India’s defense industry has some measure of transparency due to the country’s democratic structure and rule of law, but a powerful bureaucratic tradition contributes a parallel level of obfuscation that makes information less forthcoming than it is in countries like Australia, Britain, the USA, et. al.
Recently, the Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh offered a written reply in India’s Rajya Sabha (Upper Legislative House, lit. “Council of States”) to Shri Tapan Kumar Sen and Shri Mohammed Amin. They wanted to know how many employees worked in each of the main government departments, state-owned corporations, and other major entities associated with defense production in India. The answer was given on Feb 27/08…
Infodefensa adds that bids for the follow-on contract have also been submitted by France’s DCNS (likely the Scorpene AIM-2000, or possibly the in-development Marlin Class), Russia’s Rubin (Advanced Kilo Class, note the recently returned Kilo refit, though), and Germany’s HDW (likely the Type 214).
Thanks to DID subscriber Pedro Lucio for his tip and translation assistance. Interestingly, the Negocios article also says that the Government of India had asked Navantia for a proposal to supply up to 7 modern frigates, but Navantia’s leadership decided not to respond after carefully analyzing the requirements, and taking into account its order book for the next few years. See “India Issues RFI for “Stealth Frigates” for more background on that topic. Navantia is currently building frigates for Spain, Norway, and Australia.
When things go wrong on a naval ship, they can go very badly wrong indeed. Accidents, hostile fire, or hazardous conditions can force a crew to fight to save their vessel. Since humans don’t survive very well in open ocean, it’s usually a fight to save themselves as well. Effective damage control is a critical sailor’s skill, one that cannot be provided as effectively by automated systems. Executing it often requires iron nerve as well as knowledge, which is why testing and training needs to be as realistic as possible.
The Haskell Co. in Jacksonville, FL recently won a $12 million firm-fixed price task order under a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, multiple award construction contract (N62472-01-D-0075/ 0004), to design and build a 2 story Damage Control School Trainer Facility at Naval Support Activity, Norfolk, VA. The facility will provide student training on techniques to arrest ship flooding situations. Construction includes a damage control wet trainer (“USS Buttercup”), trainer rooms, classrooms, and support spaces. Demolition includes a portion of Building #N30 (also including a pool, trainer device and associated equipment) where the current wet-trainer exists on Naval Station, Norfolk. The contract contains one additional option totaling $220,000, which may be exercised within 120 calendar days, bringing the total contract amount to $12.25 million. Work is expected to be complete by September 2009. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic in Norfolk, VA received 2 proposals for this task order.
Maintenance trends are one of the most underrated issues in the defense field. Britain is leading the way with “contracting for availability” approaches that pay fixed annual costs over a system’s lifetime, and reward firms for ready-to-go weapons rather than paying for spares and maintenance hours. America, and many other air forces as well, are grappling with aging aircraft fleets whose average age exceeds their pilots’.
On Feb 25/08, Northrop Grumman Systems Corp in Bethpage, NY received two contracts via the US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD related to Japan’s E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWACS) aircraft. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, and is expected to be complete in June 2010.
On was a $25.9 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against basic ordering agreement N00421-05-G-0001, to provide Upgrade Kits 12 and 13 for the Japanese Foreign Military Sales (FMS) E-2C aircraft program. The other is an $11.2 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against basic ordering agreement N00421-05-G-0001 to provide spare parts for the Japanese E-2C fleet.
On Jan 31/08, French Defence Minister Herve Morin authorized the first public-private partnership contract by the French DGA procurement agency. This kind of arrangement is becoming more common, especially in Britain, but France has lagged in adopting it. Under this arrangement, the firms Défense Conseil International and Proteus Hélicoptères will supply 36 new Eurocopter EC120 helicopters to replace the Ecole d’application de l’aviation legere de l’armee de terre’s (EAALAT, Fench Army aviation school’s) 54 SA342 Gazelle helicopters based in Dax, France. The first EC120s are planned to arrive in 2010, and the 22-year partnership contract also covers an estimated 22,000 fleet helicopter flight hours per year for pilot training.
The contractors will be in charge of buying, operating, servicing and repairing the EC120 helicopters, which will be the contractor’s property over the course of the contract. Pilot training itself will still be provided by the military instructors at EALAAT, which is in charge of the initial training of helicopter pilots of the French Army, Navy, Air Force and Gendarmerie. Pilots of some foreign armies are also trained at EALAAT, per international agreements. DGA release.
Oct 16/09: The DGA accepts the first lot of 3 EC120 NHEs for EAALAT, and the instructors begin flying the next day. DGA release [in French].
In late December 2007, BAE Systems signed a definitive agreement to sell its Surveillance and Attack business in Lansdale, PA to Cobham Defence Electronic Systems Corporation, for $240 million on a debt and cash free basis, payable on completion. The goodwill arising on completion is an allowable tax expense with an estimated net present value of $45 million, resulting in an effective price of $195 million. For the year ended Dec 31/06, BAE’s S&A division generated revenue of $91 million, and profits of $14 million, with gross assets of about $34 million as of Sept 30/07. The effective price represents a multiple of approximately 11.1x 2006 EBITDA.
The cash transaction was expected to close in the first quarter of 2008, following receipt of regulatory approvals. That has now happened.
Lansdale’s 400 or so employees provide broadband high-power transmitter and radio frequency front-end systems for military aircraft.
“[he said] that the contract for the huge airborne tanker program will be awarded by the end of this month, but he also expressed confidence that the protest against the decision already has been written. The reason… is that there are no penalties for a losing bidder to protest, even though the appeals delay vital acquisition programs and cost the military hundreds of millions of dollars. The protest of the November 2006 decision on the Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter, won by the Boeing CH-47, has cost the Air Force $800 million, Carlson said… The general told reporters at a forum sponsored by Aviation Week that there should be some form of penalty instituted for protests that are found to be unwarranted. He said that some losing bidders file protests with 20 or 30 elements when perhaps only one part has any foundation…”
The general is correct concerning the costs, and some US Government Accountability Office protests do appear to cross the line between customer and supplier in attempting to dictate the criteria as well as the process. The near-certainty of protests around major awards has also had the effect of shutting smaller firms out of the bidding altogether for key contracts. There are considerations on the other side of the ledger as well, however…
With delays to satellite programs forcing costly civilian bandwidth buys, and breakthrough programs like TSAT still a distant reality, the US military is looking for ways to deliver bandwidth to the front lines. Urban areas and mountainous in particular can pose a problem, as traditional “line of sight” options have range and coverage issues. the fact that these conditions describe vast swathes of Iraq and Afghanistan illustrates the importance of the problem.
One obvious option is to use a flying communications relay. High-value assets like E-8C JSTARS and Nimrod aircraft have been used in this capacity, but the operational and depreciation costs of their flight hours make this a very expensive solution. Options like Aerovironment’s giant Global Observer hydrogen-powered UAV promise high-altitude relays with strong capacity, but there won’t be very many of those around, either. The US Army in particular was looking for a lower-cost option that could provide more dispersed but smaller coverage areas.
The US Army’s RQ-7 Shadow 200 UAV fleet may not be armed, but it racked up almost 100,000 flight hours in 2007, providing surveillance and targeting to the front lines. Meanwhile Harris Corp.’s JTRS-compatible AN/PRC-152-C Falcon-III handheld radios have racked up their own contracts for short-range tactical communications, competing against Thales’ AN/PRC-148-JEM in the multi-billion dollar CISCHR contract and other awards. Now the US Army has elected to put the two together, and mount AN/PRC-152-C radios in the Shadow 200 UAVs as short-range, widely available communication relays that can keep squads in touch. Harris informs DID that “hundreds” of these packages are being purchased, and notes that this application is still evolving. The Fall 2007 issue of Army Communicator gives this Communications Relay Package a range of up to 170 km/ 105 miles; the PRC-152-C covers the 30-512 MHz frequency range with Advanced Narrowband Digital Voice Terminal (ANDVT) voice, up to 56 kbits/sec data, and an optional High Performance Waveform (HPW). Harris release.