The credit crunch, and ensuing financial system meltdown, have hastened the current recession. The response from many governments around the world has been classically Keynesian, in the form of “economic stimulus” spending. Some countries, like France, have used that spending as a way to accelerate key military equipment modernization projects. The USA and Australia, in contrast, are choosing to focus the small military components of that spending on infrastructure projects of various kinds.
Back in January 2009, “US Stimulus Plan: A Bare Cupboard for Defense?” wondered what military-related inclusions might look like. On March 20/08, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced details of approximately 3,000 military construction and facility improvement projects funded by the military’s $7.4 billion slice of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The $5.9 billion budget for these construction and repair projects represents the bulk of the defense-related funding provided by the ARRA, which was signed into law on Feb 17/09. The 2 largest DoD ARRA projects will be new hospitals at Camp Pendleton, CA, and Fort Hood, TX. A dedicated Pentagon mini-site has been set up to track and publicize associated projects, including weekly update reports.
One area to watch very closely is the $300 million in military dollars for “near-term energy technology research.” It will be coupled with another $100 million for conservation investments.
In Australia, meanwhile, the government has announced an A$ 793.1 million (about $553 million equivalent) construction program for new facilities and supporting infrastructure at Defence bases around Australia, designed to last from 2009-2011. Recent announcements under that program have included a variety of “Enhanced Land Force Stage 1” related projects…
“If the United States ranks near the bottom amongst India’s defence suppliers, Washington’s penchant for imposing sanctions and restrictions has much to do with it. Now, the US appears to have shot itself in the foot again. The Indian Navy chose to power its indigenously designed, cutting-edge stealth warship, the INS Shivalik, with gas turbines from American company General Electric (GE). But even as the Shivalik readies for sea trials, the US State Department has ordered GE to stop all work.”
In July 2006, “India Orders 3 More Krivak III/Talwar Class Frigates” covered a $1.1 billion Indian order. The Krivak III Class is the basis for several current and future Indian Navy designs. These include the initial 1997 order, the “modified Krivak III” order placed in 2006, India’s “Project 17” Shivalik Class frigates, and a “Project 17A” that could either extend Indian modifications of the Krivak IIIs once again, or adopt an entirely different base platform.
Shivalik Class frigates are larger than the Talwar Class, and feature additional shaping and design changes to lower their radar and infrared signatures. They also adopted a popular American turbine for combat propulsion, in hopes of improving operational reliability. Those engines are now sowing grave doubts about a different kind of reliability. As the saying goes, there is now good news, and bad news…
Flight International reports that the Elisra joint venture between Elbit Systems (70%) and Israel Aaerospace Industries (30%) recently received a $25 million contract to supply an “integrated electronic warfare suite” for the ROKAF’s 12 C-130H Hercules tactical transports.
The exact model(s) were not named, but the report did say that the system will be capable of coping with both infrared-guided and radar-guided threats. That description could fit the Spectrolite SPS-65V-5, an all-in-one system that Elisra introduced in February 2008.
Elisra is making inroads into the Korean market. This recent win builds on a February 2009 order to equip KAI’s initial 4 F/A-50 lightweight fighter prototypes with Elisra self-protection systems; the fighters will also carry IAI Elta’s EL/M-2032 multi-mode radar. Israel’s defense ties with South Korea are growing slowly but steadily. A variety of UAV and electronics sales to Korea have even included advanced ballistic missile tracking radars. On the flip side, the Israeli Air force is considering Korea’s T-50 family as a possible replacement for its A-4 Skyhawks.
Kongsberg has announced a NOK 150 million (about $24 million equivalent) contract from Finmeccanica’s Italian shipyard Fincantieri. Kongsberg will deliver 2 command and weapon control systems, which will equip 2 more Salvatore Todaro/ U212A Class submarines that Fincantieri is building for the Italian Navy. ThyssenKrupp and Fincantieri worked together on the design under a 1996 Memorandum of Agreement, and Salvatore Todaro was commissioned in 2006.
The U212A is a modernized outgrowth of ThyssenKrupp’s ubiquitous U209 Class, with the addition of supplemental air-independent propulsion systems for quieter operation and long dives. Since diesel-electric submarines are most detectable, and most vulnerable, when they surface for air to feed their engines, AIP is a big step forward for non-nuclear submarines. In April 2006, a German U-212A set a world record for non-nuclear subs with a two-week-long dive from Eckernfoerde in Germany to Rota in Spain.
U-212A Salvatore Todaro
The combat system contract was won against international competition, but Kongsberg came in with a number of advantages. One is commonality; a 1998 contract had already supplied the Salvatore Todaro and the Scire with Kongsberg’s combat system. The second advantage is history. Kongsberg has more than 35 years’ experience of delivering command and weapon control systems for Norwegian, German and Italian submarines.
Afghanistan has forced a number of participating countries to upgrade their UAV fleets through purchase and rental, and Dutch forces are no exception. They have bought Aladin and Raven mini-UAVs, and a recent announcement indicates that they’re about to retire their old, limited Sperwer-A UAVs as of March 1/09. Instead of buying replacements, they will join the rent-a-UAV trend.
The concept of renting front-line military equipment would have seemed outlandish a very short time ago. Now, UAVs like Boeing’s ScanEagle are rented and operated by contractors on the front lines of battle, Britain has rented Elbit Systems’ mid-size Hermes 450 UAVs until its derivative Watchkeeper system is fielded, and Canada is renting IAI’s large, long-endurance Heron UAVs for use in Afghanistan. P.W. Singer’s recent book Wired for War even discusses examples of human rights groups inquiring about renting or buying UAVs to monitor key conflict zones. Private surveillance UAVs are already operating along the US-Mexican border, and additional examples around the globe seem to be just a matter of time. The times, they are a’ changing.
The Dutch have picked Aeronautics Defense Systems’ Aerostar UAV, and that firm has just confirmed the contract…