.
Forecast International reports that Sweden has decided to equip its 5 Visby Class stealth corvettes with Denel’s Umkhonto-IR anti-aircraft missile system (and see PDF brochure) at a total cost of about SEK 1 billion (currently about $149.6 million). The deal has yet to be approved by the Swedish parliament. This Umkhonto (“spear”) relies on inertial guidance coordinates transmitted by the attached 3-D radar, followed by lock-on after launch with the infrared seeker. The entire system is capable of engaging up to 8 targets, and has a range of 12 km and a maximum intercept altitude of about 10 km/ 33,000 feet. Umkhonto is currently in service on Finland’s Hamina class missile boats and Hameenmaa class minelayers, on South Africa’s new Meko Class frigates, and by the South African Army as a land-based SAM(Surface to Air Missile) system.
Visby stealth corvette
Forecast International adds that the stealthy Visby corvette program has received other setbacks and downgrades lately. Earlier in 2007, the new 127 mm ALECTO Anti-Submarine rocket system with its 2 trainable 6-rocket launchers had its development stopped. Visby corvettes will carry RBS15 Mk2 anti-ship missiles with half the range of the Mk3 variant, though their 100km range and warhead punch will still outclass the USA’s much larger Littoral Combat Ships by a wide margin. Unlike the LCS, however, Visby class ships won’t have an enclosed helicopter hangar, since the ship wouldn’t allow enough room for the planned A-109 HKP-15SBO.
A Swedish DID reader takes issue with Forecast International’s characterization, however, and also offers an explanation for the Umkhonto’s selection…
Osborne Construction Co. in Kirkland, WA received a $117.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for design and construction of family housing replacements at Fort Wainwright, AK. Work is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2009. Bids were solicited via the World Wide Web on Oct. 4, 2006, and 1 bid was received by the U.S. Army Engineer District, Elmendorf, Alaska (W911KB-07-C-0018).
Among other tenants, Fort Wainwright is home to the 172nd “Arctic Wolves” Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which earned he Valorous Unit Award (VUA) for service in Iraq from August 2005 – December 2006. Stories like PFC Stephen Sanford’s help to explain why. As for the housing, it was needed yesterday. This message greets visitors to the base’s home page:
“Soldiers reporting to Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, need to know that housing may not be immediately available and that they and their families might be required to live in an extended stay hotel for a lengthy period (several weeks/ months). Soldiers must also be advised that bringing pets is strongly discouraged because extended stay hotels do not allow pets and kennel space is extremely limited. If available, kennels will cost Soldiers approximately $15-$25 per day. It is suggested that Soldiers make arrangements to ship their pets only after permanent lodging is available and that they also check with the airlines to determine whether any travel restrictions exist.”