Tag Archives: puma

The World According to Shephard: Week 5

Costing Britain’s defence

The UK defence secretary, Gavin Williamson recently confirmed the MoD’s intention to split off the defence part of the National Security review into a separate review. The Clarence offers some suggestions on where the cuts might fall while protecting the capabilities necessary to meet the goals of the 2015 National Security Review.

Meanwhile the MoD came under increasing pressure this week after it was forced to defend itself in light of suggestions by the National Audit Office (NAO) that it did not include the costings of the Type 31e light frigate project in its equipment plan. The NAO’s report found that there could be an affordability gap potential of over £20 billion.


Up-gunning Europe

Final testing of the German Armed Force’s anti-tank missile system on its fleet of Puma IFVs is expected to be completed by Q3 2018, with initial fielding scheduled for 2020. The MELLS missile system is armed with Spike LR missiles and will provide the German forces with significant additional operational scope and capabilities.

In Bulgaria the MoD has indicated it will acquire new wheeled IFVs as part of its modernisation agenda, in addition to upgrading existing soviet-era armour. The tender is expected to be launched in mid-2018 for 150 8×8 vehicles to equip three battalions. Alex Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev look into some of the contenders for the programme.

Europe tanks

The British Army’s training units are preparing for the imminent delivery of the first Ajax variant after the completion of government acceptance testing (GAT). The Ares specialist troop carrier configuration will be received by the Armour Centre at Bovington, while GAT for Ajax is expected to commence in early 2018 following successful manned live firing trials.


Patrolling the seas from above and below

Russia’s Beriev Be-12 fleet of maritime patrol aircraft is set for an upgrade of its vintage 1970s mission suite according to the Russian Naval Aviation Chief. The aircraft will receive three new components, a hydroacoustic sub-system, new radar and new magnetic anomaly detector to keep the aircraft in service until the mid-2020s.

Going beneath the waves in Taiwan, where the navy performed a successful demonstration of its minehunting capabilities. Despite the success of the demonstration, the main message was that the Republic of China Navy’s minehunting capabilities have reached the end of their lifecycle and must be replaced soon. The service is at risk of losing its ability to counter China’s sea mine blockade threat.

Minehunting edit

Special Forces march into future threats

NATO special operations forces are actively seeking next-generation technologies to support a future operating environment dominated by missions in confined, congested and contested megacities. This includes exploiting technology in order to support subterranean operations in dense urban environments with large populations.

Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service is also considering future training and material requirements of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) following the eradication of Isis from the country. ISOF has recently performed more conventional light infantry operations to retake huge swathes of land from Isis including the City of Mosul and now needs to re-focus on elite counter-terrorism skills required to ensure the stability of Iraq.

Iraq SOF

What next for UK’s military helo fleet?

You know the agenda is regarded as a good news story when the UK MoD holds a media day to trumpet the progress it’s made.

Far from being famous for its open and proactive engagement with the trade press, the ministry nevertheless held a useful event at RAF Benson to highlight the progress achieved in upgrading its helicopter fleet as we were passing the latest issue of Defence Helicopter magazine for press.

You can read the story from our intrepid Staff Reporter Grant Turnbull here, and there are undoubtedly some positive developments worth highlighting.

Following the MoD’s Rotary Wing Strategy in 2009, the government has invested some £6 billion ($8.8 billion) to sustain and improve helicopter capabilities, with significant upgrades implemented across the Chinook, Puma, Merlin and Wildcat fleets.

UK 2

Initial operating capability (IOC) has now been declared for the Puma Mk 2; the Chinook Mk 6; the Wildcat Mk 1/2 (army and navy versions); and the Merlin Mk 2.

‘As a result, UK forces now have new military capabilities that can be deployed around the world, with the Merlin Mk 2 currently delivering vital support in Sierra Leone to tackle the spread of Ebola; the Puma Mk 2 preparing to contribute to NATO’s training and assistance mission in Afghanistan; and the Royal Navy Wildcat deploying for global maritime operations,’ the MoD boasts in a statement.


All but one of the 24 Puma Mk 2s have been delivered following the major modifications undertaken in France and Romania, and the first aircraft has now arrived in Afghanistan, where they are taking over from the Chinooks based at Kabul International Airport.

While the upgrade and modernisation of legacy platforms should always be applauded, the MoD also appears to be playing a bit smarter with its money, with total savings of some £440 million made on the cost of supporting the Chinook, Merlin and Apache fleets over the next five years due to new contracting arrangements.

This includes £150 million in savings made on the recently announced £420 million contract with Boeing for the in-service support of the Chinook fleet.


The next big question for the MoD is how it replaces or upgrades the current Mk 1 Apache fleet – a story that has returned to the headlines in the UK of late because (shock, horror) AgustaWestland may have been doing some lobbying for things to go in its favour.

The MoD said it ‘is due to replace the Mk 1 Apache fleet with 50 latest-generation Apache helicopters with a decision on how to do this expected in spring 2016’.

With former secretary of state for defence Geoff Hoon, who was at the helm of the MoD during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, working as managing director of international business at AgustaWestland, it would be more surprising if discussions weren’t going on behind the scenes and the company meekly waited for the RfP to come out.

While AgustaWestland has been tight-lipped about how it will respond to the RfI for the Attack Helicopter Capability Sustainment Programme, one cost-effective option could well be the remanufacture of current airframes into a Block III-like configuration.

It would be a longer shot for the MoD to contract AgustaWestland to licence-build new AH-64E aircraft. While the enhancements provided by the current WAH-64D Block I fleet have been battle-proven during the Afghan and Libyan campaigns, this came at a significant premium – more than double the price of buying direct from Boeing, according to some estimates.

UK 3

This time around, the UK simply does not have the luxury to ‘gold-plate’ AgustaWestland’s involvement, despite the work it might provide for its Yeovil plant in southern England.

After Prime Minister David Cameron’s lecturing of his NATO counterparts to increase their defence spending to 2% of GDP at the most recent summit in September, it now appears likely the country will fall below the target by 2017.

Defence cuts have already caused current and former service chiefs to squeal that Britain was becoming increasingly incapable of any significant force projection too far from its borders given the number of soldiers, ships and aircraft now available.


If the British Army is set on fielding new AH-64E Apaches, the purchase should be made directly from Boeing to take advantage of the multi-year agreement the company has with the US Army, which includes scope for foreign sales.

The WAH-64D has undeniably performed admirably in Afghanistan, but the current fiscal realities facing the UK means that buying the most sophisticated platform should not be the sole starting point, especially if it is at the expense of the number of aircraft procured.