Monthly Archives: December 2017

The World According to Shephard: Week 51

As 2017 draws to a close, everyone here at Shephard has been celebrating a record year and Beth Maundrill took a look at some of the highlights from the past 12 months.

Read of the week:

After the Korea Coast Guard (KCG) was forced to confront Chinese fishing boats early this week Gordon Arthur takes a look at the mounting tensions between the two nations. The incident saw KCG personnel fire 249 warning shots after a fleet of 44 Chinese boats was spotted operating within South Korea’s EEZ.

Unmanned intrigues

It has emerged that the Bangladesh Air Force is seeking to join the ranks of nations operating MALE UAVs after releasing an RfP for a system that would comprise three to four aircraft. The armed UAV’s maximum range will be 1,000km with a payload capacity of at least 120kg. Chinese and Turkish manufacturers are expected to be the primary bidders for the contract.

Boeing has released additional details relating to its MQ-25 unmanned refuelling tanker bid. According to Boeing the UAS is completing engine runs before heading to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations early next year.

The UK MoD is also looking to procure new UAS, as it seeks to enhance its ISR capabilities with 14 tethered UAS platforms. The contract is valued at £2 million and is expected to commence in March 2018 and run for two years.


Heli Highlights

This week Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor prototype successfully completed its first flight. The aircraft can be seen taking off and flying at a low altitude in a short video released by Bell. The data from the maiden flight will now be reviewed before the aircraft undergoes future tests.

In Kuwait an investigation has been ordered into a 41.1 billion deal to buy 30 military helicopters from France. An article in the French Marianne magazine sparked the investigation after reporting that a middleman had demanded tens of millions of euros from Airbus as a commission.


Building cyber ramparts

The proposed acquisition of Gemalto by Thales indicates efforts to increase its cyber security offering. Thales follows a host of high-profile defence primes that have already increased capability and added clients in the cyber security market through acquisitions.

Meanwhile Raytheon has developed an immersive cyber security training system that has been designed for individual and collaborative training as it has its eye on the US DoD’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment requirement.

2017: a Shephard year in review

It has been quite the year for the Shephard Media editorial team and we have all certainly racked up the air miles.

We’ve also expanded the team, welcoming Alice Budge and Tim Martin on board as new reporters. Expanding our presence in the US we’ve also named Ashley Roque as North American Editor.

Now there’s time to take a look back at some of the news highlights from 2017 across the defence and aerospace world.

The year started off with the launch of a new helicopter concept in March as Bell Helicopter revealed the FCX-001 at Heli-Expo in Dallas. The new medium twin-sized aircraft, positioned as slightly bigger than the Bell 412 in length and in width. It will be interesting to see how Bell incorporates technologies from the FCX-001 into future designs and new aircraft.

Meanwhile, Turkish Aerospace Industries was flaunting its T129 at every opportunity, with appearances at Paris Air Show, Dubai Air Show and Defense and Security in Bangkok.

Speaking to Shephard at the Paris Air Show, the manufacturer of the T129 Atak and the T625 multirole helicopter said it is looking towards next year and considering the introduction of new platforms.

Meanwhile at sea, the UK designated 2017 as the year of the Royal Navy. With the first steel cutting of the Type 26 BAE Systems and the UK Government are now looking to export the vessel to the likes of Canada. The government is also focusing its efforts on export with the new and ongoing Type 31e (e for export, who’d have guessed) which will see the Royal Navy commission some new light frigates.  

Of course we could not ignore the developments of the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier. As the first of the two vessels has been commissioned questions surround the spend on the vessels and what this means for the future of shipbuilding. 

In the unmanned arena there has been progress on a couple of major military efforts, the first being the US Navy’s desire for a tanker refuelling UAV, known as the MQ-25 Stingray, in an unexpected announcement Northrop Grumman said it would no longer pursue the programme. Despite this Boeing recently unveiled its design for the programme.

On the ground the US Army continues to look for a load carrying robot under its Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) programme. The army ended the year by announcing that four UGVs would enter Phase II of SMET, which will begin in 2018. You can read full details of the final four here.

This year the team made its annual jaunt over the Washington DC for the AUSA Annual Meeting in October. Focuses for the US Army this year included the evolution of active protection systems with the service looking to speed up the acquisition of such a system for the in-service M1A2 Abrams tank.

Meanwhile, the French Army continued its revolution as it continues to make gains with the Scorpion modernisation programme. In the summer, Shephard got a close up look of the prototype during a visit to Nexter Systems facility in Satory, near Paris.

Speaking of revolution, a quiet one may be underway in the defence industry as some of the largest players are beginning to adopt blockchain technology. This year saw the digital ledger technology increasingly being touted as the answer to challenges faced by ever more data-reliant and connected military establishments.

In the simulation and training arena we saw Northrop Grumman drop out of another programme, the US Air Force’s T-X effort to find an Advanced Pilot Training (APT) aircraft. Boeing, Leonardo DRS and Lockheed Martin remain in the race and 2018 should bring further developments.

Of course this just skims the surface of what the team has covered during 2017 and the events we have attended. All of the news content, magazines and videos from 2017 can of course be found on the Shephard Media website and we look forward to seeing you in 2018.

The World According to Shephard: Week 50

Kuwait all day for a fast jet…

Show news this week was dominated by GDA 2017 as industry brought their key assets to the Middle East’s premier aerospace event, held in Kuwait. Among the big stories we learned that final assembly of the Eurofighter Typhoon is anticipated to start early in 2018 with subsequent deliveries scheduled for 2020. In tandem, the ASR Captor-E continues to undergo testing.


Meanwhile the Kuwaiti armed forces is to receive delivery of additional Patriot missile firing units imminently, according to industry officials speaking at the show. The Gulf country will retain two more systems from Raytheon, as a follow on to those they received in the early 1990s, as well as Patriot Advanced Capability-3 hit-to-kill missiles from Lockheed Martin.

As ever, a full rundown of all the news from the show, alongside video content can be found on our dedicated microsite here.

Notes on a shipbuilders scandal

Taiwan has cancelled a minehunter contract between the Republic of China Navy and Ching Fu Shipbuilding. The shipbuilder has suffered from a ‘serious financial crisis’ recently and has also witnessed the Coast Guard Administration take decisive action by rescinding a patrol boat construction contract – following Ching Fu’s failure to deliver boats in keeping with deadline. Twenty-eight 100t patrol boats were under contract in that deal with Ching Fu only managing to deliver 13.


The minehunter programme, formally known as Project Kang Ping Phrase II, dates back to 2014. Worth NTD35 billion ($1.16 billion), the project had been created to build six minehunters by 2025.

Lessors to enjoy wind in their sales

A new report from Waypoint Leasing has revealed that wind farms are increasingly turning to the civil helicopter market to support their transport needs. Two main reasons for the emergence of such a trend are identified by the report, namely, new wind farm projects being created further from shore and the strategic advantage offered by helicopters over crew transfer vessels.


Moving from lessors to manufacturers, Leonardo has confirmed its received orders for eight AW139s. Two of the eight aircraft will be handed over to the Italian Coast Guard for SAR operations while the Italian Customs and Border Protection Service will take receipt of the other six – reserving them for patrol operations.

Ukraine revs up rocket firing tests 

Alex Mladenov reports that the Ukraine MoD has completed a rocket firing test campaign using its two new combat helicopter types – the Russian Helicopters Mi-8MSB and Mi-2MSB – with both aircraft also receiving upgrades from Motor Sich.

The testing included the Mi-2MSB firing a series of two, four and eight rockets launched simultaneously, with the demonstration used to evaluate aircraft and engine behaviour when using the powerful S-8.


Talking about an AI revolution

China’s AI military capabilities have been examined in a new report from the Center for a New American Security. Wendell Minnick reports that author Elsa Kania ‘paints a disturbing picture of China’s AI military modernisation programmes,’ and one that could potentially wipe out the US military by 2030.


According to Kania, the country is focusing its efforts on ‘impact and disruptive military applications of AI’ with the intention of becoming the leading superpower of the technology. Should such a target be achieved, it would represent a strategic capability shift between China and the US while altering the very nature of warfare itself.






Defence spending: the boom times are back

Spending in the military world may once again be on the uptick after five consecutive years of decline according to a new report by SIPRI.

Over the past few years we’ve all heard the defence industry rumblings about sequestration, budget squeezes and cost efficiency but it seems that these terms might be in the past, for now.

You only have to look at some of the ongoing regional tensions to guess why defence spending might be increasing, that accompanied with various major national weapons programmes and ongoing military operations.

Recently, there have been reports of the US Military conducting operations in almost every African nation. Tensions in Eastern Europe have led to nations neighbouring Russia to increase their military capabilities and in Asia tensions over the South China Sea and North Korean aggression continues to help spur on defence spending.

Specifically SIPRI looks at the top 100 arms-producing companies from 2016 with sales totalling $374.8 billion for the year.

In line with increased spending the report found that arms sales by US-based companies in the top 100 rose by 4% in 2016 to $217.2 billion.

With a belligerent neighbour to the north, South Korean companies in the Top 100 increased their arms sales by 20.6% to $8.4 billion in 2016.

Moreover, the Ukraine, with its ongoing Russia issues, saw its national defence developer, Ukroboronprom, increase arms sales by 25.1% in 2016. This is primarily a result of high local demand as a result of conflict in the east of the country.

As for the companies themselves, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, all for the US, come in the top three. Followed by the UK’s BAE Systems at four and Northrop Grumman in at number five.

Lockheed Martin increased its arms sales by 10.7% in 2016, reaching $40.8 billion, according to the report. Notably, the company is lead in one of the largest international programmes, the F-35 stealth fighter, which has seen increased order and the company’s acquisition of Sikorsky has helped bolster its profits.

With Trump in the Whitehouse promising to increase defence spending, amid all the other mentioned global issues, I think defence spending has truly taken a turn and for now spending will only continue to increase.

Inside ‘The home of the Apache’


As a new journalist to the aviation industry I had been told by colleagues that trade shows and events are one of the perks of the job – if a little frantic at times. Nonetheless it was a great surprise to be given the chance to visit Boeing’s Mesa site.

This young grasshopper has much to learn about helicopters but if earning my stripes means shooting off to Arizona in December then sign me up. The brief in a nutshell was to spend four days at ‘The home of the Apache’.


Production rates of the type are set to spike as Boeing look to capitalise on customer interest. The manufacturer even suggested, during the trip, that production figures of up to 100 Apache AH-64E per year by 2021 are a realistic target. The UK – the AH-64E’s second largest operator – will also receive their first delivery of the aircraft in June 2020, with service entry expected to occur two years later.

Beyond the formal newsworthy discussions held with senior executives, it was amazing to see the Apache flight line and production facility up close. When you get a chance to see the number of people involved in designing and producing the aircraft it’s an incredible sight to behold.

It’s almost akin to watching the end credits of a film roll by in the sense that you can appreciate how many different departments and variety of skill sets are required in order for the final product to be assembled.

The production warehouse consists of a 12 point assembly with eight spots reserved for individual Apache components to be added as required. Engineers are provided with their tools each morning, which are set out for them by their respective support teams.

The idea is that this quickens up the production process and means the job at hand can happen without delay. Short of the Apache’s fuselage which is produced in Asia and its composite blades which are assembled in a neighbouring building, the entire interior and exterior of the aircraft is assembled on site.


Of course, being given privileged access to the facility itself, awakens an inner nerd and more than anything the AVgeek hashtag for which the aviation Twittersphere prides itself on, resonated immediately.

The opportunity to try an Apache E simulator first-hand was one that proved word associations between helicopters and cool are legitimate and should always be encouraged.

Having been airborne for a mere minute at most, I crashed, spinning hopelessly into a computer generated wood. Safe to assume I won’t be giving up the day job anytime soon.

That said, the technology involved in the simulator is much more interesting than my faulty flight. The simulator itself is encased in a futuristic white pod and as you steer the flight deck moves simultaneously meaning those on the side-lines also feel like they are moving, depending on the ‘pilot’s’ movements.


Aside from everything that happened at the Mesa site, the highlight of the trip was most definitely listening to pilot Rich Lee talk in great detail about picking up Diana Ross (of The Supremes fame) from the Arizona, Sun Devil Stadium, during the 1996 Super Bowl halftime show.

Lee is a highly respected figure within the aviation industry having completed countless test and classified flights but even for a man of his experience the Super Bowl stunt ended up being a remarkable event and one that so nearly didn’t happen.

To begin with Lee recalled that the very idea of flying a helicopter into a stadium full of people is, to say the least, not a brilliant idea from a health and safety point of view. Planning and preparation was exhaustive with every stakeholder involved having to be satisfied that their interests were being protected.

Those parties included the operator, the NFL, their events management company, local emergency services, federal aviation authorities and of course, Diana Ross.

Every possible eventuality had to be covered too, including the possibility of engine failure, security threats relating to what to do in the event of a sniper or bomb attack and how to avoid items being thrown from the crowd, as well as ensuring smoke from flares during halftime wouldn’t effect visibility.

Running alongside all of this air traffic control would have to inform all operators that no flights could pass through the surrounding area of the stadium during Lee’s flight. All of this was eventually co-ordinated successfully.

At one point during proceedings cushions were thrown from stadium seats to test if objects thrown from the crowd would inhibit the flight! Lee would also go on to entrust his teenage son to manage ground operations on the basis that he was used to travelling with his father to air shows and was well versed in planning for trade shows and marquee aviation events.


When the moment finally arrived to fly into the stadium, two key incidents occurred that almost led to the mission being aborted. In the first instance, flight tests had been conducted with only an empty stadium, now as Lee entered, at the point of descending, his collective pitch or pressure usually exerted to let the helicopter descend smoothly made no impact because of the heat created by a stadium full of 70,000 people.

Additionally, thousands of camera flashes went off as soon as the helicopter got to the stadium. ‘It felt like I was inside a giant diamond,’ Lee explained.

To his great relief, as he continued on his set course, the middle of the stadium produced a corridor of cold air which eventually allowed Lee to land as planned. In the end, without being able to see his landing spot, Lee had touched down four inches from where he was expected to.

Just to add to the script and in a perfect moment of synchronicity between pilot and star attraction, Diana Ross sang ‘I will survive’ before receiving her escort from the stadium.

On that note, I’ll depart the stage too.

The World According to Shephard: Week 49

Pick of the week:

As Brexit negotiations rumble on in Brussels, Neil Thompson reported on the recent European Defence Industry Summit (EDIS). Designed to bring together speakers to discuss Europe’s security situation, European representatives were noticeably missing, with US-based Raytheon left to represent the European defence industry’s interests.

Obstacles to realising greater integration of European defence industries include funding, transparency with NATO and how to facilitate greater interoperability.


The Clarence speaks

Despite the pomp and circumstance of the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the future of UK shipbuilding is at a juncture. As HMS Queen Elizabeth enters service and construction on the Prince of Wales nears completion the challenge will be to maintain the skills developed throughout the programme. Another challenge, The Clarence argues, will be to retain the manpower and funds necessary to maintain and run the carriers.

Making a splash

The Royal Navy is not the only maritime force to welcome a new ship this week, the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency launched its fourth 600t Hingol-class maritime patrol vessel. The armed boat, which began construction in May 2016, will help patrol Pakistan’s EEZ, undertake maritime security and perform search and rescue missions.

Meanwhile Michal Jarocki reports from Warsaw on the renaissance of the Polish Navy as it celebrates its 99th anniversary with a commissioning ceremony for the ORP Ormoran (601) minehunter. The vessel is the first warship in over 20 years to be designed and built in Poland.


The Canadian Surface Combat project has not seen such successes this week after encountering its latest rough patch. The Canadian government publicly rejected proposals not submitted through the formal process. The announcement followed a Naval Group statement in which it proposed an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution based on the FREMM frigate design to the Canadian government.

Drones dominate wish lists

The Indian military’s desire for UAVs will be boosted with further RfPs as the country aims for integrated army, navy and air force purchases of MALE and HALE UAVs. This demand is likely to be met through new industry activity, after Dynamic Technologies signed a cooperation agreement with IAI for the production, assembly and support of mini-UAVs in India.

Meanwhile, Poland has become the latest buyer of WB Group’s Warmate loitering munition. The UAS has received considerable interest from customers across the world and has already been used in combat. The Polish order includes 100 loitering munitions with deliveries expected to being in the coming weeks.

Warmate c

Record rotary rates

Poland is not only in search of UAS, but is also perceived as a prime export market for Bell Helicopter’s AH-1ZViper. Bell is continuing its efforts to convince the Polish government that it will successfully execute the Polish military’s attack helicopter programme ‘Kruk’. Bell is also offering its UH-1Y Venom to fulfil the Polish Army’s requirement for a modern, multirole utility helicopter.

The AH-64E Apache Guardian is tipped to reach ‘historically high’ production figures of up to 100 aircraft a year by 2021. The projection is based on a ramping up of international orders which would see production rise from its current level of 70 platforms a year. Boeing expects to close a number of international sales within the next six months.


Stimulating simulation and tantalising training at I/ITSEC 2017

The simulation and training industry’s annual showcase, I/ITSEC, always proves to be a great show for the Shephard team. We are happy to admit that the event does not bring hard-hitting news every year but there is still plenty of updates, opinions and new products for the team to cover and here we’ve selected some of our top stories and videos from the week for you to cast your eyes over.

For the first time this year we saw a fast boat simulator amongst the aircraft trainers and virtual reality kit.

Meanwhile, one of the US Air Force’s most lucrative training programmes, the TX Advanced Pilot Training Programme, continued to see the three main competitors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Leonardo DRS, fight it out.

As part of the TX programme UK company, EDM, showcased a Martin-Baker Mk18 ejection seat. The company is offering training Mk18 seats for the US Air Force’s T-X programme ground based training system element.

Back on the ground, Pratt & Miller Defense debuted the newest addition to its Trackless Moving Targets (TMT) family with a solution that replicates infantry forces moving on the battlefield. The TMT-Infantry variant is currently being funded by the US Army’s PEO STRI office through a Rapid Innovation Fund.

Finally, the show brought a new element to its annual live, virtual and constructive exercise, Operation Blended Warrior, with various international partners, mainly Swedish companies, taking part in the exercise for the first time. 

As always you can catch up on the news at the Shephard Media website and we’ll see you in Orlando for I/ITSEC 2018!


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