Friday, April 15, 2011

Typhoon in Japan, ships in Brazil

Japan F-X competition

Japan announced on April 13 that the bidders being evaluated for the replacement next-generation fighter programme, dubbed F-X, have been whittled down to three candidates: Boeing, with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; Lockheed Martin, with its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; and BAE Systems, representing the Eurofighter consortium for the Typhoon fighter jet.
Many industry watchers say the F-35 and the Eurofighter are the two strongest contenders, according to Satoshi Tsuzukibashi, director of the Office of Defense Production Committee at Nippon Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), Japan's biggest industrial lobby. Militarily, it also appears unlikely that Japan could select the F/A-18E.

The Japanese MOD's "wish-list" for the F-X included stealthness and twin engines. Two propulsors were indicated as a vital requirement to ensure the highest possible safety to the new fighter, which will be deployed mainly on islands the sovranity of which is contested by China. For planes which will spend their life flying over the ocean, two engines are seen as a desirable safety factor.
It is well known that the F35 is single-engined, however, and that the Typhoon is Low Observable maily only from the front, so that it cannot be defined a stealth fighter.
Both main contenders do not really fit into the requirements of Japan, which in fact had compiled its wish-list aiming for the F22A Raptor jet fighter, which the US won't sold and even less allow the building of it abroad under license.

Japan's MoD is looking for a fighter to counter an increasingly capable Chinese Air Force.
Japanese industry - in particular Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), which built a Japanese version of the F-16C/D, the Mitsubishi F-2, under license from Lockheed Martin, but which will soon complete work on it and be left without anything to build - is looking for licensed production. Keidanren supports this goal in order to sustain Japan's high-tech industrial base, Tsuzukibashi said.
"Actually, we don't care which one it is, as long as Japanese industry has the means to continue its industrial base with licensed production and technology," he said. "Actually, in that sense, the Eurofighter might be a little bit easier."

In terms of Industry support, the Typhoon appears to be well placed: Japanese industry was reportedly delighted by the offers of the Eurofighter consortium, which has promised to Japanese industry a seat into the Consortium if they buy the jet fighter. This would allow Japan to see its industry securing an important source of work and revenues for many years into the future. It appears more complex for LM to agree to allow a license production of the F35 in Japan: Lockheed has agreed to have a Forward Assemply and Check Out (FACO) plant in Italy which will assemble the planes destined to Italy and, potentially, to the Netherlands and other Europe-area countries interested in the F35 (UK will reportedly have its own assembled in the US, this leaves Turkey and, if they will choose the F35B to replace their Harriers, Spain), but this is not the same of a production on license as wanted by Japan, and it is unlikely that LM can accept to allow another FACO either, which might end up building the F35s (eventually) bought in future by Taiwan and South Korea, leaving the LM plants back in the US with little work to do. 
However, politically, the F35 is the one contender with the advantage: US-Japan links are well known, and the post WWII Japan has never bought a plane which wasn't US-designed, if not US-built.

The bids are to replace the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's F-4EJ Kai Phantoms built by MHI, which are due to begin retiring in 2015, and will be for 40 planes, according to MoD documents. Japan also will need to replace its F-15Js in the next 10 years, which could increase the number of F-X fighters to 150, depending on what will happen with the national Stealth Fighter programme officially expected to see the prototype making its first flight in 2014.
Taisei Ugaki, a veteran military commentator here, said April 14 that there was strong pressure for MHI to maintain its assembly line, and that any move toward the Eurofighter would face "strong U.S. pressure" to buy American in order to maintain the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Despite the latest delay due to the earthquake and tsunami, bids will be due Aug. 31, and a contract awarded at the end of the year, according to Japan MoD documents.

For Eurofighter Typhoon a victory in Japan would be a historic triumph for the whole european industry.  

DefenseNews Article

Brazil warships deal

In September 2010, Brazil and the UK signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement on board of HMS Ocean in visit in the port of Rio. In the occasion, BAE also made its bid for the construction of warships for the Brazilian navy. The offer is designed to meet the objectives set out in Brazil’s National Strategy of Defence to enhance its indigenous industrial capability by enabling Brazil to develop an independent, sustainable naval shipbuilding and through-life maritime support capability.

The Brazilian Navy has a requirement for

- 5 Frigates
- 5 Ocean Patrol Vessels
- 1 logistic support vessel

BAE's offer verted on bringing Brazil into the Type 26 frigate programme. Becoming involved at this early stage would give Brazil the opportunity to influence design development. The resulting rationalised design, build and procurement process would also reduce the cost per ship and deliver substantial through-life savings to both Brazil and the UK in training, maintenance and support. The modular nature of the Tyèe 26 would allow Brazil to see its own national requirements and mandated-equipment fitted to the same baseline design.

The OPV would the '90 meters' BAE design, based on the River class in service in the Royal Navy and used for the 3 patrol ships built for Trinidad and Tobago. The ships would be of course fitted with Brazilian-mandated equipment. BAE already has a similar technology transfer agreement in place with Bangkok Dock in Thailand, which is building one vessel of this class for the Royal Thai Navy. The logistic vessel would have been a Fleet Tanker based on the Wave design.

Yesterday, however, DefenseNews reported that the UK government has apparently made a new, lower-cost interim offer. The article has vanished from the website, leaving, at the moment in which i write, a dead link behind itself. I'm not sure of what this implies. Possibly, the source was not reliable and the site preferred to avoid publishing not-confirmed rumors. But it was a very interesting read, and if true, it would be such a bargain for Brazil that i struggle to see how they could refuse.

The UK seems to have offered 3 of the retired/soon to be retired Type 22 frigates (what about the fourth, i wonder...?) and BAE would add the 3 offshore patrol vessels built for Trinidad and Tobago but never delivered after the order was cancelled in September last year. Rumors are that the UK would also add the recently decommissioned RFA Fort George to the offer. I don't know the price tag, but it is likely to be a true bargain. The rationale behind this proposal is probably to spur Brazil into an early order by seducing them with a pretty much unbeatable price, which could later on see a follow-on build phase for two new Type 26 frigates (or more, perhaps) and at least 2 more OPVs, killing-off the rivalry from FREMM and Italian and French shipyards.
For BAE, selling the 3 OPVs would help remedy to the losses caused by the messy Trinidad and Tobago disaster, while the MOD (after the recent agreement which saw the Treasury allowing the ministry of defence to keep and use money obtained by selling kit) would be able to pocket a good amount of precious money to reinvest to cover other needs.

Looks like an "Everyone Wins", all things considered. It will be interesting to follow both of these cases, and see what happens.  

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