Switzerland’s Pilatus Aircraft Ltd recently announced a EUR 22.5 million contract win against international competition. The firm will deliver 6 PC-12 NG light aircraft to the Finnish Air Force. The planes will be used in will be used as Multi Purpose Liaison Aircraft to transport Finnish air force personnel and cargo, replacing the Ilmavoimat’s existing Piper PA-31-350 Chieftains.
The selection follows more than 12 months of assessment and an extensive flight evaluation phase in Stans, Switzerland and the harsh Arctic Circle conditions of Iqaluit, Canada.
The PC-12 is a popular light aircraft, with the ability to take off and land using short dirt or grass runways. Over 850 are in service around the world, mostly as civilian aircraft. Para-public and military users beyond Switzerland include Canada’s RCMP, US Customs and Immigration, and US Special Operations Command (as the U-28A). The PC-12NG was unveiled in 2007 with an uprated turboprop engine (PW’s PT6-67P) that gives it better climb performance and cruise speed, a Honeywell APEX “glass” (digital) cockpit, and improvements to the cockpit pressurization and navigation systems.
The Mk15 Phalanx system was originally developed as a ship’s final hope against incoming missiles: a radar-guided 20mm gatling gun would would fire up to 6,000 rounds per minute, throwing up a last-ditch wall of lead. Phalanx has become a popular naval weapon that’s also effective against helicopters, UAVs, and even small boats. It has even migrated onto land, where its “Centurion” version can protect a 1.2 km square area against incoming mortars and rockets.
“The Centurion system has provided a near-term C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortars) solution for our deployed forces. But we know that our customers would like a larger defended footprint beyond the kinematics of a gunbased system. A missile is too expensive, so we are looking instead at a solution based on the adaptation of a robust but relatively lowpower, low beam-quality commercial laser… By using clever optics to focus the laser beam at range, we demonstrated that we could achieve sufficient energy on target to deflagrate a 60mm mortar round.”
The concept has promise – but it also has substantial obstacles to overcome before it can become militarily useful…
In 2008, the US government set up a database for its own use, to track various forms of contractor misconduct. That database hasn’t been made public, but the American Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has collated information from various sources, and stepped into the gap at ContractorMisconduct.org. Their latest update adds 2007 contract data from USASpending.gov, and misconduct data from a range of other sources.
Defense firms are strongly represented among the top-earning federal contractors, which isn’t entirely surprising given industry consolidation over the past couple of decades. All of the top 10, and 15 of the top 20 individual contractors, have strong links to the defense industry. With respect to misconduct instances since 1995, #1 earner Lockheed Martin is also #1 (50), while #2 earner Boeing is 4th (31). Other defense-related firms in the negative 10 include G.E. (3rd, though their reach is far wider than defense), Honeywell (5th), Northrop Grumman (6th) and KBR (10th). Exxon Mobil, BP, Valero, and the University of California round out the negative 10.
“Misconduct” is a wide-ranging term that covers instances of environmental violations, prohibited trade and negotiating practices, labor issues, lawsuits launched by private citizens, securities fraud settlements, and more. There’s even one case involving employee embezzlement from the company PAC(Political Action Committee, a vehicle for campaign contributions).
We’d be remiss if we failed to mention several firms with significant defense-related accounts, who received more than $1 billion in FY 2007 federal contracts, but have no instances of misconduct since 1995. In descending order of FY 2007 contract totals, they include Oshkosh Truck, The Bell-Boeing Joint Program (V-22 Osprey), PWC Logistics, Rockwell Collins, and EDO Corp. (now ITT).
The F-35 stealth fighter family is the largest defense program in the world, with estimated total costs of about $300 billion for development and for all planned aircraft. That program size, the number of countries participating, and the level of length of their commitment to a single aircraft type also makes it one of the world’s most important future weapons. The F-35 designs’ future success or failure on the battlefield are consequential enough that failure could alter regional, and even global, balances of power.
In May 2008, POGO obtained a Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) report suggesting that “advanced aviation and weapons technology for the JSF program may have been compromised by unauthorized access at facilities and in computers at BAE Systems…”, and documenting lack of cooperation with the Defense Security Service from BAE. Now a Wall Street Journal report, filed in the wake of its revelations that crackers have infiltrated the USA’s power grid and left behind malicious software, reveals thefts from the F-35 program as well.
Djibouti is an important base for western navies, the French Foreign Legion, and the US Marines. It sits in a very strategic location, at the entrance to the Red Sea and astride the passage from the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal. Growing pirate troubles to the southeast, around the area that used to be Somalia, have magnified Djibouti’s importance.
The URS-IAP, LLC joint venture in Austin, TX recently received $11.3 million for a cost reimbursement task order under a billion-dollar multiple-award construction contract (N62470-06-D-6009, #0012) issued in August 2006 by the US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic in Norfolk, VA. The joint venture between IAP Worldwide Services and San Francisco based engineering design firm URS Corp. will design and build a 2,150 square meter aircraft maintenance hangar and a 340 square meter telecommunications facility at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, by November 2010. All 3 awardees under this multiple-award contract bid for this task order.
Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, WI supplies the US Marine Corps’ and /Navy Seebee construction battalions with MTVR medium trucks. The vehicles come in several types, but all are distinguished by having very good off-road capabilities for trucks, with 7.1 ton payload capacity off-road and an on-road payload capacity of up to 15 tons. In order to fit into cargo aircraft like the C-130, the trucks can fold down part of the cab, reducing the vehicle’s height.
The picture above shows an MTVR in that stowed configuration.
April 10/09: Oshkosh received a $10.6 million fixed-price delivery order under an existing indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract (M67854-04-D-5016, #0071) for 442 reducible-height armor kits on MTVR cargo, dump and tractor-trailer variants, and armor kits on MTVR wrecker variants at Jacksonville, FL. Israeli firm Plasan Sasa has been Oshkosh’s partner in this area since 2005.
Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by May 31/10. The Marine Corps System Command in Quantico, VA manages this contract. See also Oshkosh release.
The April 20/09 launch of the RISAT-2 satellite gives India the ability to monitor cross-border movements of suspected terrorists, as well as troop movements in Pakistan and other neighboring countries, at night and under all weather conditions. The satellite was reportedly a modified TECSAR satellite, purchased from Israel Aerospace Industries for $200 million. Indian sources state that the satellite launch was accelerated after the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai.
The 300 kg/ 660 pound TECSAR’s military X-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) provides up to 1 meter radar resolution was carried into low earth orbit aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C-12) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center located on the barrier island of Sriharikota in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The PSLV-C-12 also carried the 40 kg/ 88 pound experimental communication ANUSAT satellite built by Chennai-based Anna University.
The satellite purchase marks a growing military relationship between India and Israel…
Recent reports had indicated that the RAF was set to disband the 2 Tornado F3 Air Defence Variant squadrons in Leuchars, Scotland a year early. That is now confirmed. The original plan had been to stand down 43 Sqn (The Fighting Cocks) and 111 Sqn (Treble Ones) in late 2010, but they will now disband in September 2009 as a budgetary measure.
The Tornado was originally developed as a variable-sweep wing strike fighter optimized for low-level penetration. With 40% of NATO aircraft slated to base in the UK during wartime, and a need to cover NATO’s northern flank in the war’s early days, RAF Strike Command decided that long-legged interceptors were the missing piece…
The UK’s Ministry of Defence and Babcock International Ltd. have agreed on a 10-year, performance-based, GBP 155 million (currently $230 million) contract for submarine engineering support services across the entire fleet. Work during the 10-year contract period will include deciding what engineering work the submarines require when they undergo their scheduled maintenance. The contract will accompany a GBP 1 billion, 10-year, July 2007 contract with Rolls Royce to maintain the British subs’ nuclear reactors.
With the sale of its Upholder Class diesel-electric submarines to Canada in the late 1990s, Britain became an all-nuclear submarine fleet. A May 2007 purchase made Babcock International the sole owner of Britain’s only dockyard for nuclear submarines, and the maintenance of a qualified workforce on steady terms is an important aspect of Britain’s languishing Defence Industrial Strategy.
European missile manufacturer MBDA plans adjustments to its long-range Meteor active radar guided air-to-air missile, to make it capable of deployment on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The MBDA Meteor will compete for orders with Raytheon’s medium range AIM-120C AMRAAM active radar missile, though the Meteor possesses longer range and several additional technological advances.
This move expands the Meteor’s original designated market, which was the Dassault Rafale, EADS Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen fighter systems. MBDA’s move is interesting for a number of reasons, ranging from the convergence of different fighter system design philosophies to what it implicitly says about their projections re: future fighter exports.