If one was in the market for a range of military equipment and wanting to indirectly support a potential ally to irritate and confound a potential enemy one might look at the defence market place in Ukraine.
A good starting point would be;
Nowadays, Ukroboronprom Ukrainian Defence Industry is the consolidation of a big number of multidisciplinary enterprises related to various fields of defense industry. The enterprises that conduct the economic activity in the area of development, manufacturing, sales, repair, upgrading and recycling of weaponry, military and special purpose equipment, ammunitions, and also participate in military and technical cooperation with foreign countries, have made the Ukrainian Defence Industry membership.
A few examples of things on the Ukraine shelf or development opportunities;
Going up the scale is the Skif missile, imagine the endless hours of fun you could have saying you were going skiffing
Too obscure a reference, perhaps a more interesting option would be to look at Antonov.
The first aircraft that springs to mind is the brand new AN-178 currently looking for development partners in Europe. It does look increasingly like Poland will act as the bridge between East and West and Saudi Arabia also has an interest
The AN-178 could fill the gap between the RAF’s Chinook helicopter at 10 tonnes payload and the Atlas at 30 tonnes plus. It reminds me of a slightly larger BAE 146, in essence, it is an AN-158 with a ramp.
The AN-178 can carry 18 tonnes on a cargo deck that is sized to accommodate 463L pallets and ISO containers with what looks like an impressive short field and austere runway performance.
It is early days yes, the first flight only took place a few months ago, but it does look promising, investigate using a Rolls Royce BR700 series engine and it gets even more interesting.
These are kind of semi-serious suggestions but one that I think actually has some value is expanding and extending the Strategic Airlift Interim Service (SALIS). SALIS is a commercial arrangement managed by the Strategic Airlift Coordination Cell (SALCC) in the Royal Netherlands Air Force Base at Eindhoven.
The SALIS-Contract basically consists of two fundamental elements. Firstly, the assured access to strategic airlift capability for outsized cargo. Secondly the ownership and usage of Participants agreed quota of flying hours per annum. The assured access guarantees the assured availability of two (2) AN124-100 under part-time charter for any of the Participants national purpose, and the assured availability of up to six (6) AN124-100 aircraft on priority call for the rapid deployment of forces in support of NATO/EU operations. The SALIS Steering Board is the highest directing body for all SALIS matters.
SALIS has been recently extended to 2016 as the A400M project ramps up deliveries but even with a large European fleet of A400M’s in service there will still be a need for long range heavy strategic lift.
The SALIS participating nations are described below;
The consortium includes 12 NATO nations (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom) and two partner nations (Finland and Sweden).
The AN-124-100 Ruslan is a hugely impressive aircraft; 120 tonnes payload and 4,800km range for starters.
The first thing Europe/NATO should do is extend the SALIS contract beyond 2016 to at least 2022, this provides Ukraine with a stable source of income and in reality, would not cost a great deal when spread across the SALIS nations.
In parallel with this would be an effort to ‘de-Russia’ the agreement comprising two parts, commercial and technical.
Antonov has also been trying to develop the next generation Ruslan for a while, there have also been concepts to create a version with a taller cargo bay for tall industrial loads and a Chinook helicopter without disassembly.
The list of improvements in the AN124-100M-150 includes (from the Antonov website)
- payload increased from 120 tons to 150 tons;
- take-off weight increased from 392 tons to 402 tons;
- flight range increased, including for cargo of 120 tons from 4650 km to 5400 km;
- aircraft assigned service life is increased to 24,000 flight hours; works on its extension up to 50 000 flight hours/10 000 flights/45 years service life are being performed;
- the new PO-500 schedule of maintenance has been introduced (maintenance every 500 flight hours);
- onboard crane equipment providing loading-unloading operations of a single piece of cargo up to 40 tons weight;
- fuselage structure had been strengthened to enable airlift of a single piece of cargo up to 150 tons weight;
- Navigation System and radar have been updated;
- digital anti-skid braking system allowing to reduce landing distance up to 30% have been installed;
- crew reduced from 6 to 4 members, and the comfort level of the crew rest cabin has been improved;
- military oxygen equipment has been exchanged for the civil one;
- reinforced wheels and tires have been installed;
- new devices for engine control have been installed;
- modernized systems of reverse control and engine vibration state monitoring have been developed;
- the SRPPZ-2000 ground proximity warning system installed;
- A826 inertial navigation system upgraded;
- Enhanced observation (EHS) has been applied;
- Minimum Equipment List has been developed and is now being implemented
Added to this list should be an effort to remove any Russian sub-contractor or equipment components and replace with them home-grown or European manufactured items. The objective would be to move away from any reliance on Russian industry and upgrade the existing aircraft in the SALIS availability pool. This might also reveal opportunities for further development to improve performance or reduce in life costs, Rolls Royce Trent engines perhaps. They would still be civilian owned and managed with no military features.
Funding for this development would be on a loan or shared equity basis, binding Antonov into the European aerospace industry.
Once this non-Russian Ruslan design is available the SALIS partners should fund modifications to any existing aircraft and seriously consider increasing the airframe assured availability number from 6 to 12, or even 15.
This would be a smart move by Europe and/or NATO, a strategic investment in industrial cooperation with Ukraine that supports indirectly their security operations in the East and much less provocative than sending military aid.
The obvious spin-off is a significant improvement in the ability of the SALIS nations to project power and respond to humanitarian disaster relief operations, regardless of the A400M’s fine qualities.
None of this would be ‘easy’ but some obvious joined up thinking between overseas development assistance departments and shared funding models would reduce the overall impact on European defence budgets even further.
12 of the 150M version would be able to move a maximum 900 tonnes in a single lift cycle (assuming the receiving airport has the capacity), or put another way, more than double the entire lift capacity of the RAF’s C17 entire fleet.
Let’s not get too ambitious, but who knows, it might even make the original medium weight FRES concept viable and trade is always better than aid!