The events in Sabah, Malaysia, this past March, when local forces conducted Operation Daulat used combat jets to quell the resistance of the Filipino gunmen on the island of Borneo, may have prompted a spate of arms sales to that country and her closest neighbors. The armed forces do have a big wish list for weapons, but procurement processes for the most expensive and longest-lead items are likely to be launched properly only after the general elections in Malaysia later this year.
Speaking prior to the Paris Air Show, Antoine Bouvier, CEO of European missile house MBDA, said, “2012 was an excellent year in terms of performance but it was a year of contrast for order intake. It was our best ever year for export, but the domestic market fell short, especially in France.” Leading those good export figures was a sizeable sale of MICA air-to-air missiles to India to support a Mirage 2000 upgrade program.
Italy’s Aerea is debuting its new weapons storage and release carriage for UAVs at the Paris Air Show (Hall 1 Stand F293). The new Ultralight Release Unit (URU) is a smaller version of similar equipment that the Milan-based company has previously developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Aermacchi M346 trainer/light attack jet and the NH-90 helicopter.
So many countries, with so many aerospace companies! Visitors shouldn’t be fooled by the panoply of European companies displaying at the Paris Air Show next week. The harsh truth is that there’s not enough money to sustain them all, especially with respect to defense technology. The European Defence Agency (EDA) commissioned a study of the problem–and reached some alarming conclusions.
Boeing Defense presented the first F-15SA destined for Saudi Arabia in a ceremony at its St. Louis headquarters on April 30. The latest F-15 variant is the centerpiece of the largest foreign military sale in U.S. history, worth $29.4 billion. It also figured prominently in recent U.S. negotiations to improve the military capabilities of Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia simultaneously.
The United Arab Emirates Air Force has decided to buy another 25 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 fighters. The deal is worth $4 to $5 billion, according to a senior Pentagon official who briefed reporters in Washington. The UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, will also be receiving unspecified “advanced standoff weapons” for its fighters, added the same official. The sales have not yet been formally notified to the U.S. Congress, although the Pentagon had consulted with key legislators there, according to the official.
Major fighter manufacturers displayed their wares this week at the 2013 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition in Malaysia in anticipation of that country’s pending requirement for new fighters. Five aircraft considered contenders for the program–the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab JAS-39 Gripen, Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18F and Sukhoi Su-30MKM–participated in the aerial display.
Saudi Arabia and Great Britain have still not agreed to terms for a resumption of Eurofighter Typhoon deliveries. Twenty-four aircraft are operational in the Middle East kingdom, out of the total 72 agreed in the Al-Salam deal. Construction of numbers 25 upward began in 2009, but instead of proceeding to the final assembly line, the subassemblies were placed in storage at BAE’s Warton factory. When they were eventually moved into final assembly last year, it seemed that an agreement was close.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) published its equipment spending plan for the next 10 years for the first time. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond–known in political circles as “spreadsheet Phil”–has made a virtue of cutting unrealistic ambition in UK defense spending plans, following a painful review in 2010 that made substantial force cuts that are still being implemented.
Oman confirmed a long-expected order for 12 Eurofighter Typhoons, and also decided to buy eight BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJTs). The contract is worth about $3.75 billion; deliveries will begin in 2017. The Typhoons will replace aging Jaguar strike aircraft in the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO), while the Hawk AJTs will supplement or replace the RAFO’s Hawk Mk103/203s. BAE Systems will provide in-service support.