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ASC Shipbuilding has dismissed media assertions that size issues in the design of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) future nine Hunter-class frigates are causing concern.

Managing Director Craig Lockhart told Janes on 3 July that assertions regarding the weight and length in the ship’s design were incorrect and did not properly consider the “very complex, and very normal, naval design activity under way”.

A CGI impression of a Hunter-class frigate. ASC Shipbuilding has dismissed recent media assertions on the design of the RAN’s future Hunter-class frigates as “incorrect”. (Royal Australian Navy)

A CGI impression of a Hunter-class frigate. ASC Shipbuilding has dismissed recent media assertions on the design of the RAN’s future Hunter-class frigates as “incorrect”. (Royal Australian Navy)

“ASC Shipbuilding has embarked on a design process, using the United Kingdom’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship as a reference design, to deliver a very specific capability for the RAN,” said Lockhart.

“While there are similarities, Australia has not purchased the Type 26 frigates. Rather, Australia’s Hunter class will be a very different ship with capabilities such as the Australian-made CEA radar, a deck to accommodate the [MH-60R] Romeo helicopter, and the Aegis Combat System currently being incorporated into the design.”

Although Australian specifications have affected the size and weight of the frigate’s radar mast as well as its power and cooling requirements, contrary to being redesigned the ship is right in the middle of a normal naval ship design process, said Lockhart.

“Importantly, the design activities being undertaken remain within the agreed weight and space envelopes and we remain confident in our ability to meet the capability requirements and specifications on time and on budget,” he added.

 

Australia can expect delivery of its first Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2023, and of the second and third aircraft by early 2025, Northrop Grumman Australia Chief Executive Chris Deeble has disclosed.

Deeble told Janes on 3 July that all three platforms are part of low-rate initial production (LRIP) ‘lot five’, as detailed on 25 June by the US Navy (USN), which is the contracting party on a USD333.4 million contract awarded to Northrop Grumman for the three UAVs, two main operating bases, and one forward operating base in an integrated functional capability-four (IFC-4) and multiple intelligence configuration.


        A USN MQ-4C Triton UAV taxiing at Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam. Australia is expected to receive three Triton UAVs by 2025, manufacturer Northrop Grumman told 
        Janes
         on 3 July.
       (DVIDS)

A USN MQ-4C Triton UAV taxiing at Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam. Australia is expected to receive three Triton UAVs by 2025, manufacturer Northrop Grumman told Janes on 3 July. (DVIDS)

IFC-4 functionality will add a signals intelligence capability to the UAV’s baseline IFC-3 configuration.

The production pause proposed in draft US budget papers for USN Triton UAVs in fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) and FY 2022 provides Australia with an unprecedented opportunity to fill the LRIP-5 production gap with the remainder of its own Triton requirement, said Deeble.

“We continue to work with the US Navy, US Congress, the Australian government, and the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] to identify solutions to prevent a pause in Triton production.

“While options for production and delivery are still being discussed, if Australia commits to an additional four aircraft, we anticipate delivery of the last aircraft in 2026,” he added.

Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper forecast a requirement for seven Tritons under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B to supplement the RAAF’s manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.

Russian state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) has been linked with a move to acquire troubled Indian company Reliance Naval and Engineering Ltd (RNEL).

The Russian group, which has a long-standing aim to expand its profile in the Indian naval shipbuilding market, was reportedly one of several investors to express interest in acquiring RNEL during a round of bidding for the company that ended late June.

Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) has reportedly submitted a bid to acquire India’s Reliance Naval and Engineering, the constructor of the Indian Navy’s Project 21 offshore patrol vessels (pictured). (Indian Navy)

Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) has reportedly submitted a bid to acquire India’s Reliance Naval and Engineering, the constructor of the Indian Navy’s Project 21 offshore patrol vessels (pictured). (Indian Navy)

In a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on 30 June RNEL confirmed that its lenders have now approved an additional round of bidding that will conclude in late July. The extension is required, said the lenders, to attract additional investors in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

Bids will be facilitated through an extension of an ‘expression of interest’ (EOI) document that was originally issued through the BSE in late May. Since then, five entities have made bids to acquire RNEL, said local reports, including USC. Neither RNEL nor USC have confirmed the Russian group’s bid.

The sale of RNEL is intended to pay off the company’s heavy debts, which in 2019 had reached about INR126 billion (USD1.6 billion. In January 2020 RNEL said it was insolvency proceedings, launched against the company by the Ahmedabad bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) over a debt claim worth INR11.6 billion.

The Australian government announced on 2 July that it will acquire 251 remote weapon stations (RWSs) for fitment on to Australian Army 4×4 Bushmaster and Hawkei protected mobility vehicles.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement that the RWSs, which allow a gunner to operate a weaponised system from a protected position, will be procured from Australian company Electro Optic Systems (EOS), but did not reveal the exact model or number of RWSs to acquired.

A Royal Netherlands Army Bushmaster vehicle in Afghanistan fitted with an R400 RWS from Australian company EOS. Canberra announced on 2 July that it will acquire 251 RWSs from EOS for fitment on to the Australian Army’s Bushmaster and Hawkei vehicles.  (Royal Netherlands Army)

A Royal Netherlands Army Bushmaster vehicle in Afghanistan fitted with an R400 RWS from Australian company EOS. Canberra announced on 2 July that it will acquire 251 RWSs from EOS for fitment on to the Australian Army’s Bushmaster and Hawkei vehicles. (Royal Netherlands Army)

Morrison said the planned acquisition is part of the AUD270 billion (USD186.8 billion) capability upgrade for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) under the new 2020 Force Structure Plan that was announced on 1 July.

“The federal government is committed to ensuring Australian Defence Force personnel have the tools they need to protect themselves and keep Australians safe,” said the prime minister.

“At the same time we must have a robust and resilient defence industry that maximises opportunities for small businesses and supports Australian jobs and local investment,” he added.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds pointed out that investments such as the procurement of additional RWSs “will make the ADF more capable for the wide range of potential scenarios and threats Australia will face in the future”.

 

AVX Aircraft is studying the capabilities that compound coaxial rotor and tiltrotor technologies could bring the US Army in its Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition, according to an executive.

Kendall Goodman, AVX COO, told Janes on 26 June that the coaxial aircraft the company is studying has a wing above the cockpit that provides lift in high-speed flight, differing it from the Sikorsky-Boeing SB>1 Defiant coaxial platform. This wing, he said, offloads the rotor, so it does not work as hard.

An artist’s illustration of the coaxial compound rotor aircraft AVX Aircraft is studying for the US Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition. The company is also studying tiltrotor technology. (AVX)

An artist’s illustration of the coaxial compound rotor aircraft AVX Aircraft is studying for the US Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition. The company is also studying tiltrotor technology. (AVX)

AVX’s coaxial rotor platform design features dual ducted fans, which the company offered for its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft-Competitive Prototype (FARA-CP) offering. This coaxial aircraft design also has a rear ramp, fast rope hardpoints, and a highly flexible mission cargo or troop compartment.

Goodman said AVX is using this two-platform approach for its study because the US Army’s size requirement for FLRAA is in a mid-class category. The service, he said, desires the aircraft to be a tiltrotor in some ways and a coaxial in others. The FLRAA aircraft will be larger than the FARA-CP platform.

The coaxial will provide much more lifting power while the tiltrotor would provide the speed that the customer desires. The tiltrotor, accordingly, will require more power to achieve these higher speeds.

India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approved the INR181.48 billion (USD2.43 billion) procurement of 21 Mikoyan MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) amid heightened tensions between India and China over a border dispute along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in the Himalayas.

In a 2 July statement the MoD said the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which is headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, cleared the acquisition of 21 upgraded, second-hand MiG-29s from Russia for INR74.18 billion and of 12 licence-built Su-30MKIs for INR 107.3 billion.

The 21 platforms will supplement 59 MiG-29s inducted into the IAF from 1986 that are being upgraded to MiG-29M standard.

The 12 additional Su-30MKIs will be acquired to replace an equal number of aircraft lost in accidents over the years. These fighters will be licence-built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Officials said that HAL, which by March 2021 will have completed the last of 222 licence-built Su-30MKIs as part of the IAF’s fleet of 272 of the type, had been eager for additional orders to keep its assembly lines active.

Four IAF Su-30MKI fighters flying in formation. The Indian MoD has approved the acquisition of an additional 12 licence-built Su-30 MKI and 21 second-hand MiG-29 fighter aircraft amid tensions between India and China over a border dispute in the Himalayas. (Irkut)

Four IAF Su-30MKI fighters flying in formation. The Indian MoD has approved the acquisition of an additional 12 licence-built Su-30 MKI and 21 second-hand MiG-29 fighter aircraft amid tensions between India and China over a border dispute in the Himalayas. (Irkut)

IAF sources said the additional aircraft will boost the service’s depleting fighter squadron numbers, which had dropped from a sanctioned strength of 42 to 28 squadrons.

UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) procurement chiefs are reassessing the GBP5.3 billion (USD6.7 billion) Ajax programme after the first batch of production standard armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) was found not to be ready for delivery.

The UK MoD is reassessing the Ajax programme after the first batch of production standard AFVs was found not to be ready for delivery.

The UK MoD is reassessing the Ajax programme after the first batch of production standard AFVs was found not to be ready for delivery.

Details of the exercise are still being worked out and the MoD’s chief civilian administrator, Stephen Lovegrove, is preparing to issue a formal notification to the UK parliament’s Public Accounts Committee about the reassessment. These notifications are only made when major cost overruns, technical glitches or programme delays are involved.

The revelation of the reassessment was made by Air Marshal Richard Knighton, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff for Financial and Military Capability, in evidence to the committee on 28 May.

AM Knighton confirmed the Ajax vehicles made by General Dynamics Land Systems-UK (GDLS-UK) were not ready to be accepted by the British Army as planned last year.

“There was a desire to preserve [delivery] dates in order to maintain the focus and the morale of soldiers that would use the capability, but it became clear that elements of it were not going to be ready by the original date,” AM Knighton told the committee. “In due course, when we better understand the details of that, Sir Stephen [Lovegrove] will be writing to the committee with a revised assessment of the programme.”

The problems were identified by the MoD’s Major Projects Portfolio sponsor group, which monitors programme performance, said AM Knighton. He was responding to questioning from the committee on whether procurement project teams have a temptation to deliver equipment before it is ready so they can meet high-profile milestones.

The US Army is purchasing a new tranche of 248 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) for its soldiers, as well as for sister services and other nations.

On 30 June, the army announced that it had awarded Oshkosh Defense a USD127 million contract to produce and deliver the vehicles by the end of 2022. A spokesperson for the company noted that these JLTVs were destined for the army, US Marine Corps (USMC), and the US State Department.

“While adversaries, terrains, and tactics have all evolved immensely since the vehicle’s conception, the JLTV’s flexible design allows the light tactical vehicle fleet to evolve at a similar pace,” George Mansfield, vice-president and general manager of joint programmes for Oshkosh Defense, said in a statement. The company highlighted “flexibility” as the potential outfit provides the vehicles with an array of weapons, sensors, networks and communications package.

For example, the USMC is developing a new ground-based air-defence system to defeat manned and unmanned aircraft. The effort is centred on the JLTV and the service is poised to announce which turret it has selected for the vehicle under its Marine Air Defense Integrated System [MADIS] Increment 1 initiative.

The US Army recently awarded Oshkosh with a USD127 million JLTV contract. Above is a JLTV outfitted with a short-range air defense system.  (Oshkosh Defense )

The US Army recently awarded Oshkosh with a USD127 million JLTV contract. Above is a JLTV outfitted with a short-range air defense system. (Oshkosh Defense )

“To date, Oshkosh has successfully integrated multiple weapons on the JLTV such as remote weapon systems up to 30 mm, anti-tank missile systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems, and counter-UAV systems,” Oshkosh said in the announcement. 

 

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) will establish a new electronic warfare (EW) unit at Camp Kengun in Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island between March and April 2021 to help defend Japan’s southern remote islands.

A JGSDF spokesperson told Janes on 2 July that the unit, which is expected to come under the command of the JGSDF’s Western Army, would comprise about 80 personnel.

One of the main tasks of the unit will be to detect and identify enemy naval and airborne communication and radar emissions. According to the spokesperson, the unit will then use this information to jam the enemy's radar and missile seekers, while protecting the JGSDF's own communication links.

The new EW unit that the JGSDF plans to establish at Camp Kengun in 2021 will most likely also use the recently developed truck-mounted NEWS system (seen here). (Japanese MoD)

The new EW unit that the JGSDF plans to establish at Camp Kengun in 2021 will most likely also use the recently developed truck-mounted NEWS system (seen here). (Japanese MoD)

The new unit is expected to work in close co-ordination with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, which is also on Kyushu Island.

The ARDB was launched in March 2018 to enhance Japan’s capabilities to defend the Nansei Islands in the southwest, including the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

The JGSDF was allocated JPY3.9 billion (USD36.2 million) during the current fiscal year to cover the ‘start-up costs’ of the new unit.

The service is also set to acquire a truck-mounted Network Electronic Warfare System (NEWS) this fiscal year for JPY10 billion.

Although the spokesperson did not link the system to the new unit, documents obtained by Janes indicate that it will most likely be used by the EW unit at Camp Kengun.

 

The United Kingdom is set to complete the ongoing upgrade of its earliest Boeing Chinook heavy-lift helicopters “by early 2021”, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told Janes on 2 July.

The RAF is upgrading its 38 HC4 Chinooks to the new HC6A standard. Most of this fleet has been modernised, with the remaining nine to be completed by early 2021. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

The RAF is upgrading its 38 HC4 Chinooks to the new HC6A standard. Most of this fleet has been modernised, with the remaining nine to be completed by early 2021. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

The Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) fleet of Chinook HC4 helicopters, the earliest of which were introduced in 1981 as the HC1, is currently being converted to the HC6A standard with the fitting of Boeing’s Digital Automatic Flying Control System (DAFCS).

The MoD told Janes that 29 of the 38 HC4 helicopters have now gone through this process, with the remaining aircraft all set to follow early next year.

In addition to the 38 HC4/HC6A helicopters (before being modernised, these were/are broadly analogous to the US Army’s CH-47D-standard plus UK-specific modifications), the RAF fields eight HC5 helicopters (equivalent to the US Army’s MH-47E-standard plus UK-specific modifications) and 14 HC6 helicopters (equivalent to the US Army’s CH-47F-standard plus UK-specific modifications).


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