Sikorsky receives multi-million maintenance deal | UK criticised over Wedgetail deal | Italy cuts defense budget, slashes NH-90 acquisition
Sikorsky Aircraft, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, is being contracted to help stem the maintenance burden of the Marine Corps’ CH-53 Super Stallion. The contract is priced at $717.4 million and covers logistics and repair support for 98 components of the CH-53 and MH-53 platforms. H-53 aircraft include the CH-53E Super Stallion medium-heavy transport helicopter that can transport up to 55 troops or 15 tons of cargo, as well as the MH-53E Sea Dragon minesweeper and the MH-53M Pave Low IV CSAR and SOF helicopter. The helicopters have on average a 44:1 maintenance : flying hours ratio. Work will be performed in Cherry Point, North Carolina and Stratford, Connecticut, and is expected to be completed by December 2022.
Northrop Grumman is being tapped to support the Navy’s ongoing DDG-51 New Construction Ship and DDG-51 Midlife Modernization programs. The company will provide the service with common Integrated Bridge and Navigation Systems (IBNS) at a cost of $18.1 million. The IBNS is a hull, mechanical and electrical upgrade and part of the comprehensive plan to modernize the DDG-51 class to ensure the ships remain combat relevant and affordable throughout their life. The systems to be installed include radar systems, navigation software, ship control software, chart servers, network interface boxes, flat panel displays, global positioning systems, and ship control display systems. Back fit installation of the IBNS systems by the Navy will be conducted at the home ports of the vessels during their modernization windows. This contract also includes a number of options which, if exercises, would raise the total value to $163.9 million. Work will be performed at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The US Air Force is procuring a number of depot level maintenance services from L3 Technologies. The awarded contract is valued at $55.3 million and covers the Organic Depot Activation of MQ-9 communications and data link parts. L3’s tactical common datalink is part of the MQ-9 sensor payload, which can also include General Atomics’ Lynx synthetic aperture radar. A common datalink guarantees the interoperability of military systems and helps the military to achieve information dominance. The common datalink is a family of full duplex, jam-resistant, point-to-point microwave communication links used in imagery and signals intelligence collection systems. Work will be performed at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania and at the Warner-Robins Air Logistics Complex in Georgia. The contract is set to run through October 21, 2021.
Middle East & Africa
Turkish media confirms that the country will start installing S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in October 2019. National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the Daily Sabah the military is currently selecting the right personnel which will later be sent to Russia for training. Turkey’s $2 billion purchase of the Russian-made systems was seen as a controversial move by many international observers and raised concern among other NATO member countries. Some US politicians even pressed for cancelling the delivery of F-35 JSFs to Turkey. Regarding this issue, Akar said he did not expect any problems with the delivery of the aircraft. Referencing Ankara’s rift with the US over the S-400 deal, Akar said that when taking into account the current political climate and military situation experiencing such an unfavorable row again was highly unlikely and the project is continuing as anticipated. Turkey is a Tier 3 partner in the JSF program and is expected to buy up to 100 F-35As at a cost of $16 billion.
Flight Global reports that the UK’s planned procurement of the E-7 Wedgetail system jointly produced by Boeing and Northrop Grumman is raising major concerns by rival producers of AEW&C aircraft. Defense secretary Gavin Williamson in early October confirmed that the UK is in early discussions with Boeing linked to a potential E-7 purchase, describing the 737-based system as “the stand-out performer in our pursuit of a new battlefield surveillance aircraft”. Saab is fiercely stepping up its efforts to halt the non-competitive acquisition. “We are concerned by the lack of competition and the lack of dialogue and response from MoD,” said Andre Walton, head of Saab UK, who notes that Saab’s “significant investment in the UK” is premised on an understanding that the nation is committed to “fair and transparent, free-market competition”. In a recent letter to Defense Committee chairman Julian Lewis, Walton offered the integration of Saab’s Erieye AESA and mission equipment onto the RAF’s A330 Voyager aircraft, which would reduce program costs by removing the need to acquire new aircraft. Flight Global states that factors behind the UK’s preference for the E-7 system stem from a reluctance to invest in a potentially risky development activity, with an acquisition to instead draw on Australia’s large investment in, and operational experience with the Wedgetail’s capability.
The Italian government is slashing its defense budget to free resources for a new welfare program. Officials in Rome will cut about $512.3 million from the budget which will be announced to parliament in the coming days. As a result Italy will halt all ongoing purchases of NH-90 helicopters in 2019, and will suspend the planned upgrade of its Tornado aircraft. Italy planned to spend about $4.5 billion on 56 NH-90s for its Army and Navy. The country is also putting a $34 million deal for the MBDA Camm-Er missile defense system on hold, but expects its restart in one years time. The only program that makes the cut will be the F-35 although upcoming purchases will be slowed in order to spread out payments.
Raytheon says the the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) conducted five flight tests of the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) interceptor over the summer. During the tests the navy fired three SM-2 Block IIIB missiles to destroy simulated aerial threats. The SM-2 is the most commonly encountered variant, and a long series of upgrades have kept it current over the years. SM-2 Block IIIB is the most popular version at present, swapping ICWI capability for an infrared (IR) guidance mode capability developed by the Missile Homing Improvement Program (MHIP). SM-2 versions are provided as medium range (50 mile) rounds that can be fired from AEGIS rail launchers, AEGIS vertical launch systems, and Tartar rail launchers. Raytheon discontinued production of the missile in 2013, but restarted the SM-2 line in 2017 after demand from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands, according to the company.
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