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6 April

US GAO denies FLRAA award protest by Sikorsky

Sikorsky had protested the FLRAA award to Bell Helicopter’s V-280. Credit: Bell Helicopter

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied a protest filed by Sikorsky Aircraft that challenged the award of the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) to rotary aviation rival Bell Helicopter. 

Announcing its decision in a statement on 6 April, the GAO said that the FLRAA programme is intended to produce a new fleet of vertical lift aircraft to eventually replace the ageing H-60 Black Hawk platform, with a goal of fielding the first in-service aircraft by FY2030. 

The projected total contract value, including all options, is approximately $7.1bn.  

The GAO said that Sikorsky had challenged the agency’s assignment of a rating of unacceptable to its proposal under the engineering design and development evaluation factor, architecture subfactor, which “ultimately rendered the proposal ineligible for the award”. 

In denying the protest, the GAO concluded that the “[US] Army reasonably evaluated Sikorsky’s proposal as technically unacceptable because Sikorsky failed to provide the level of architectural detail required by the RFP”. 

6 April

Morocco wants to expand its defence at a critical moment

The Moroccan Government has lately found an opportunity to make advances over its neighbour in an enduring arms race that goes back to the 1970’s. 

Morocco’s border disagreements with Algeria were due to non-recognition of Algeria’s colonial borders by the Moroccan regime. Both countries’ armed forces have engaged in costly equipment upgrades in recent years, viewing each other as the principal threat to each other’s sovereignty, and equally reluctant to let the other nation gain the upper hand militarily. 

According to GlobalData’s Morocco Defence Market 2023-2028 (April 2023) report, Morocco’s military defence budget will rebound from a decline in 2021-22, when the country registered a -12.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) drop in its overall defence expenditure. 

Morocco spends a significant amount of its overall gross domestic product (GDP) on defence. In 2019, this was 3.26%, but has grown to 3.96% (2023), constituting a positive CAGR of 5.0% during the period. This share of overall GDP is expected to fluctuate slightly over the forecast period, before reaching 4.00% in 2028. 

5 April

Steel cut for fourth UK Type 26 frigate as surface fleet numbers dip 

The UK has begun construction of the fourth of an eventual fleet of eight Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates for the Royal Navy in a steel cutting ceremony at the BAE Systems Govan shipyard in Glasgow. 

However, the length of time being taken to build the Type 26 frigate for the Royal Navy will be a growing concern for a service already struggling with fleet numbers as the older Type 23 frigates currently in service are decommissioned. The latest development sees the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose due to be decommissioned in April without replacement, further reducing the UK surface fleet. 

Given this, and with the first of the Type 31 frigates – currently being built by Babcock in Rosyth – not due to enter service until 2027, the UK will see a sustained reduction of its planned for fleet of 19 surface combatants (13 frigates and six destroyers) in the years ahead.

Of the Type 23 class, HMS Monmouth was decommissioned in 2021, and with the loss of HMS Montrose the UK will be reduced to a theoretical surface combatant fleet of 17 hulls. 

22 March

New British Army Special Operations rifle could influence SA80 replacement 

The UK’s efforts to acquire a new battle rifle for the British Army’s Special Operations Brigade appear to be moving forward, with Project Hunter thought to be nearing the down select decision, which in turn could inform the eventual wider replacement of the SA80 series under Project Grayburn. 

First entering service in the 1980s, the SA80 bullpup assault rifle has gone through a series of upgrades and iterations, with the SA80A2 being created in 2002 following a mid-life upgrade, followed by the SA80A3 in the mid-to-late-2010s.  

The latest variant, known as the L85A3, has been gradually rolled out across the British Army. 

British Army officials told Global Defence Technology that Hunter was nearing down select, and that, in turn, the results of the programme could influence Project Grayburn, which was still in the concept phase. 

The timeline for Project Grayburn to begin sifting through the possible options for an SA80 replacement could be around 2025, with a “modular” weapon system potentially an option. 

20 March

Taiwan’s defence budget increases 16% since 2019

China has been increasingly assertive in its claims over Taiwan in recent years, regularly conducting military exercises and sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace. These moves have resulted in an increased Taiwan’s defence budget as Taipei seeks to modernise its military and acquire more advanced weapon systems to counter the threat from China. 

The country’s defence budget has been growing steadily since 2019, with the government now allocating $19.9bn to its defence expenditure, an increase from $11bn in 2019.  

Taiwan is a lucrative defence market to armaments and military hardware suppliers, with fixed-wing aircraft, missiles and missiles defence systems, and naval vessels and surface combatants being the top three largest sectors within the Taiwanese defence market, according to GlobalData’s “Taiwan Defence Market 2023-2028“. 

A key area area where Taiwan is increasing its defence spending is on missile defence systems. China has a large arsenal of ballistic missiles that it could use to target Taiwan’s military installations and population centres.