EGYPT BUYS ASSAULT CARRIERS DENIED TO MOSCOW BY PARIS
Cairo and Paris have concluded a contract for the former to purchase two ex-Russian amphibious assault ships that were not handed over to Moscow following its annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine.
Full details were not at the time of going to press revealed, but both Mistral Class vessels – constructed originally in a joint Franco-Russian project – are reportedly being supplied to Egypt for 950 million Euros (US $1 billion).
It will ensure negligible, if any, financial loss for France, which has faced penalties for failing to hand over the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) platforms to Russia. The new deal also reportedly includes training for 400 Egyptian naval personnel and the delivery of the ships by March 2016.
Egypt was the preferred customer for the French government due to a high level of bilateral military co-operation that has seen Cairo sign a number of defence equipment deals recently, including for FREMM frigates and Gowind corvettes.
Due to the strong Egyptian/Russian relationship Moscow is likely to back the sale and provide support for any Russian-origin equipment still on board. Egypt and Russia recently held their first bilateral naval exercise, Friendship Bridge 2015, which lasted eight days.
The Mistrals will considerably boost Egyptian naval power and ability to provide security and stabilisation missions in the region. Egypt is currently embroiled in fighting in Yemen, supporting the government against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
INDIAN MISSILE SHIP
Due to land mass limitations of its missile test facilities at Wheeler Island on its east coast, India is planning construction of a missile test ship. This is to enable progress with the next stage of its Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme.
The two-tier BMD programme seeks to develop a defence against endo and exo-atmosphere threats to major cities and facilities. Eight of the ten trials so far conducted by India have been successful, and more interceptor tests are planned. However, tests from Wheeler Island require evacuation of villages in the vicinity, with tests restricted to below 300km.
An inability to test different trajectories is also hampering BMD development efforts. A 10,000 tonnes ship equipped with launch and control and monitoring facilities is therefore proposed. This could take a minimum of three years to construct and fit out but it will allow tests at different trajectories and altitudes out to ranges beyond 1,500km rather than the simulations (which are the only option at present).
Such a ship will also be invaluable in developing longer ranged submarine-launched ballistic missiles for India’s Arihant Class SSBN programme. The first, Arihant, is currently set to enter service with shorter-range Sagarika/K-15 missiles. Longer range K-4 weapons are being developed.
IMPROVED MINE-HUNTING FOR USN
Raytheon is working with the USA’s Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) to improve the capabilities of AN/AQS-20A mine-hunting sonar. It is aiming to enable the synthetic aperture radar to produce better capture and process high and low resolution images of underwater mine threats.
These improvements will allow for higher quality images of deep underwater objects, so aiding identification and classification of mines. The AN/AQS-20A sonar presently equips the US Navy’s MH-60S and MH-53E helicopters.
It is also set to comprise part of the Mine Counter-measure (MCM) warfare package in the Littoral Combat Ship (as the variable depth sonar for the AN/WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System). It is also to be fitted to some Arleigh Burke destroyers.
RN ‘COPTER OPERATIONAL
Merlin Mk2, the Royal Navy’s latest Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter, has achieved full operational capability on time and under budget. The milestone was declared following the delivery of 24 (out of a planned 30 aircraft) in a £807 million programme carried out by Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland.
Improvements over the preceding Mk1 variant include more capable radar, improved consoles, and glass cockpit that cumulatively deliver an enhanced detection and tracking ability, and simultaneously share data with other aerial or surface assets. The Merlin has already proved itself to be a superb platform in a wide variety of roles that have included counter-piracy and disaster relief.