How Much!

OK, so we all get defence equipment development is complex, time consuming and expensive but occasionally you see a news report about a contract that induces the kind of reaction usually reserved for when one of your kids asks for a pair of designer skinny jeans.

How much!

So it was the same reaction when it was announced at Farnborough that AgustaWestland had been awarded a contract to integrate FASGW(H) and FASGH(L) onto Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters

From their 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

Just drink that in for a moment.

Not to design and develop the missiles, not even to make them.

£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.

300 jobs perhaps goes some way to explaining the cost but this is two missiles, one of them is physically very similar to it predecessor, the systems integration work is relatively predictable and the platform is low speed and therefore without many of the extremely demanding requirement of fast jets.

But hang on, there’s more

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

Just let that sink in for a moment and have a couple of nice graphics

Wildcat Helicopter and FASGW-L (Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile LMM)
Wildcat Helicopter and FASGW-L (Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile LMM)
FASGW(H) Missile
FASGW(H) Missile – Sea Venom



Martin reminded me that news just out indicated a contract award for Storm Shadow Typhoon integrations at 150 million Euros, of £118 million.

Staggering sums


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44 Responses

  1. They just signed a similar contract to put storm-shadow on Typhoon at EUR 170 million for one missile so I suppose on that basis its a bargain for 2.

    it does go along way to show the benefits of commonality and Unfortunately if we want to stay in the game of making weapons and helicopters it’s fairly unavoidable.

  2. It does seem a lot, but on the point of one of the missiles being similar to it’s predecessor, I don’t think the Wildcats have the ability to use the Sea Skua (or I have never read anything about them being able to do so). So while the Wildcat is developed from the old Lynx, it is most likely different enough that it needs to approach the integration from a completely new start.

    Also we don’t know what new hardware and software needs to be added to the 28 helicopters. I would think it’s unlikely that the original contract for the helicopters included the two way datalink required for the FASGW(H). It also sounds like the contracts cover the cost of the guidance system for the FASGW-L.

    I could see the cost of new hardware (and fitting it) being a couple of million per helicopter. With the rest covering development, new software, design work, and testing.

    It still seems a lot, but I can see how it could cost this much.

  3. Could the MoD / Military do some of this in house? What about the RAF’s AWC T & E elements?

  4. CW

    All time greatest combat aircraft.

    And lesson in letting battlefield experience drive design.

    (Also along with the B52 an aircraft basically laid out in design in less than a week by some guys in a hotel room).

    A whole plane in a week as opposed to 2 years to strap a missile on a helicopter. Ain’t technology wonderfull.

  5. Promises to result in a first-class lightweight maritime search and attack platform.

  6. The problem is that integration is remarkably complex and time consuming. The resources don’t really exist within MOD to do this in house anymore as the capacity has long been reduced. Its expensive because its the whole costs of everything from making sure the missile hits the target, through to getting it ready to go onto the ship in the first place (e.g. munitions etc).

    Easy to mock, but as the Army found out with UORS, bolting kit on to things doesnt meant it will work, or that others things will continue to work. When you are dealing with wokkas, you want to be sure they won’t fall out the sky when you fire one! Its also a refleciton on how expensive defence is getting if you want ot keep a sovereign defence industry making missiles.

  7. I’m sure NAB can confirm the additional challenges of shipboard munitions handling and storage.

  8. Chris re: the 7 round launchers becoming 5 round, anything to do with the Wildcat being around a tonne heavier than the Lynx, but still using a similar transmission system? For a supposedly lightweight chopper, she’s starting to look a bit lardy already!

  9. Daniele Mandelli reminded me, we used to…. simpler days of bigger budgets :(

    lol TD, this is not Russia ;D where missiles are designed to be more open in integration… just keep telling yourself that these are complex equipment going on even more complex and sensitive aircraft that need time and effort to dev and trial on…. such things used to be part of the overall costs of developing an aircraft, it seems… but that raises the question, why wasn’t this all done during the development and design of the Wildcat? Is this the added cost of stringing out development and trying to cut costs on the program?

    Regardless, seems helicopters in particular stand out, only so soon after getting over the costs of the Naval Merlins, we get this gem. But we need those missiles, and we need them on that aircraft.

  10. Missile integration today should NOT be difficult. In the old days you had to almost literally build the aircraft around the missile, or vice versa. Today, with digital weapons systems and modern electronics, it should not take years to get this working, especially with the modernity of the aircraft (Wildcat) being as cutting-edge as it gets. I’m of the opinion that this is a pathetic attempt to extort more cash from the MOD. Wonder what the French will pay to integrate the ANL?

    Skua has nothing in common with Sea Venom (great name!). It is an old, analogue, semi-active homing missile. Venom is modern, IR guided and longer ranged.

  11. Ahhh, fondly recalling the time before the Government of the day decided to save money and flog their Test and Evaluation capabilities…
    I’m sure it’s far cheaper to get industry (Thales and AgW) to do the integration, as well as all the trials and testing, paying for range times and range staff separately. Oh then the MoD will want to contract another external agency, to look at those trials results and mutter under their breath, stroke their beards and ask for a few different ones to be done. Then we need to get another airworthiness agency to look at if the the whole aircraft can still fly adding a few more delays, and costs (got to justify those looks and head scratches somehow). We could even throw a few contractors at it… there are bound to be ISA jobs needed, and I expect the MoD will be understaffed, so they will need consultancy support… Maybe the main contractors too, they will probably need to get some support in as they don’t keep that many of the right staff sitting round doing nothing. All this costs you know!

  12. One of the F-35 program’s failings is the lack of a confirmed external fuel tank at present.

    Despite all the design techniques we have at our disposal, letting go of an empty fuel tank without it smacking into the aircraft wing or fuselage is hard.

    In the quest to squeeze every last drop of performance out of an aircraft tolerances become finer and desirable characteristics often become reliant on oddities. Interrupt those oddities by firing a missile and you begin to test those fine tolerances.

  13. But this isnt for a fast jet, where release has to be safely assured at multiple G’s, high speeds and all angles and attitudes

    These will be fired by a slow moving helicopter generally flying steady and level.

    Understand similarities and differences between Sea Venom and Sea Skua but the point remains, they both contain explosives, have similar launch envelopes and are similar in size and weight. Wildcat is not a new design either, it is a variation of an old one, so the physical is broadly similar as well.

  14. I wonder what the export opportunities would have been for the improvement package they installed on the army mk9’s coupled with new sensors, rather than a new airframe?

    Anyway the whole Wildcat programme is a bargain.

  15. You’re all forgetting the first rule of capitalism. It’s not worth what you paid for it, it’s worth what they’ll pay for it.

  16. Going back to older threads, @RT has devised some great testing scenarios:
    – semi-submersiblle, potentially inflatable too (i.e. not highly reflective)…_
    – wil it hit those? How close do you need to be for detection in the first place etc.

    Too late to send the bill!

  17. Given that we are now studying Air to Air missiles with the Japanese, UCAV’s with the French, multiple missiles with MBDA etc, how much of our little defence budget goes on these studies and integration tasks?
    Could there be a better way to do it? It all seems very disconnected, one centre somewhere in Europe as everyone wants to sell weapons it would help to get em certified with as many Aircraft types as is possible quickly?
    Or am I just being daft?
    Would the money spent buy me an extra Astute or CVF (LHD) for my Taxes?

  18. TD, the fact that they are both missiles is all they have in common. You still have to programme seeker modes, search patterns, fuse settings and doubtless many more variables. Guidance is different, weapon programming and warmup is different, connection to the airframe is different, etc. Okay, so it’s not difficult to physically hang the thing on the side, but you are talking about trying to integrate systems as different as Mac and Microsoft. Well, maybe Mac and a 1970s calculator.

  19. Appreciate that TAS, was responding to someone saying about the physical integration challenges, a ship not having to go in for a refit to accommodate them etc

  20. I was glad to read the other day that the AW149 has finally received certification, albeit just from the Italian military. Unfortunately having looked at the pics, there’s little in the way of actual role equipment, not even a sacrificial plywood covering to protect the cabin floor. If AW are hoping that the Polish choose it for their new troop carrier then they must be confident the poles are willing to pick up the tab to get all the additional kit certificated as well.

  21. The 8 programmes currently managed by OCCAR are the following:

    A400M (tactical and strategical airlift)
    Boxer (armoured fighting vehicle) (multi role armoured vehicle)
    COBRA – a counter-battery radar system
    ESSOR (European Secure Software defined Radio)
    FREMM (Multimission frigates)
    FSAF – PAAMS munition (surface-to-air anti-missile system)
    MUSIS (MUltinational Space based Imaging System)
    Eurocopter Tiger (helicopter)
    They need to do a little more than this I think, quite a disparate little list but as you say a start…

  22. Jules please

    The only AW helicopter we should be drooling over is a lovely Yeovil build AW159 not some shoddy Vergiate Italian job AW149, even if it can carry a proper number of troops and weighs in at a few more thousands of pounds than the slightly oddly sized wildcat.

  23. I too have been shocked recently at the numbers being banded around for integration of existing weapons onto other existing weapons platforms. I completely understand that there are complex software platforms at play – but what is that not a common framework for exchange of information? In the private sector this is the sort of problem that has not existed for at least a decade.

    Link 16 is there to provide a common communications solution. Why is there not something for providing a common software interface framework?

  24. Jonathon, I too love the 159 but they should all be grey with dipping sonar and a brace of Sea Venoms or LW Torps…
    And all have a Skull and Crossbones flag on em, just for kicks!

  25. Oddly, no-one has mentioned the slight problem that while helicopters aren’t particularly fast or high flying, they suffer from a tremendous amount of vibration – the sort of thing that precision electronics and rocket motors really hate. That’s before you start operating them off the arse-end of a Frigate in the North Atlantic in February.

  26. @ The Limey
    My thoughts too, somwhere that would have a Eurofighter a Rafale, an F35 and a gripen and they just hang stuff off of them and drop stuff off them all day long, we’ll have three out of the four here!
    A European weapons integration and test establishment, you know like BOSCOMBE DOWN USED TO DO!
    Tongue firmly in cheek!!

    @ mr.fred
    No ones aying that they shouldn’t test, obviously they should and I get the Helicopter scenario you mention, I’ve been up in a few shakey ones myself, just that there could be quite a bit of cash saved if they just went and did it instead of a massive new integration private contract everytime someone widens a missile by half an inch

  27. As a naval helicopter and our surface fleet anti ship weapon surely the wildcat was designed to carry weapons! I would have thought integration would have been part of the early design considerations. Granted weapons change, the missiles have just be chosen etc. but plug-and-play electronics should be part of the design and as they always show lots of nice weapons in their sales pitches, the aerodynamic aspects of the weapons load and release I would have thought would make this integration task a lot cheaper.

    The wildcat is already expensive

  28. @ Mercator – I had something to do with the bid to fit the Follow on Stand Off Weapon (FOSOW) to the RAAF F-111 and AP-3C, with FA-18A as an option. Both these aircraft retained analogue Armament Safety circuits even though the mission systems had been updated to digital standard. In the end the cost of fitting the FOSOW and then the MU-90 to 1970’s US Navy Lockheed armament system in the AP-3C and certifying its safety was too much, as it was to fit FOSOW to the F-111 following the decade it took to integrate the AGM-142. Weapon safety standards are very rigorous.
    In the end the RAAF chose the AGM-158 to fit to digital FA-18As only, with USN help, and even then it took years longer.

  29. @Steve,
    you would be the man then, to say if Australia is really going for both JASSM and JSM?

    Or was the “whether it will fit” study for the JSM (co-funding it) just an insurance policy for the future, should shipping targets become primary?

  30. Steve, in a way I’m relieved to hear that there is a decent reason for it. But still dismayed.

  31. Jonathan, drool over the AW159 if you like, but AW have produced an overweight porker that has just negated the extra power the CTS 800’s brought after years of being under powered. With hindsight they might’ve been better fitting out the Super Lynx 300 with better systems and avionics and getting the best out of a lighter airframe.

    As for the AW149, do you know something about Vergiate build standards that we don’t?

  32. I think the bit everyone seems to be forgetting here is that gone are the days where weapons integration constituted a place to hang the missile and a button to fire it.
    In the case of Meteor, CAMM and Sea Venom ( is that its real name ? really ? hmm OK )
    Firing the missile is just the start.
    All the above missiles ( inc Sea Viper actually ) stream back data and take back instructions.
    Just in terms of FASGW-H it is using IMAGING IR ( not just a basic seeker ) to send back a “picture” of its target so that the Wildcat can then pick a really juicy spot on the target to hit. Bridge, radar, weapons, random deck hand staring up lazily as a 100kg warhead goes off on the end of his Cuban cigar… you know the kind of thing.
    All this integrated with Wildcats lovely flat screen and in compliance ( one would hope ) with Wildcats stealth abilities.
    And it will do 4 of that at once.
    Unfortunately we only JUST ordered the dam missile. So regardless of the cat being all finished and shiny it doesn’t know how to talk vapor ware.
    I’m not saying it’s not expensive, but in a way IT IS 50% of the weapons development and it’s the bit that makes FASGW-H capable of A LOT more than skua.

    Well thats what i think anyway.


  33. TAS – Wonder what the French will pay to integrate the ANL?”

    £120 million and change (€150mm). That’s for just 2 platforms – NH90 and Dauphin/Panther.

    You’d think that the integration cost would go down with each incremental type, through reuse of modular software, comparisons of expected to actual results, going up the knowledge curve on the key problem areas to troubleshoot…

    … apparently not.

  34. The Norgies have awarded Kongsberg a £120 million contract to integrate JSM on F35. Obviously FASGW(H) is a far more complex beast than FASGW(L) so if were were to say it took 2/3 of the cost that would make it half the price of JSM on F35 but then you factor in internal and external carriage etc so comparisons again become more difficult.

    I think the only certain fact is that integration of modern missile systems is expensive and we are not getting ripped off any more than anyone else.

  35. Payday at the end of the month. Nappies and nursery fee’s get priority this week.

  36. If the MOD is paying for integration of these missiles onto Wildcat does the MOD get a refund if the Wildcat+Missiles package is sold to any other customers?

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