China’s first aircraft carrier was delivered to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)… or was it really? After Vice President’s Xi Jinping temporary disappearance for two weeks earlier this month for reasons that remain unclear, there’s a disturbing level of opacity and fuzziness in the current news flow out of China.
Boeing is pitching its C-17s to South Africa while China has made a concerted push at this year’s Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) in Tshwane (formerly Pretoria).
In September 2012, the Thai Air Force signed an undisclosed contract with EADS Eurocopter for 4 EC725 medium search and rescue (SAR) helicopters. The twin-engine EC725 Cougar features a unique digital 4-axis autopilot, which is very useful for precise positioning during retrievals. It’s also a good deal larger than the Army’s H-60 Black Hawks and UH-1 Hueys, with seating on board for 25 persons. Based on contracts elsewhere, a price of around $180-220 million seems likely. Deliveries will take place in 2015, at which point Thailand will join their neighbor Malaysia and Singapore as local military operators of the Super Puma family.
There’s also a larger competition underway for business within Thailand, as the country looks to modernize its Vietnam-era helicopter fleet. Read “Huey’s Departure: Thailand’s New Helicopters” for full coverage, including subsequent Thai EC725 purchases.
Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale told the House Armed Services Committee that he thought large cancellation fees would be largely avoidable in case sequestration was implemented. The Pentagon would focus on lowering quantities and postponing shipbuilding within existing contracts wherever possible. Unpaid furloughs may be part of the mix too.
In September 2012, Beretta USA Corp. in Accokeek, MD received a 5-year, $64 million firm-fixed-price contract for up to 100,000 of their M9 9mm Pistols. All of the pistols will be manufactured at the Beretta USA facility in Maryland, where an American work force of nearly 300 employees has been making M9 pistols since 1987, and will now continue doing so until Sept 8/17. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 4 bids received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI manages this contract (W56HZV-12-D-0011). Beretta USA adds that:
“We are very proud to continue supplying the M9 pistols to the U.S. Army… and we look forward to the opportunity of working with the Army to improve the current M9 design with many of the existing solutions available to us in the new Model 92A1 [USMC] and 96A1 pistol families”.
Beretta’s M9 is the standard sidearm pistol for the US military, with over 600,000 pistols delivered to date. SOCOM operators can use other pistols, and the US Marines’ MARSOC special forces formally decided to go back to the stopping power of Colt’s .45 caliber pistol in July 2012. Even so, Colt will need to fix some of the guns’ failures if they want wider adoption in the Corps.
In September 2012, Northrop Grumman Information Technology Inc. in McLean, VA received an $8.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to support the Biometric Identity Intelligence Resource System. Biometrics has found an important but unheralded niche on modern counter-insurgency battlefields, and there are a number of programs underway within the services. It all starts with the ability to match, and disseminate, biometric personal data to known (and especially flagged/ watchlisted) identities.
Work will be performed in Charlottesville, Va., with an estimated completion date of Sept 6/15. Sixteen bids were solicited, with one bid received by US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) in Charlottesville, VA (W91QUZ-07-D-0005). This order was actually issued under the US Army’s $20 billion ITES-II umbrella contract.
Swedish general Hakan Syren, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, tells it like it is:
“The military capabilities of the EU member states are on a steady downward slope. […] Looking a few years into the future, it is simple mathematics to predict that many member states will be unable to sustain essential parts of their national forces, air forces being the prime example.”
The French and German governments have started talks among advisors about the BAE/EADS merger plans, in preparation of a meeting between President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel this weekend. EADS CEO Tom Enders has argued in a letter seen by AFP [in French] that broader access to international defense markets was vital to EADS, given its current reliance on shrinking European budgets. The primary concern, whether in Berlin or Paris, is preserving jobs and maintaining influence: Der Spiegel [in English] | L’Usine Nouvelle [in French] | Le Monde [in French].
The USA’s Future Combat Systems Class I UAV is intended for reconnaissance, security and target acquisition operations in nearly all terrain, including urban environments. Each system of 2 vertical take-off and landing air vehicles, a dismounted control device, and associated ground support equipment. They can be carried by selected platforms and dismounted soldiers, and possess autonomous flight, navigation, and recovery.
The larger Class II and Class III UAV development programs were canceled in favor of existing options: the RQ-7 Shadow, and MQ-1C SkyWarrior. The planned Class IV MQ-8B Fire Scout was canceled by the Army in 2009, though it will see naval use. Despite excellent field reports for mini-UAV competitors like the RQ-11 Raven, however, Honeywell’s hovering RQ-16 “T-Hawk” initially avoided the axe, found a niche, and made the list for the US Army’s early increment 1 Brigade Combat Team Modernization fielding. It has even seen limited exports – but the Class I program has been canceled.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a data-rich report [PDF] on defense contract spending from 1990 to 2011, based in large part on FPDS data. This has a number of limitations, such as limited visibility into Air Force obligations given their significant use of classified contracts that are not filed in the FPDS database. The document includes a good number of interesting charts that track products vs. services, and relative obligations among and within the three major components. The Navy looks set to become again the biggest recipient among them, as it was before the Army saw a post-9/11 obligations boom that has been receding since 2008. The authors note that:
As US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta meets with Chinese leaders to urge them to solve their differences with Japan through diplomatic channels, protests in China appear to involve a mix of underlying official support and genuine grassroots anger. Real or staged, who in their right mind would long for the good old days when Chairman Mao – whose portrait was waved by demonstrators – starved tens of millions of his countrymen to death? China needs to grow up if they want to be taken as a responsible actor.
Panetta tells Foreign Policy that there’s still some tough fighting ahead in Afghanistan. With the suspension of joint NATO-Afghan ground operations in the wake of continued “green on blue” attacks, this sounds like a sensible warning.
In fall 2012 The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Air Force award Raytheon a $125.3 million contract to modernize and upgrade the US Air Force’s early warning radar (EWR) system at Clear AFS, AK. The existing phased array radar face will remain, but new electronics and back-end software will improve performance. The difference is not a small one – with the upgrades, the upgraded EWR (UEWR) can start providing targeting data to interceptor systems.
The US military is slowly stitching together its missile defense program…