Tag Archives: Ukraine

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The World According to Shephard: Week 44

NATO SOF prepare for battle

NATO special operations forces have taken part in an exercise across eastern Europe  involving scenarios loosely based on recent Russian incursions into Ukraine. The exercise was designed to enable NATO and non-NATO entity special forces to counter an invasion by an enemy force as well as ‘diversionary’ forces.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hosted its ThunderDrone Prototype Rodeo, the culmination of the first in a series of rapid prototyping events that began in September. The results are expected to go beyond the physical drone with its mechanical features, autonomy, swarming and machine learning all being explored.

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Swarms of unmanned requirements

The Australian Army is also enhancing its aerial unmanned capabilities with the procurement of FLIR Systems’ PD-100 Black Hornet 2 nano-UAVs. The deal will increase the Army’s Black Hornet fleet to over 150 providing enough to equip every army combat team at the platoon and troop level with an organic reconnaissance capability.

The US Navy’s requirement for an unmanned Carrier-Based Aerial-Refuelling System has hit a bump in the road after Northrop Grumman withdrew from the MQ-25 Stingray programme following changes to the programme requirements. There is a risk that further changes could see other competitors to follow suit.

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Meanwhile in Israel the country’s first commercialised AUV, the HydroCamel II has completed over 250 hours of sea trials in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the system’s developers at Ben-Gurion University, the AUV’s autonomy and manoeuvrability capabilities set it apart from its competitors.

Watching the ships roll in

Above sea the Ukrainian coast guard is bolstering its fleet by purchasing up to 25 new high-speed patrol boats. The acquisition is part of Ukraine’s strategy for maritime security at each seaport to be ensured by a squadron of boats including unmanned patrol boats, a patrol attack boat, a high-speed interceptor, a coast guard boat and a new trimaran.

However in the UK the Royal Navy found itself in hot water this week after the National Audit Office published its investigation into equipment cannibalisation in the navy. The report found that between April 2012 and March 2017 there was a 49% increase in the practice with 60% of instances occurring between 2016 and 2017.

Picture are, on the left RFA GOLD ROVER, and on her right HMS LANCASTER sailing together on Atlantic Patrol Task (South) duties.

In Poland it has emerged that the Polish Navy may be forced to decommission its only Kilo-class submarine, ORP Orzel after a fire broke out on the boat. The fire is believed to have begun while crew members were discharging the submarine’s batteries while moored in the north of the country.

The digital battlespace

Moving into the digital world where the defence industry may be on the brink of a revolution as blockchain service providers  report increasing levels of interest from the industry. While the exact nature and extent of the impact blockchain will have remains uncertain, it is clear that this technology is here to stay.

Meanwhile Thales is in the process of analysing logged data from the recent Formidable Shield ballistic missile defence exercise to see if modifications made to its SMART-L Multi Mission radar can further enhance the technology. During the exercise the radar was able to detect the missile from a distance of 1,500km.

Thales

In the race to advance electronic warfare capabilities the US is expediting efforts to field technology into theatre that enables critical vehicle systems to remain functional in GPS-denied environments. GPS signals are increasingly vulnerable to jamming or spoofing by adversaries such as Russia who are actively deploying advanced EW capabilities.

 

Ukraine’s border-line helo fleet

Ukraine is clearly worried about the state of its military helicopter fleets.

Particularly as the military conflict in the breakaway east of the country has dramatically highlighted the poor tactics, obsolete aircraft and lack of modern self-protection aids of Ukrainian Army helicopters, with the loss of more than a dozen aircraft since the start of the conflict.

To bolster numbers, it has emerged that the Ukrainian government is considering setting up a facility to remanufacture old Bell UH-1 utility helicopters in-country to eventually ship out for military service in Eastern Ukraine.

A group of American investors is currently in discussions about the venture, with the Ministry of Defence reportedly seeking an initial production volume in the range of 50-70 aircraft annually.

It remains unclear where all these surplus UH-1s are going to be sourced from, although in an unrelated development last week, it emerged last week the US Air Force may have some spares sooner rather than later.

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But so far, so credible. What’s harder to believe are comments by those involved in the project that there are also plans for the new joint venture to design a new multipurpose helicopters from scratch as well as a develop a high-speed design.

The lack of an established OEM in the ranks (Bell Helicopter was rumoured to be involved, but the company denies this, putting it down to a mistranslation somewhere along the way) must surely consign those ambitions to the wishful thinking pile.

The crisis in Eastern Ukraine has already given the helicopter procurement plans of several of its neighbours a fairly good shake-up, as I discovered at a conference in Prague in June.

With the main OEMs starting to more aggressively target Eastern European helicopter requirements, the possible creation of a production line throwing out 50-70 robust, multipurpose Hueys a year is an intriguing possibility.

Doing business on the Eastern front

One consequence of Russia’s recent aggression against Ukraine is how the conflict seems to have opened Eastern European eyes to the need to renew the region’s helicopter fleets.

In large part the countries in the region operate aging Soviet-designed rotorcraft, which, as well as becoming increasingly obsolete, are proving difficult to maintain given the Ukrainian crisis and EU embargo.

At a conference in Prague last week, I heard various helicopter commanders complain that spare parts for their Russian helicopters are becoming increasingly difficult to procure.

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While they have no doubt been pushing for Western replacements for years, the situation in Ukraine seems to have helped to convince their political masters, with various procurement programmes now underway.

Poland is the big buyer, procuring new multirole and attack helicopters, but Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia also have upgrade or new acquisition programmes underway.

Against this backdrop, the conference attracted numerous senior helicopter commanders – from the immediate region as well as Scandinavian countries (which face similar geopolitical challenges) – in addition to the main Western helicopter manufacturer.

In the words of one British commander, the ‘OEMs are circling like sharks’ now that requirements are starting to translate into firm procurements.

We look at what this means for the replacement of the various Mi-24/35 fleets across the region in the next issue of Defence Helicopter.

Despite years of political apathy and continuing budgetary challenges, the momentum to replace former Soviet rotorcraft seems to be picking up since Moscow has shown itself to be a less than stable influence in the region.

NATO: Falling short?

NATO released its Expenditures Data for 2014 and Estimates for 2015 report on Monday (maybe next year they will come up with a snappier title).

Why is this important? Well as always it’s good to know who is spending what. More significantly, this is a bit of a naming and shaming exercise to see who isn’t pulling their weight among the member nations.

What’s the target amount to be spent on defence by governments? It’s 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, first formulated in 2006.

Nato pic 2And who are the winners? For the 2015 predictions on spending as a percentage of GDP: Estonia at 2%, Greece at 2.4%, UK at 2.1%, the US at 3.6% and new entry Poland now spending 2.2% of GDP on defence, up from 1.8% in 2014.

So out of 28 member states only five have managed to meet the 2% requirement set out by NATO, despite the growing threat from Russia and ISIL. And if you believe what you read on the internet it seems that the UK is taking a short cut to 2% by including spending on peacekeeping missions in the target. Which is apparently perfectly legit.

So the next question is how worried should we be that not all of the nations are getting their wallets out? Well, at the NATO summit in Wales last year the allied states agreed to reverse the trend towards declining budgets and work towards the Holy Grail of 2%. We cannot however expect that to happen overnight, with NATO noting that those currently under the bar should aim towards the 2% guidelines within a decade.

Boots on the ground

The Russia-Ukraine crisis has raised the sombre spectre of a return to Cold War relations between NATO and the great bear, and the security situation in Eastern Europe has deteriorated so rapidly that the US-led defence alliance has barely had time to collect its wits.

NATO has been engrossed in preparations to finalise its withdrawal from an unsatisfying, unpopular, and prolonged overseas mission in Afghanistan. However, once again it must turn its eyes to the East and attempt to contain the threat – real or perceived – of its old nemesis and raison d’être, Russia.

The Russiaoutbreak of civil war in the Ukraine, thanks to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and support for Russian-speaking separatists, has prompted the Eastern European nations bordering the conflict to seek reassurances from NATO that Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is worth more than the paper it’s written on.

Poland and other former Soviet bloc states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are set to air their concerns about the security implications of the crisis at the upcoming NATO summit, scheduled to be held in Wales on September 4-5.

Poland, which has found itself smack bang in the middle of a potential confrontation between NATO and Russia, has in recent months accelerated its ten-year military modernisation plan, which is one of the largest military expenditures by any European NATO member.

Three tenders for 70 multirole helicopters, 30 attack helicopters, and a short and medium-range missile and air defence system have been given priority status in order to beef up the country’s immediate defensive and attack capabilities.

The overall shopping list for Poland’s modernisation effort is extensive, with air defence systems, UAVs and helicopters to be purchased for the country’s air, navy and ground forces at an estimated cost of 130 billion pln (€31.5 billion).

Poland is taking its security situation seriously, and has made no secret of the fact it would like to see more NATO and American troops and infrastructure stationed within its borders.

The issues of whether NATO will choose to permanently station its forces on the eastern borders of Russia, create a weapons cache there, modernise its existing air bases and ramp up joint exercises and air patrols will no doubt be hot topics at the upcoming summit in Wales.

For his part, UK prime minister David Cameron has advocated a schedule of joint-exercises, the establishment of new military infrastructure, pre-positioning of equipment and supplies, and enhancing the region’s NATO Response Force of up to 25,000 troops.

While the Eastern Europeans are pushing for US and NATO boots on the grounds to act as a visible deterrent to any future Russian aggression, Germany is said to oppose any permanent NATO bases in the territory of the alliance’s eastern member states.