Category Archives: Around the Bazaar

In search of a role: the UK in the North Korea crisis

UK politicians are scrambling to understand Trump’s North Korea strategy, if one exists, and the implications it poses for UK foreign policy in the region.

‘What if’ questions from MPs on the crisis with North Korea and the role the UK could play heavily dominated a meeting of the House of Commons Defence Committee on 10 October.

Dana Allin, senior fellow, IISS, and Nicholas Kitchen, associate professorial research fellow, LSE, attempted to make sense of the rather vague, theoretical questioning, with Dr Kitchen at one stage commenting of ‘a lot of undefined variables in this hypothetical’.

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A top concern for MPs appeared to be that should the US pursue military action against North Korea it would have a clear expectation that the UK would provide tangible military assistance to the effort.

The response from Dr Kitchen: ‘I’m not sure what the specific military contribution would be… the US has allies in the region and its own Pacific fleet in the region… there’s not much point in making a symbolic gesture.’

As the UK possesses no permanent military presence in the Asia Pacific region, and has not since the 1970s, it is unclear what exactly the tangible UK military capabilities the MPs had in mind to offer.

A further concern on the minds of some committee members was that if the UK commits to conflicting approach to the crisis than the US, i.e. support for diplomacy over military action, would this lead to a schism in the ‘special relationship’.

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This appeared to be far less of a concern for Kitchen, who stated: ‘The UK was happy to stay out of the Vietnam War, a closer analogy to what might take place on the Korean peninsula.’

While, Allin conceded that in the event of US military action there may be an expectation for the UK to provide support, he doubted the failure to do so would cause long term damage to the partnership.

‘There would be a national tendency in America to expect, or at least hope, the UK would participate. But we had a similar situation in regard to the Iraq war with other allies and those relationships were patched up rather quickly afterwards,’ he said.

As tensions mount and the unpredictable protagonists continue their war of words, UK politicians are searching for their role in the crisis, despite the reality that UK influence on the US’ North Korea policy appears to be marginal at best.

The world according to Shephard: Week 40

 

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The Shephard team has had a great week reporting from Helitech International 2017 on the ups and the downs of the commercial rotorcraft industry. Full coverage of the exhibition is available here

The team is now preparing to jet off to AUSA which will take place in Washington DC next week. Keep up with all the latest developments here

 

Chinese plots and Taiwanese arms 

‘How viable are the Chinese invasion plans laid out in a new study published earlier this week,’ asks Wendell Minnick.  The study, entitled ‘The Chinese Invasion Threat’, uses Chinese-language government papers, many written by members of the People’s Liberation Army, on how to unify the ‘renegade province’ of Taiwan into China.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has announced it will initiate a research process to upgrade its M60A3 TTS MBT fleet. The decision to pursue its secondary option of modernising its M60A3 comes after a long and fruitless period of seeking US-built M1 Abrams tanks.

Around the world in armoured vehicles 

Taiwan has also ordered a total of 285 30mm cannons from Orbital ATK to be installed on an IFV variant of the domestically manufactured Clouded Leopard 8×8 armoured vehicle. The $112million contract is for the MK44 Bushmaster II 30mm cannon.

In Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy has begun deploying its new HMV-150 4×4 armoured vehicle to the country’s southern province of Narathiwat for patrols and other security operations.

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While new Tiger 4×4 vehicles have been delivered to the Somali National Army from China as part of a sweetener deal from Beijing to increase their influence in the Horn of Africa. The initial instalment of 32 light armoured vehicles is part of a gift from China which is reported to also include a considerable cash donation, according to Tim Fish in Mogadishu.

Armoured vehicles are not just on the move in Asia, as Latvia received its first examples of second-hand M109 self-propelled howitzers from Austria and will take part in the country’s annual military parade on 18 November.

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Russia has launched a large-scale BMP-2 and BMD-2 upgrade programme. The Russian MoD and KBP signed a contract covering the upgrade and refurbishment of around 540 tracked IFVs and will include the integration of the new B05Ya01 Berezhok turret developed by KBP.

US military tests and invests

The US military has awarded a spate of contracts for unmanned systems in recent weeks, including a $100 million firm-fixed-price contract with Endeavor Robotics for the Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II. The programme will see the US Army provided with a medium-sized common robotic platform.

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At the Modern Day Marine exposition in Quantico, Virginia, companies such as BAE Systems and HDT Global have been discussing and displaying their latest military products. Read more news from the exposition here.

Headline products include a command and control variant of BAE Systems’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle, which is currently in engineering and manufacturing development, and a new Lightweight Expeditionary Bridge designed by HDT Global. The company has a few prototypes currently in testing with the US Marine Corps and has also shown the design to the US Army.

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Aviation ambitions

Staying in the US, the CAE Dothan Training Centre located at Dothan Regional Airport in Alabama is preparing to undergo the final phase of development after opening in March 2017. Today, 260 US Army and 70 US Air Force students have graduated from the seven courses provided by the company.

A senior Taiwan military delegation visited Washington to present a high-level briefing to the US government on Taiwan’s need for the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning fighter. The briefing was requested by the US government to clarify past enquiries by Taiwan for its need of a stealth fighter.

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Patrolling the seas

Gravois Aluminium Boats, through its Metal Shark subsidiary has been awarded a near $30 million contract for the construction of up to 50 patrol boats for the US Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). Gravois and Metal Shark competed against six other offers for the contract to produce the US Navy’s next generation patrol boat, the PB(X).

The Nigerian Navy is also expanding its maritime security capabilities after it commissioned into service two new FPB 72 Mk II patrol vessels built by French shipyard OCEA. The vessels underwent sea and acceptance trials in France before being handed over to the Nigerian Navy as part of an effort to crackdown on illegal activities at sea.

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The world according to Shephard: Week 39

Firepower of all shapes and sizes

As tensions continue to run high on the Korean peninsula, Japan has begun to rethink its ballistic missile defence (BMD) approach as it now eyes Aegis Ashore. Read more here about the challenges facing Japan as it seeks to defend itself against escalating regional tensions.

Recent images have revealed that the Czech Republic is a major supplier of heavy weapons to Azerbaijan. Images released by the Azerbaijan MoD show the Czech-made Dana-M1CZ 152mm SPH and RM-70 Vampir 122mm MLRS during large-scale exercises held by the Azerbaijani military in late September.

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines has issued a contract to Glock Asia Pacific to supply it with 74,861 Glock 7 Gen4 9mm pistols and an identical number of holsters. The contract, valued at $24.3 million, will see the first batch of 35,000 weapons delivered with 180 days with the second batch delivered within a further 90 days.

UAV popularity persists

Staying in the Philippines, the army has requested several tiers of new UAVs to boost its ISR capabilities, while the US has contracted a further batch of six ScanEagle tactical UAV systems for Manila. The Philippines armed forces are also acquiring trailer-mounted pneumatic launchers and SkyHook recovery devices.

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Meanwhile the German Army’s Special Forces Command is also expanding its ISR assets following the procurement of nano UAS personal reconnaissance systems. The Calw-based command will receive up to a dozen PD-100 Black Hornet nano UAS and will fulfil an operational requirement for an organic ‘over-the-hill’ ISR-gathering micro UAS capability.

However, demand for UAVs is not driven only by defence acquisitions as Beth Maundrill discusses in her blog on the strength of the commercial unmanned market. She reports that defence companies are expected to make a bigger splash in the civil market. Read more here.

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Better late than never

The Indian Navy has finally received its first Scorpene, five years behind schedule. The first of six Scorpene diesel-electric submarines being licence-built for the Indian Navy has been delivered. The Project 75 programme to build six Scorpene submarines has been fraught with difficulties and delays, Gordon Arthur reports.

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The future of warfare

In Afghanistan the future of warfare may be increasingly dominated by private military corporations, as one controversial proposal for the next phase of the American-led war would see 5,500 private contractors put in charge of advising the Afghan military.

The idea is the brainchild of former Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who claims his proposal would save both American troops’ lives and the government $30 billion dollars a year.

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One trend in the future nature of warfare is clear – marines are increasingly deploying in small groups in remote and primitive areas, complicating operational logistics.

As a result the Expeditionary Energy Office is currently searching for a solution to the problem by reducing fuel and water demands through the use of hybrid power solutions and improved distribution.

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Finally, the warfighters will increasingly utilise technology developed in the commercial sector. One such example is Gotenna, who is releasing a military variant of its mesh networking tactical radio.

The Gotenna family of products integrate with smart phones to allow direct communication and have already been used by organisations including US Army Special Forces Groups.

DSEI

Following a great week at DSEI, which saw thousands of exhibitors come together across two enormous exhibition halls, Grant Turnbull gives his verdict on ‘the movers and shakers’ of the show.

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Safety and innovation to take centre stage at Helitech International 2017

Returning to the Excel London next week from 3-5 October, Helitech International 2017, has lined up the industry’s biggest names to showcase the latest, cutting-edge technology and innovations making waves across the sector.

Around 200 exhibitors will be exhibiting at Helitech International this year and with 23 countries represented, it’s shaping up to be a truly global affair providing a great opportunity to network with key decision-makers in the sector and deliver new business opportunities.

We’re also welcoming 22 new companies to the show for the first time, adding to the diversity in platforms, systems, technology and equipment available for visitors to see.

Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter, Leonardo, Babcock International, Euravia, Waypoint Leasing, and Aerolite, are just some of the names that have confirmed support for the event.

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Exhibitors will be hosting a variety of events on their stands with Airbus Helicopters giving visitors the chance to look around the new H160 prototype via an interactive virtual reality (VR) experience while Euravia will be offering guided 360 VR tours of its facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bell Helicopter will showcase a Bell 429 while an EMS-configured H145 and PBA H125 will be featured on the Airbus stand. On the static displays, Airbus will also introduce a full-scale model of its H160 prototype giving visitors an insight into the future of the ‘connected helicopter’.

The speaker programme for the insight seminars and technical sessions has been carefully crafted to cover the key topics shaping the future the rotorcraft sector, with safety and technology taking the limelight.

Kim Harris, Senior Business Development Manager, ASU Inc., has accumulated more than 3,700 hours of NVG flights, and will address the latest developments in night safety procedures and technologies with insights on past, present and future operations.

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David Perez Pinar of Babcock International Group will reveal the latest technological innovations in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems addresses the growth in unmanned aerial vehicles.

Helitech International is all about bringing the rotorcraft industry together and facilitating discussions between operators to develop new business leads, make new connections and discuss the sector with likeminded individuals.

Shephard Media will be providing Helitech International Show News Daily, see the site for all the latest news and updates.

If you haven’t registered, there’s still time. Click here to register and join us at the ExceL London next week!

Teresa Heitor, exhibition manager at Reed Exhibitions

The movers and shakers of DSEI 2017

With thousands of exhibitors and two enormous exhibition halls chock full of technology, DSEI never disappoints when it comes to seeing new and interesting defence kit. The show, held at the London ExCel centre every two years, is a key date in the calendar for the industry and is used as an opportunity to bring out the big guns – literally.

The show is billed as a tri-service event, showcasing equipment from the land, sea and air domains, although like its Parisian equivalent – Eurosatory – there is a skew towards land capabilities.

Nevertheless, the event utilises the ExCel’s location next to the Thames to bring in several warships and have them berthed up during the week. The highlight this year being the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll as well as LÉ Samuel Beckett from the Irish Naval Service.

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LÉ Samuel Beckett berthed next to the ExCel centre for DSEI 2017. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

Mirroring an increase in focus by the UK government on naval capabilities, the DSEI event also had a strong maritime flavour to it this year. This was likely influenced by several key events before the show including the naming of the second Queen Elizabeth-class carrier HMS Prince of Wales, the release of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSbS) and contracts placed for the new Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

Ahead of the show, our roving reporter Beth Maundrill looked at how the NSbS was was aiming to overcome past mistakes in naval programmes that saw costs balloon and fleet sizes dwindle. Speaking at the event itself, Adm Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said he wanted to see the Royal Navy be ‘even faster and more agile’ in how it exploits technology advancements.

Industry is also positioning itself for a future Type 31 contract, with several companies unveiling potential designs at DSEI. Babcock showcased its Arrowhead 120 design, which is likely to compete against BMT Group for the Type 31e contract. Both companies will also be eyeing the export market, something that is being pushed in the new NSbS.

Another new naval technology unveiled at the show was the MBDA Dragonfire, part of a research programme with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) that aims to explore the use of directed-energy weapons, better known as lasers, onboard vessels.

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A scale model example of the new Dragonfire, developed for the UK MoD by a team from MBDA and Leonardo. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

Back on terra firma, it was British Army vehicle programmes that were taking up a lot of the focus. The service is currently recapitalising its fleet with both new build vehicles and upgrades. We got a little more clarity on the long-running Mechanised Infantry Vehicle programme, with an acquisition strategy now planned for later this year that will determine whether it is competed or sole-sourced.

Many companies brought along their 8×8 offerings to tempt the British Army. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a defence show, German company Rheinmetall rocked up with a Boxer 8×8 painted in the colours of the Union Jack. Gimmick or serious marketing strategy?

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Bit of a gimmick or a serious effort to make moves in the UK? (Photo: Rheinmetall)

Officials also gave a little more information on the Warrior upgrade programme, with a full production contract expected next year that will give the army a fleet of modernised ‘Warrior 2’ platforms. A Warrior on display at the show was also sporting a new camouflage, known as the Barracuda Mobile Camouflage System, which Shephard discovered had been ordered in small units by the British Army, with a potentially larger order expected.

It was also announced that the British Army’s flagship acquisition, the Ajax, has now begun manned live-firing trials, which should wrap up in around five months in time for delivery to the army.

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An upgraded Warrior vehicle on display at Lockheed Martin’s stand at DSEI, sporting a new camouflage system. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

The UK defence secretary Michael Fallon also announced several contracts that aim to improve the capability of the British Army when it comes to protecting troops. These included a new EOD ground robot from Harris as well as a new £10 million initiative to study vehicle active protection systems, which is being led by Leonardo. The former programme, known as Icarus, could help the army develop technologies that effectively form a ‘shield’ around a vehicle to protect it against RPGs and anti-tank missiles.

Active protection systems are a significant topic of discussion at the moment, with several countries including China, Israel and Russia fielding some kind of capability. There is a worry among experts that the West will be left behind when it comes to utilising this kind of technology, with foreign APS-equipped vehicles potentially neutralising our current generation anti-tank capabilities.

Adding to this discourse, a BAE Systems CV90 was on display at the show that incorporated the IMI Systems Iron Fist APS technology – which will likely be fielded to the Dutch Army CV90 in the future.

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The IMI Systems Iron Fist active protection system on the turret of a CV9030 IFV at DSEI 2017. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

Unsurprisingly, the UK-based BAE Systems took centre stage at DSEI, showing a huge array of its technologies across all domains. These technologies included the latest generation of its Broadsword soldier technologies currently undergoing evaluation with several foreign armies, as well as a new ‘Tactical Hotspot’ concept that provides voice and data communications in the most austere environments.

The company has also turned its hand to unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) with its Ironclad concept, which could be used for medical evacuation missions on the battlefield.

Indeed, the growing importance of unmanned systems was once again evident at DSEI this year with several innovations being displayed. BAE Systems also demonstrated its P950 RIB in an unmanned configuration.

Elsewhere, Qinetiq demonstrated a new configuration for its Titan UGV (developed in cooperation with Milrem and its THeMIS). Rheinmetall Canada, fresh from unveiling its new UGV concept earlier this year, came to DSEI to show an armed configuration for its multi-mission ground vehicle. Several other armed UGVs were on display this year, including Milrem’s THeMIS, which integrated a new FN Herstal .50 cal machine gun.

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Qinetiq’s Titan, which uses the THeMIS UGV from Estonian company Milrem, features several new integrations at this year’s DSEI. (Photo: Grant Turnbull)

That’s just a very tiny selection of what was making the headlines during the show, we have plenty more over at Shephard  for your reading and viewing pleasure.

The show was notable in that it had no real stand-out announcements or surprises, with a sense that many programmes and initiatives are continuing to tick over for the time being.

Many visitors will be optimistic about the market going forward, but the industry as a whole is still conscious of the uncertainty created by Brexit and the wider geostrategic environment.

The world according to Shephard: Week 36

This week Grant Turnbull and Richard Thomas have been in Poland for MSPO. You can read all the latest news from the event here

Helicopter orders fly in

MD Helicopters was awarded a huge $1.38 billion contract for 150 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters. The initial 30 are bound for Afghanistan to boost the air force’s current fleet of 27 Cayuse Warriors. This comes as the Afghan Air Force, under guidance and funding from the US DoD, is undergoing a transition from Russian-built helicopters to US-manufactured aircraft.

Another significant helicopter deal this week was received by HAL for 41 Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), primarily destined for the Indian Army. The deal is worth $951 million and includes 18 Dhruv-WSI armed variants. However, the Dhruv has suffered a number of crashes in recent months, the latest occurring on the 5 September.

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On the blog, Helen Haxell provides some insight into the recent return to strength of the civil helicopter sector. She takes a look at the impressive recovery of platforms such as the H225 and the Bell 525 Relentless, as well as discussing the new technology OEMs have been experimenting with.

The tanks roll in

Russia is continuing to invest in land modernisation as the Russian MoD inked several high value contracts for new or upgraded equipment in late August, report Alex Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev in Sofia. Twenty-three contracts were signed with as many as 17 Russian defence companies receiving new orders worth an estimated $2.9 billion. The biggest share of new orders was given to main battle tank (MBT) manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, for the delivery of newly-built T-90M MBTs.

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Meanwhile, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGDF) has been showing off its land capabilities at the Fuji Firepower demonstration. The JGDF performed a mobility demonstration of one of its new BAE Systems AAV7A1 amphibious assault vehicles for the first time.

Also on show was a prototype of the new Type 16 Manoeuvre Combat Vehicle (16MCV). The Ministry of Defence is procuring 99 vehicles by March 2019 with the aim of deploying the vehicle in rapid deployment regiments by March 2018.

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US Special Forces out and about

The Science and Technology Directorate at US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has identified future SOF C4 needs. It’s vision is ‘to discover, enable and transition technologies to provide asymmetric advantage for Special Operations Forces (SOF).’ Specific technology areas of interest have been identified in an effort to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the SOF warfighter. Read more about SOF’s ambitions here.

In the Philippines, US SOF forces have been assisting the Philippine military in their battle against Islamist insurgents in Marawi. Gordon Arthur reports that the US closure of Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines in 2015 appears to have been premature in light of the vicious months-long fighting against the Maute separatists who are linked with ISIS.

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China acts, ASEAN talks

Staying in the region, an agreement was reached in August for a ‘framework’ Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea  during the 7th East Asian Summit Foreign Minsters’ Meeting. Described by Wendell Minnick as lacking fortitude, the COC is a code for state behaviour pending the settlement of disputes over sovereignty of land features and the delimitation of maritime zones. He added commented that, ‘all ASEAN and China did was reiterate general principles that they had already agreed to 15 years ago.’

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In the meantime China’s naval expansion continues as the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its largest naval supply ship to date. The Type 901 fast supply ship has a displacement of approximately 45,000t. Gordon said that ‘as the PLAN ventures further afield, the navy will require more capable and larger numbers of such auxiliary vessels.’

Greater clarity has also begun to emerge about the radical restructuring of China’s airborne air force. The airborne formation is a rapid reaction unit held in readiness for expeditionary or mobile tasks within China and increasingly for overseas contingencies. The restructuring is part of an effort to improve manoeuvring capability and extend their reach to ‘destinations in every theatre.’

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Pre-DSEI highlights

Let the DSEI madness commence – take a look at what to look forward to at DSEI next week.

Shephard’s full show coverage throughout the week is available here.

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Back to business

If last year was the ‘annus horribilis’ for the civil helicopter sector, that notion has definitely not crept into 2017. Indeed, it has not been an understated or even slow recovery story for the first part of this year with returns to flight, concept aircraft and new platforms dominating the commercial helicopter market.

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The big news lies with two platforms that were dogged by crashes. The H225 received a boost recently when the UK’s CAA and the Norwegian aviation authority agreed to lift the no-flying ban on the H225 and AS332 L2 aircraft following the fatal crash in April of last year.

Furthermore, the Bell 525 Relentless has returned to the skies, a year on from the company’s loss of one of its flight test vehicles, which crashed in a fatal accident involving two pilots.

The flight, which took place on 7 July, followed the FAA granting an experimental certificate renewal. Bell is still waiting for the NTSB final report. The company envisions that the aircraft’s type certification will take place at the end of 2018, with deliveries beginning in early 2019.

Experimentation with new technologies has also been part of the tapestry this year for two of the main OEMs. Airbus Helicopters has revealed its high-speed demonstrator, dubbed Racer, as part of the European Clean Sky 2 programme. The company unveiled a model of the concept aircraft, called Racer, in its aerodynamic configuration at Paris Air Show in June.

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A wide range of next-generation technologies wereon display at Heli- Expo 2017 in Dallas, in particular Bell Helicopter’s FCX-001.

The investment is focused on supporting technologies and not on a flight test vehicle. If times were as tough as last year, perhaps industry would not have seen the idea come to fruition.

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One aircraft set to fly in the near future was also showcased at the IDEF exhibition in May 2017, as Turkish Aerospace Industries unveiled a full-scale mock-up of its T625 helicopter. The 6t platform is the first commercial rotorcraft to be completely developed in-country, a major step forward in the nation’s indigenous aerospace design and manufacturing capability. The company is aiming to conduct the T625’s first flight by next year.

Another home-grown project has been revealed by Russian Helicopters, which is planning for a new single-engine light helicopter. Known as the VRT500, it has a coaxial rotor layout with two three-blade rotors and is tentatively set for completion in late 2019.

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In addition, the emergence of Erickson and CHC from bankruptcy has been indicative that the tide of change within the industry is rising towards steady growth. This market positivity has been further helped by companies like Kaman delivering the K-Max again after production of the model stopped for more than a decade.

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The next half of the year is looking to be just as buoyant, with promises of orders and LOIs across civil platforms. New models are entering the market in earnest, like the now FAA-certified Bell 505 Jet Ranger X, and the Airbus H160, which is gearing up for its certification next year.

In relation to the civil sector, we are seeing OEMs continually investing in the future, with new technologies and next-generation rotorcraft, and I look forward to shows like Helitech International 2017 in London to see that industry optimism on the show floor.

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