Swiss Department of Defense Pushes Back on F-5 Sale Rumors

By Dan Darling, Forecast International

Switzerland’s Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports has shot down media rumors that some of the Swiss Air Force F-5 Tiger combat aircraft have been sold to Uruguay.

Swiss F-5E

Swiss F-5E

Currently the Swiss Air Force operates 50+ F-5E and F-5F Tiger II fighters, purchased between 1976 and 1981, whose airframes are at the end of their useful service lives. These are complemented by 32 newer F/A-18E/F Hornets.

Whether or not to replace the F-5 Tigers hovered over the Swiss political scene for the past four years until a popular referendum held on May 18 terminated government plans to replace the Tigers with 22 new-build Gripen E fighters, at a cost of CHF10 billion ($11.2 billion). Following the referendum, the Swiss government opted to shift the monies ring-fenced for that project – under an earmark referred to as the Gripen Fund Law – toward other ministries.

The Swiss Air Force’s F-5 fleet had been slated for retirement in 2016, a move that would drastically reduce its combat aircraft inventory and leave the service with one remaining fighter platform: the F/A-18E/F Hornet.

What to do with the F-5s remains the responsibility of Switzerland’s bicameral legislature, neither house of which opted to even consider the Defense Department’s plans to decommission the F-5 fleet. Defense Minister Ueli Maurer has stated that without a parliamentary decision on whether or not to approve the retirement of the Tigers, the fleet will remain in operation.

With British Army Procurement Drawing to a Close, Future of F-CEV Terrier Program Reliant on Exports

By Thomas Dolzall, Forecast International

The next-generation F-CEV Terrier entered serial production in late 2012. BAE Systems delivered the first Terrier vehicle to the British Army in June 2013, with the order scheduled for completion by August 2014.

F-CEV Terrier

F-CEV Terrier

With the conclusion of British Army production in 2014, the future of the F-CEV Terrier production line will be almost wholly dependent on the export market through 2023 and is likely to face prolonged periods of dormancy.

The Army’s F-CEV Terrier vehicles are being assembled primarily at BAE Systems’ Newcastle-upon-Tyne manufacturing facility. BAE Systems announced in 2012 that the Newcastle-upon-Tyne facility would be shuttered upon the completion of the British Army’s 60-vehicle F-CEV Terrier order. However, the contractor intends to relocate and reassemble the Terrier’s production line machinery and technical systems at its Telford facility in anticipation of future orders.

Although the F-CEV Terrier features significantly enhanced capabilities in comparison to its predecessor, these improvements also result in a correspondingly steep unit price for the vehicle.

With defense spending in Western Europe and North America constrained by the lingering impact of 2008’s financial crisis and the deployment of the remaining international forces in Afghanistan drawing to an end, the most promising export prospects for the F-CEV Terrier may reside in the Middle East and Asia. However, the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine has spurred a level of renewed interest in the procurement of heavy military vehicles among European states, and France has expressed modest interest in evaluating the F-CEV Terrier for potential procurement. BAE Systems and the British Army performed demonstrations of the Terrier for French defense officials in June 2014.

The potential for French acquisition of the Terrier system may in part be predicated on the corresponding purchase of French defense products by the U.K., most notably the Nexter VBCI armored personnel carrier or CAESAR self-propelled artillery system.

In order to spur export interest in the vehicle, BAE Systems showcased the Terrier outside the U.K. for the first time in June 2014, at the Eurosatory Land and Airland Defence and Security Exhibition.

The vehicle’s high cost – about $8 million per unit – will likely persist in acting as a prohibitive factor on the Terrier’s overall sales potential. Given the current economic climate, few states are willing, or able, to incur such a significant expense in order to procure a dedicated engineering vehicle.

Bombardier Shifts Gears With Restructuring

by Richard Pettibone, Forecast International

After getting its long-delayed CSeries jet in the air in late 2013, Bombardier suffered a setback in mid-2014 when an engine failed. This latest delay was attributed to issues with the oil lubrication system on the Pratt and Whitney PW1500G engine.  Pratt and Bombardier worked together to address the issue, and the aircraft returned to flight in early September 2014.

Cseries

This latest event follows a long litany of struggle for Bombardier’s latest flagship program. Originally planned for launch in 2004, the effort was shelved for two years due to a lack of orders. Relaunched in 2007, the program has been hit with repeated delays and rising costs.  In 2012, the first flight was delayed by six months due to assembly problems at its suppliers.  A second delay hit in June 2013 when systems and software upgrades didn’t come together in time.

Now the company is trying to keep its schedule for service entry in mid-2015 by ramping up its testing effort. Even with the push, Swedish company Braathens Aviation (Malmo) said it no longer wants to be the first recipient of the aircraft due to uncertainty surrounding the program, but did not cancel its order. The fear for the airline is that the program will slip yet again.

Despite the difficulties, the program did score a win in late 2014 when aircraft leasing company Macquarie AirFinance signed a firm agreement to buy 40 CS300 jets, with an option for 10 more. This latest deal brings the CSeries orders to 243 firm, 57 aircraft shy of its goal of 300 by mid-2015. The firm is, as of this writing in the fall of 2014, close to announcing a new launch customer for the program as well.

The turmoil in such a major program is speculated as one of the driving causes in Bombardier Aerospace’s decision to restructure from one unit into three independent segments. Effective in 2015, the Aerospace unit will be broken up into Commercial Aircraft, Business Aircraft, and a new Aerostructures and Engineering Services segment.  The move eliminates a layer of management, as all three segments will now report directly to Bombardier’s president and CEO.

The reorganization has ignited speculation that the firm might spin off parts of its aviation business. While the compartmentalization of the operations in this structure might make such a deal possible, it is considered unlikely at present. For example, a sale of the aerostructures unit would be difficult, as the unit produces major components across Bombardier’s aircraft product lines.  Rather, the new structure appears aimed at clarifying and focusing the firm on its particular markets while at the same time fixing operating issues.

As it looks toward a more globalized future, Bombardier has invested in various regions around the world, such as China and Morocco.  By establishing teams and factories in these regions, Bombardier is leveraging internationally competitive manufacturing costs, low shipping and transportation costs, and proximity to markets in Asia and Europe, respectively.

Despite the difficulties of the recent past, Bombardier’s management has moved quickly to correct its course.  With program difficulties hopefully behind it, Bombardier must now focus on delivering on its record aerospace backlog of $38.1 billion.

 

Airbus A350-900 Receives EASA Type Certification

By Douglas Royce, Forecast International

TOULOUSE, France – The Airbus A350-900 received Type Certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on September 30. The certified aircraft is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification will follow shortly.

Airbus A350-900 XWB

Airbus A350-900 XWB

The Airbus fleet of five test aircraft accumulated more than 2,600 flight test hours during its test program. Airbus plans to deliver its first A350 to Qatar Airways before the end of the year.

The A350-900 is the lead variant in the A350 XWB series and the most popular of the three A350 variants. As of the end of August 2014, Airbus had accumulated a total of 750 orders for the A350 XWB series, including 34 orders for the A350-800, 547 for the A350-900, and 169 for the A350-1000.

Service entry of the A350-1000 is scheduled for mid-2017. Development of the A350-800 is forecast to be suspended due to a lack of interest from airlines (credit butt). The re-engined A330-800neo will serve as a replacement for the A350-800 in the Airbus product line, and Airbus expects the remaining A350-800 customers to eventually convert to the A330-800neo or A350-900.

Airbus intends to produce about three A350s per month by early 2015, and 10 per month by 2018. Beyond 2018, the company is considering production of as many as 13 or 14 A350s per month.