Integrating Complex Weapons and Aircraft


A few days ago I posted a quick article on the contract award to Thales and Agusta Westland for the integration onto the Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters of the Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) and Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy), or FASGW(H) (Sea Venom) and Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (Light).

From the Agusta Westland press release

AgustaWestland is pleased to announce that it has signed a contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) valued at £90 million to integrate, test and install the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) Heavy and Light missile systems onto 28 Royal Navy AW159 Wildcat helicopters

£90 million of the Queen’s Pounds to fit two missiles types to 28 helicopters.

Janes added a few more details

Flight and firing trials of the missiles from the Wildcat is scheduled to occur over a 12-month period from 2017-18 from ranges in Scotland, and possibly the Aberporth range in Wales.

At Eurosatory Thales were awarded a £48 million contract…

The contract covers the development, qualification and integration of the FASGW(L) system – which comprises a five barrel launcher and a laser guidance system – for the Agusta Westland AW159 Wildcat helicopter, and provision of deployable test equipment.

Does that mean there will be another contract to MBDA for similar ‘qualification and integration’ for FASGW(H) or is that included in the recent contract announcements regarding the new Sea Venom, or FASGW(H)?

£138 million

In the comments on another post one of our knowledgeable commenters linked to the Society of Cost Analysis and Forecasting, specifically a presentation about work the MoD and industry had been doing on modelling and prediction of integration costs for complex weapons delivered by two people from the Cost Analysis and Assurance Service at DE&S.

The opening slide describes a challenge.

For any future weapons or aircraft programme, significantly reduce the cost, and time taken  for systems integration

One of the elements of meeting that challenge was to develop a modelling methodology that could be used to predict integration costs by analysing the cost drivers of real world projects.

The key industry participants were.

Integrating Complex Weapons 01
Integrating Complex Weapons – Industry Partners

The study describes the components of integration in terms of complexity against weapon, platform and environment factors.

Integrating Complex Weapons 02
Integrating Complex Weapons

Wildcat and FASGW(H), Average Complexity Level 1.3

Wildcat and FASGW(L), Average Complexity Level 2

Typhoon and Storm Shadow, Average Complexity Level 3.3

By averaging the three main contributing factors a better fit was derived than looking at them individually.

This informed a regression analysis and using current estimates against in progress projects a degree of certainty about the method obtained.

Integrating Complex Weapons
Integrating Complex Weapons

Given this presentation is over 18 months old, how does it compare?

For Typhoon and Storm Shadow it defined an SME informed complexity level 3.3, which should correlate to a best fit cost of about £150 million.

And so a few weeks ago the Storm Shadow integration contract was announced, reported by Janes

£150 million

Magic, the estimate was borne out by an actual contract.

Which brings us back to…

Wildcat and FASGW(H), Average Complexity Level 1.3, from the graph above, the estimate would be £50 million

Wildcat and FASGW(L), Average Complexity Level 2, from the graph above, the estimate would be £75 million

How does £50m and £75m compare to the actual contract awards?

It is difficult to tell because it is not clear what they involve exactly but an estimate of £125 million for the pair would not look a particularly good match given the two contact announcements. It is also not clear why Thales have a contract for integration of LMM but no announcement from MBDA for Sea Venom and an Agusta Westland contract announcement for both.

If we look at the upper estimate curve, combining the two shows we have got ourselves a bit of a bargain!

Still, puzzling why a separate Thales announcement.

The point of all this is…

Complex stuff is expensive and without the full details of what a contract involves you can’t really make a meaningful comparison.

Interesting nonetheless.

It is also good to see that the MoD is doing some heavy lifting with industry to try and get these costs under control because the current situation is investments in expensive complex weapons are not fully maximised by improving launch platform diversity because integration costs are so eye watering.

These also illustrate perfectly why it makes sense to pool the costs with other nations by using common weapons and harmonised certification and integration processes.

Wildcat Helicopter
Wildcat Helicopter
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