The situation is moving so fast that I’m finding it hard to keep up. What we do know is that a ferocious effort is underway to evacuate the tens of thousands of foreign expats who are currently trying to escape the chaos in Libya. Both the scale and the effectiveness of the efforts vary. While Greece and Turkey lead the way in the efficiency of its maritime evacuations — even offering to other countries like China to help evacuate their citizens — other nations like Canada and the U.K. have been criticized for slow reactions and incompetent handling of the situation on the ground. A Canadian chartered airliner had to leave Tripoli empty after officials overestimated the number of Canadian nationals in the area. Meanwhile, thousands more E.U. and American nationals are stuck deep in the desert far from the reach of charter planes and ferries. Rumors thus abound that as well as the two Royal Navy destroyers (Cumberland and York) in the area an SAS/SBS detachment backed up by 1 PARA SFSG are preparing to help safely evacuate those stranded. This is, I must stress, just a rumor.
Dassault, Eurofighter & Airbus
The UAE is currently holding its yearly defense fair at Abu Dhabi known as “IDEX.” During the fair, the UAE’s Ministry of Defense dropped a bomb which may well cause a few shocks in France. The country, which had suggested in 2008 that the Dassault Rafale would be the plane to replace its aging Mirage fleet, has now backtracked, saying that “all options were still open.” France has had incredible difficulty trying to sell the Rafale in a very competitive climate. As purse strings tighten as a result of the global recession, that job is only going to get harder.
EADS and the four-country consortium behind the Eurofighter Typhoon are fighting hard for business in India and Japan. The signs are that, while the Typhoon may still be the runner-up in the race to win Japan’s F-X program, it may well be a close one. The race closed when United States denied Japan the chance to buy F-22 Raptors and announced big delays in the F-35 program. Japan has been alarmed by China, which is rapidly modernizing its air force. The race could well be down to the Typhoon and the Boeing F/A-18EF Super Hornet Block II.
The troubled European transport aircraft project has passed another vital milestone this week, paving the way for production. The program is already suffering from terrible delays, cost overruns and an admission from Airbus that it will never break even. The first A400M will be delivered to France late in 2012.
The E.U. and EADS have voiced dismay over the decision by the United States Department of Defense to finally make a decision over which aerospace manufacturer will make its next-generation tanker aircraft. In the the end, Boeing (which was touting its KC-767) won over Airbus and its A330-derived proposal. E.U. trade officials in Brussels “are obviously disappointed that the contract award has not been made to EADS North America,” said John Clancy, spokesman for E.U. Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht. “As to the next steps, that is in the first place an issue for EADS,” he added. The decision comes after a decade long process which has caused migraines and possible hair loss for all concerned.
Trouble in the Middle East means one thing: sky-rocketing oil prices. Brent crude is currently running around the $112 mark whilst U.S. light crude was running at around $98. This has emboldened Russia to bank on booming gas and oil revenues to finance a splurge on defense spending. Amongst the items listed in the bonanza are: 25 new frigates, 12 new diesel subs and eight new nuclear subs. Meanwhile, new-generation S-400 and S-500 anti-aircraft missiles will be given a funding boost along with 600 new planes and an eye-catching 1,000 new helicopters. Russia is eager to catch up with China and the United States, but all of this spending depends on two things: oil prices staying sky-high and putting pen to paper to sign deals to actually build the stuff.