Category Archives: Around the Bazaar

Don’t poke the bear

Following the recent release of Defense News Top 100 list of defence companies, Russian Helicopters is seeing red over its perceived omission.

Igor Korotchenko, director of the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade, stated in a release by Rostec: ‘A reasonable question comes up: how could it happen that the Russian Helicopters group which has steadily been on the list of 30 major global defence companies for the previous five years and ranked number 25 in the Top 100 Defense News rating last year suddenly drop out of it?’

Defense News commented on the missing company: ‘Russian Helicopters, another major player, is not included this year, because the company did [not] respond to multiple requests for 2016 defence revenue.’


The list aside it cannot be denied that Russian Helicopters – in the military and civil market – is one of the largest helicopter OEMs in the world, although recently its order book has been dented.

The state-controlled umbrella holding company, Russian Helicopters, which controls Russia’s two design bureaus – Kamov and Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant – in addition to five large manufacturing plants and six MRO facilities, reported delivery of just 189 helicopters compared to 271 in 2014 and 212 in 2015.

The company has been traditionally reliant on large military orders for export customers. Iraq has emerged as one of the most important customer for military models, taking delivery of ten Mi-28Ns and three Mi-35Ms.


Other international operators of Russian Helicopters military offerings include the Peruvian Air Force and the Belarus Ground Force.

Russian Helicopters also has a good foothold in Africa, and the company is delivering the first batch of Ka-52E helicopters to Egypt – the total order is for 46 and will be received over a course of three years.


Algeria has also proven to be a prominent customer too with a large Russian manufactured fleet featuring two Mi-26T2s and six Mi-28NEs.

On the civil side, Kenya earlier this year received the Mi-17V-5 multirole helicopter for the national police’s usage.


Its biggest foreign exporting country is China although this is predominantly related to the civil market.

On 25 July the company signed contracts with Hong Kong-based United Helicopters International Group (UHIG) for the delivery of ten helicopters for operators in China – the deal comprised of five Ansat light helicopters in medevac configuration, three Mi-171 in cargo configuration and two Ка-32А 11ВС.

In February this year, UHIG signed as an official distributor for Russian Helicopters aircraft in China, Malaysia and Australia.


In 2016, China remained the biggest customer for Russian-made civilian helicopter models, with one Mi-26TC, five Ka-32A11BC and two Mi-171E deliveries.

In addition, it is anticipated that by the end of this year, a contract will be finalised by China and Russia on an Advanced Heavy Lifter (AHL) helicopter project.

The AHL (referred to as the AC332 by AVIC) will have a maximum takeoff weight of 38.2t, including a 10t internal payload (loadable through a rear ramp) and a 15t underslung payload.

China’s demand for the AC332 is expected to stretch to 200 units for both military and civil use by 2040. China’s military lacks sufficient heavy-lift assets, so the AHL will be welcomed by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

The company claims it will be growing its order book to 500 aircraft this year. It seems the bear has been poked and is more than content to take the honey, as evidenced through its rhetoric to grow its order book in 2017.

All photos via Alex Mladenov and Russian Helicopters

The week according to Shephard: Week 30

Ripples in the South China Sea

Vietnamese-Chinese relations have been brought to the fore again, as reported Wendell Minnick who also investigates US attempts to navigate political relations and military cooperation with Vietnam.

Wendell analyses the barriers preventing greater US-Vietnamese military cooperation and Vietnam’s complicated relations with China and Russia. Read the full story here.


The Vietnam People’s Navy operates Russian built Gepard-class frigates

The ups and downs of procurement

Furthermore, Gordon Arthur reported that that this week Vietnam announced it has ordered 64 T-90S/SK main battle tanks from Russia as part of the Vietnam People’s Army’s efforts to upgrade its tank fleet.

Moving across the South China Sea, Gordon also reported that the Philippine Air Force’s second quest to acquire a pair of maritime patrol aircraft met with failure after all contenders were disqualified for various reasons. Find out more here.

 In North America, the US Coast Guard has run into a budgetary dilemma as it continues to lack a clear fleet modernisation plan and it remains unclear if the service can afford all the new assets it requires.

Antarctic Icebreaking 2017

USCGC Polar Star

The trouble with modernisation

The US Army is looking to possible M113 upgrades as a recent announcement seems to indicate that the service is still struggling with the future of the M113 personnel carrier and its related family of vehicles.

The Canadian Army is expecting to take delivery of a new soldier electronics suite, reports Grant Turnbull, a sign that the service’s long-delayed soldier modernisation effort is now back on track.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy’s UH-3H Sea Kings have reached the end of the road as the aircraft are reported to be riddled with deficiencies after 55 years of operation. Read more about the problems facing the platform here.

India Sea Kings

Indian Navy Sea King helicopter

Electronic Warfare

The US Army’s increasing focus on electronic warfare continues as it prepares to conduct an EW ‘excursion’ reports Scott Gourley from Texas.

Meanwhile, industry is looking to the future of military-level protection for smartphones as Privoro released its Privacy Guard which has caught the attention of the US special forces community.

As militaries across the world increase their EW capabilities Grant Turnbull looks into some of the developments that are changing the character of war.  

Russian EW exercise - Russian MoD

Russian troops during a recent electronic warfare exercise (Photo: Russian MoD)

Unmanned systems fill the skies

Five Additional ScanEagle UAS will be heading to the Afghan National Security Forces following a $19.6 million award from the US DoD.

However, the proliferation of unmanned systems is not restricted to recognised military forces, as Andrew White writes. While UAVs in the wrong hands represents a significant threat, the defence and security sector continues to mature technology capable of detecting and countering them.

UAVs in the wrong hands

ISIS has adopted unmanned systems into its asymmetric operations (Photo: Screen grab)

Special forces

In an interview with Shephard, the commander of Poland’s Special Operations Component Command discusses the threats faced by Poland and the role its special forces can play in countering them.

On the blog this week read about the Special Operations Forces operators who will be let loose on powerful jet skis in the San Diego Bay.

Poland Special Forces

Polish Special Forces

Meet Megatron, the British Army’s tank transformer

The British Army’s Challenger main battle tank is a beast of a machine. It weighs around 62t (equivalent to 30 large family cars) and sports a huge 120mm gun, and can go up to 35mph on the roughest terrain.

The Challenger 1 saw combat in the first Gulf War and was then superseded by the Challenger 2 in the 1990s, which fought in the 2003 Iraq war and beyond. Its performance during these conflicts has earned the Challenger the title of one of the best tanks of its generation, up there with the US M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2.

But not content with this, the British Army is constantly looking at how it can boost the Challenger 2’s capabilities further.

Here’s where ‘Megatron’ comes in, it’s the army’s nickname for an experimental Challenger tank that is kitted out with a range of new technologies that could eventually be rolled out across the tank fleet.

Challenger 2-Megatron

While not quite being able to transform into a giant alien robot like its namesake, this version is very much a Challenger 2 on steroids. Operated by the Armoured Trials and Development Unit in Bovington, Megatron has been extensively modified compared to its regular Challenger 2 counterparts.

One of the key elements of Megatron is a significant increase in its armour protection, pushing its combat weight up to 75t, making it one of the heaviest, if not the heaviest, tanks in the world. This armour configuration is similar to the Dorchester Level 2 (DL2) package fitted to Challengers deploying to Iraq for Operation Telic.

To protect the crew, the tank is fitted with double-layered explosive reactive armour blocks on the hull, as well as additional armour blocks on the turret. Slat armour, is fitted to protect the rear of the vehicle against RPG attacks, and the underbody is uparmoured to protect against mines and buried IEDs.

One of its most notable external features is its mobile camouflage system, which is essentially an invisibility cloak for both the visible and thermal spectrum. Indeed, this is no ordinary camouflage netting, this MCS is able to mask the vehicle’s heat signature when viewed through thermal binoculars and can even make the tank look like a car or animal.

Challenger 2-Megatron

MCS is also capable of reducing a vehicle’s radar signature, just like the stealth coating on a fighter jet.

Fielding ‘smart’ camo is a growing trend for land forces around the world, particularly with the proliferation of thermal technologies beyond first-tier militaries. The British Army will field this system on their new Ajax vehicles, and it’s likely this fielding will extend to the Challenger.

The US Army has also trialled MCS on its Stryker 8×8 vehicles that are currently stationed in Europe.

Another external feature of Megatron is a comprehensive ECM suite, evidenced by the array of antennas on top of the turret. These effectively jam signals that could be used to trigger a roadside bomb, creating a safety bubble around the vehicle.

Although these new capabilities give the Challenger formidable capabilities, they also present several challenges. Adding so much armour, for instance, weighs the tank down and puts extra strain on vehicle parts, not least the engine and the suspension. Megatron has reportedly been fitted with a new suspension system and a new 1,500hp engine to retain its mobility.

Challenger Megatron 2

But at 75t, the tank becomes ungainly, particularly when it comes to air mobility and utilisation of infrastructure including bridges (military and civil) and roads.

Megatron is just one example of how the British Army is trying to maintain the combat relevance of its ageing tank, with some of the lessons learned likely informing the ongoing Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (LEP).

The LEP, currently in its assessment phase, will see the tank get new sighting systems, gun control equipment and an enhanced electronic architecture and brought up to a ‘Mk2’ standard.

Its rifled 120mm main gun could also be replaced, although that is not a main requirement.

Challenger 2 upgrades are long overdue, with allies such as the US (M1), France (Leclerc) and Germany (Leopard 2) already forging ahead with their own upgrade programmes. Russia and China have also been busy developing their own latest-generation tanks, which have the potential to outmatch western tanks in the not-to-distant future.

Megatron, therefore, is the tank that the British Army needs, sooner rather than later.

RIAT 2017: Tattoo markings in the sky

This year’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford did not disappoint with its wide range of aircraft on static display and those flying across the skies above.

Among those on flying display was the Airbus A400M transport aircraft. While the aircraft has been blighted by cracks in the propeller gearbox, despite this in March of this year Indonesia confirmed its intent to purchase four A400Ms.

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Another crowd pleaser was the RAF’s Chinook which demonstrated its prowess by wowing the crowds with its balancing act on its rear wheels and then taking off again.

Also present at the show were strategic strike bombers such as the US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress and, in a rare appearance, the U-2 ISR aircraft.

The US Air Force aircraft has recently been involved in intelligence gathering operations in Afghanistan and has now been operated by the air force for more than 50 years.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A Wedgetail was on display with its radar mounted on its fuselage – the aircraft present at the show had recently been conducting ISTAR missions in the Middle East.

Fighter aircraft displaying their wares included the F-15 and the Eurofighter Typhoon while rotorcraft present included the HH-60G Pave Hawk and the AW159 Wildcat amongst many others.

For more news from the show, please visit

Paris Air Show: the hottest show on earth

Like troops returning from the battlefield the news team has arrived at Shephard Towers victorious after a successful Paris Air Show.

Think I’m exaggerating? You don’t know man, you weren’t there!

With temperatures reaching 38 degrees Celsius (over 100 Fahrenheit) walking around the tarmac at Le Bourget was testing to even the most dedicated aviation journalist. One thing I will comment on though was the great sense of comradery that came out of the event. With everyone suffering in the heat, the best of the aviation industry came to surface.

As for the news there was a great display of aircraft, some exciting unveilings and many firsts from outside of the traditional western nations.

The KC-390 from Brazilian company Embraer made its debut at the Paris Air Show and while it spent the week in the static display it gained attention as an alternative transport and tanker aircraft.

The aircraft is on track for initial operating capability in 2018. Shephard was also able to speak with the chief test pilot from Embraer about the capabilities of the aircraft.

Another first, garnering much attention, was the mock up of the Chinese Wing Loong II MALE UAV which, surrounded by a multitude of weapon systems, is seen as a cheaper alternative to nations unable to buy from the US or with more modest budgets. Its shape is unmistakably similar to that of the General Atomics MALE UAVs. Our UV editor, Richard Thomas, takes a closer look at the UAV.

We also saw the unveiling of the Nightwarden. The new platform is a tactical UAV which has followed the development of the company’s developmental Shadow M2.

While there were no big unveilings on the rotary side of things Airbus Helicopters did reveal its Racer demonstrator which is part of its Clean Sky 2 project. Racer stands for Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft and the company hopes to fly its first aircraft in the next couple of years.

Other aircraft of interest included the Air Tractor AT802L ‘Longsword’ light-attack aircraft from L-3 which will be on its way to Kenya later this year. Leonardo showcased its fighter attack version of its M-346, the M-346 FA, as well as its T-100 training aircraft which it is putting forward for the US T-X programme.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) showcased its T129 Atak and T625 multirole helicopter, with VIP configuration, as the company looks to expand further into the international market.

Now this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the team covered during the show and all the news and video coverage can be found online at This includes a chat with the F-35 chief test pilot, updates on the Safran Patroller for France and an overview of the French Tiger attack helicopter from the crew commander.

In the meantime I will leave you with some of the awesome tweets that came out of the week and 52nd Paris Air Show:


Paris Air Show 2017: Ready to fly

It’s that time of year, the air show season has arrived and we will soon all be heading off to Paris for the biennial jaunt to Le Bourget.

While we will be expecting the usual big orders from the commercial sector the Shephard team will be focusing on what is going on across the defence market.

Of course for all the avgeeks out there the F-35 will be making its debut appearance, alongside the AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook.

In 2015 there were 48 countries present with 150 aircraft on display, similar numbers are expected this year.

We are expecting to see more comradery from the European defence sector as the US criticises some NATO members for their lack of spending.

The outlook for defence spending appears to be more promising than that of recent years due to European economies stabilising since the 2008 financial crash and the impact of Russian action both within and outside of Europe adding to a general sense of insecurity in the region.

Alongside this the EU is proposing a new defence fund of around £870 million for new military technologies. This could focus on UAS.

Safran will be showcasing its Patroller which has been selected as the replacement for the Sperwer UAS currently deployed with the French Army’s 61st Artillery Regiment from 2018.

The French army will be showcasing its Tigre, Caracal and NH90 helicopters alongside the notoriously noisy Dassault Rafale Air.

The US DoD will also maintain a large presence with the P-8 Poseidon, V-22 Osprey and C-130H on display.

US company Boeing already highlighted some of its ongoing programmes at the annual Boeing Media Tour, all stories from the event can be read on our dedicated show news site.

With our schedules set and our bags packed we are now heading across the channel for the air show. We look forward to seeing you at Le Bourget!

Singapore holds first International Maritime Review

Above: RSS Independence, the RSN’s newly commissioned LMV, was one of the reviewing ships.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), which this year is celebrating its golden jubilee, held its first ever international maritime review in waters off the newly rechristened RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base on 15 May.

Talking about the event, the RSN stated, ‘The International Maritime Review is an opportunity for the RSN to welcome our friends from around the world to join us in our 50th anniversary celebrations.

‘Working with like-minded navies from the region and beyond to tackle common transboundary maritime security threats, the RSN has strengthened mutual trust and understanding to interoperate effectively with other navies and maritime agencies. The RSN, together with our international partners, continues to ensure a safe and secure maritime environment for all.’

Huangshan is a Type 054A frigate of the People’s Liberation  Army Navy.

Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam reviewed the participating vessels from land and from aboard RSS Independence, the RSN’s recently commissioned and first-of-class Littoral Mission Vessel.

The fleet review featured 16 ships from the RSN, two vessels from the Police Coast Guard and four aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, as well as 28 vessels from 20 foreign navies.

Some vessels, such as the large Thai aircraft carrier and Japanese ‘helicopter destroyer’ remained berthed at the naval base, while the majority of the ships were moored at sea.

HTMS Chakri Naruebet, Thailand’s solitary aircraft carrier (sans aircraft except for a couple of helicopters), was the largest vessel in the International Maritime Review.

This was one of the swiftest fleet reviews that this author has participated in, which was probably fortunate given that a tropical thunderstorm enveloped the area right at the end. Media boarded a couple of Fast Craft Utility (FCU) for the event, and were whisked up and down the lines of moored warships in a well-orchestrated event.

During the IMDEX exhibition that was held from 16-18 May, attendees had the opportunity to go aboard and more closely examine a number of these ships whilst they were berthed within RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base.

The full list of those ships participating in the review is given below.

Singapore participants

RSS Persistence and RSS Endurance (Endurance class), RSS Kaliang, RSS Punggoi and RSS Bedok (Bedok class), RSS Fearless and RSS Daring (Fearless class), RSS Formidable, RSS Supreme and RSS Stalwart (Formidable class), RSS Valiant and RSS Vigilance (Victory class), RSS Independence and Sovereignty (Independence class), RSS Swordsman (Archer class), RSS Conqueror (Challenger class), and Sandbar Shark and Whitetip Shark of the Police Coast Guard.

The RSN’s futuristic-looking Specialised Marine Craft (SMC) performed security tasks during the fleet review.

International participants

Australia – HMAS Ballarat

Bangladesh – BNS Shadhinota

Brunei – KDB Darussalam

Canada – HMCS Ottawa

China – Huangshan

France – FS Prairial

India – INS Sahyadri and INS Kamorta

Indonesia – KRI Sultan Hasanuddin and KRI Halasan

Japan – JS Izumo and JS Sazanami

Malaysia – KD Lekir

Myanmar – UMS Sin Phyu Shin

New Zealand – HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Endeavour

Pakistan – PNS Zulfiquar

Philippines – BRP Gregorio del Pilar

Russia – RFS Varyag

South Korea – ROKS Dae Jo Yeong

Sri Lanka – SLNS Sagara and SLNS Nandimithra

Thailand – HTMS Chakri Naruebet, HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Sukhothai

US – USS Sterett and USS Coronado

Vietnam – VPNS Dinh Tien Hoang


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