Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande, together with their respective defense ministers Philip Hammond and Jean-Yves Le Drian, announced a series of new defense deals, building on the greater co-operation between the countries outlined in the 2010 Lancaster House agreement.
Royal Air Force
The cost of converting the UK’s fleet of 25 AW101 Merlin Mk3 transport helicopters for future use as Mk4s by the Royal Marines Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) will be £330 million ($545 million). British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the amount during a visit to AgustaWestland’s Yeovil factory, where much of the work will be done. He also announced that the Anglo-Italian company is receiving a five-year follow-on integrated operational support (IOS) contract worth £430 million ($710 million) for the British Army’s Apache AH.1 fleet.
The government of Cyprus plans to reorganize its civil aviation department by privatizing the air traffic control function. The Mediterranean island will create a new self-funded ATC organization for the Nicosia flight information region. Eurocontrol provided strategic assistance to Cyprus in creating the new structure, which the government has labeled, “an independent, state-owned, private [ATC] company.”
Flight tests of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile on a Eurofighter Typhoon began on November 27. A week later, the four-nation industrial consortium delivered the 400th aircraft. The first Tranche 3 Eurofighter flew on December 2 from Warton.
UK Royal Air Force (RAF) crews have begun training on the Eurocopter Puma Mk 2, although the two squadrons will not be cleared for service until 2015. Under a contract signed in 2009, Eurocopter is upgrading 24 of the 40-year-old helicopters with new engines, glass cockpits, digital autopilot and other improvements. Seven have been redelivered to date.
The heavy rain that forced organizers to cancel the last day of the Dubai Airshow was a metaphor for the main defense story of the week. The prospect of the UAE ordering a new fighter–specifically the Eurofighter Typhoon–had been talked up by UK officials in particular, and reinforced by an eve-of-show visit by the British Prime Minister.
France and the UK have agreed a common military staff requirement for a future medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS, according to Gen. Denis Mercier, commander of the French Air Force. However, he cautioned that the move would not automatically result in the development by European industry of a Male UAV “because there is no money available at the moment.” European aerospace leaders have been pressing for the launch of a “Euro-Male” development program.
The path to a fully multi-role Eurofighter Typhoon is finally becoming clear. At a media briefing here tomorrow (Wednesday), the company hopes to announce the first test flight in Italy of an aircraft carrying the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The jet’s full operational clearance to drop smart bombs came recently. Meanwhile one of the prototypes will fly next spring with the Selex AESA radar.
The AirTanker consortium comprises Babcock, Cobham, EADS, Rolls-Royce and Thales. These partners have all contributed equipment and/or buildings to the project. AirTanker Ltd. holds the contract with the UK MoD; service delivery is via another registered company, AirTanker Services Ltd.
The commercial outfit that will provide the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) with air-to-air refueling service for the next 22 years says that it will meet the forecast in-service date. By May 2014, AirTanker will have nine Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs) ready on the ramp at RAF Brize Norton. It has already trained 18 aircrews, received six aircraft and begun operational flying. Chief executive Phil Blundell told AIN that his company could also assist other customers that need training on the A330MRTT–such as the UAE Air Force.