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June 30, 2022 | International, C4ISR, Security

NATO forging cyber response force amid growing Russian, Chinese threats

The U.S. will “offer robust national capabilities” to support the initiative, which is using lessons learned from the Russia-Ukraine war to tailor its methods.

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  • Will commercial and military launch programs ever be truly complementary?

    April 29, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    Will commercial and military launch programs ever be truly complementary?

    By: Kirk Pysher  In a few months, the U.S. Air Force will choose two of the four competing space companies to provide five years of launches in the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. One of the core objectives for this program is to increase affordability by leveraging the technologies and business models of the commercial launch industry. Is that a realistic expectation given the current commercial space market and historical precedents? Historically, the commercial launch market has seen significant variability. Launches of commercial communication satellite constellations began in the early 1970s with NASA serving as the launch provider. New launch providers began to emerge from the commercial world after the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 allowed the private sector to provide launch services. We then witnessed a remarkable growth in commercial space launches in the 1990s that peaked just before the turn of the century. Then, until about 2014, the commercial launch market stabilized at 20-25 commercial geostationary orbit satellites per year that were split essentially between three global launch suppliers. Since then, new entrants into the commercial launch market and pricing pressure from terrestrial-based communication systems have significantly impacted the viability of the commercial launch market, reducing profit margins and returns on investment across the board. The expected 20-25 commercial GEO missions is now in the range of 10-15 launches per year and is expected to remain at that level beyond the NSSL five-year period of performance. With new entrants into the commercial launch market, that 40-50 percent reduction in annual launch opportunities will now be competed among seven to eight global launch providers, putting further pressure on the viability of those launchers. Additionally, commercial launch revenue is also expected to decrease over that period by as much as 30 percent as satellite operators look to reduce their launch cost through shared launch, smaller spacecraft and reduced launch pricing. Given the projected commercial launch market and additional competition from new entrants, launch service providers will have difficultly building and maintaining viable commercial launch business plans, let alone having commercial launch-driven capital to invest in new technology. History has proven that no commercial launch service provider can succeed without having an anchor government customer. The commercial launch market simply has not been able to provide the stable, long-term demand needed to maintain affordable pricing, innovation and factory throughput for the Air Force to benefit from. History has also demonstrated that it is the Air Force with NSSL since 2003 that has provided the launch service providers with a stable number of launches. The defense and commercial launch markets have a fundamental difference. The former focuses strictly on satisfying national security mission requirements in space — needs that are driven by risk, strategy and geopolitical events regardless of vulnerabilities in commercial markets. The defense market began in the late 1950s with industry designing, developing and building launch vehicles for the U.S. government to place critical national security satellites into orbit. Early on, we saw a large number of launches in the beginning — peaking at more than 40 in 1966 — before activity levels decreased to level out by 1980. After more than 400 launches of defense-related satellites, the defense launch market finally settled into an average eight launches annually, whereas the commercial launch market is strictly tied to the ability of global satellite operators to close business plans and obtain institutional and/or private funding on new and replacement satellites. The global COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of all commercial markets. Airlines, aircraft manufacturers and commercial space companies are needing to seek tens of billions of dollars in government assistance; and private commercial space investors are also reassessing their risk postures, as is demonstrated by the recent OneWeb bankruptcy filing. Given the projected decline in commercial launch along with the historical precedents, there would be significant risk for the Air Force to expect to leverage benefit from commercial launch. In fact, I believe history has demonstrated that it is commercial launch that is able to leverage the benefits derived from the steady cadence of defense and civil government launches. The Air Force, in its role as anchor customer, needs to clearly understand commercial market dependencies and business cases of its key providers. With that understanding, the Air Force will mitigate any risk of critical national security missions being dependent on a finicky and fluctuating commercial market. Kirk Pysher is an aerospace executive with more than 20 years in the commercial launch market, serving most recently as the president of International Launch Services until October 2019.

  • Thales finalise l’acquisition d’Advanced Acoustic Concepts (AAC)

    July 28, 2022 | International, Naval

    Thales finalise l’acquisition d’Advanced Acoustic Concepts (AAC)

    TDSI, filiale de Thales, vient de finaliser l’acquisition d’AAC, la société commune partagée avec Leonardo DRS. ​

  • German spat over Airbus could spoil fighter fest at Paris Air Show

    June 10, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    German spat over Airbus could spoil fighter fest at Paris Air Show

    By: Sebastian Sprenger  COLOGNE, Germany — A lingering dispute between German lawmakers and Airbus could nix immediate plans to move forward with a future Franco-German-Spanish fighter aircraft, Defense News has learned. The kerfuffle goes back to a February request for information by members of the Bundestag’s Budget Committee. Citing the government’s role as a major shareholder in the company, lawmakers called on the administration to provide in-depth information about Airbus locations, programs and management equities throughout Europe. Airbus is one of two prime contractors for the Future Combat Air System, an ambitious project to field a sixth-generation fighter aircraft by 2040. The envisioned weapon also includes new sensors, drones and a complex data infrastructure, making it Europe’s preeminent industrial project for decades to come. Lawmakers in Berlin are worried that German defense-industry interests, presumably channeled through Airbus, could get the short shrift once substantial contracts are up for grabs amid French competition, led by Dassault. The Budget Committee reiterated its request for the company deep dive on June 5, when members approved the initial batch of funds for the FCAS program: $37 million for a study on propulsion options. Lawmakers inserted a note into their approval text that makes answering the February request a condition for entering into follow-on agreements with France. Meanwhile, officials in Paris and Berlin have been planning signing ceremonies for such pacts with Ursula von der Leyen and Florence Parly, the German and French defense ministers, respectively, at the Paris Air Show in mid-June. It’s expected the pair will ink the concept study plan and a key governance document called the framework agreement. Meanwhile, the Spanish defense minister, Margarita Robles, is expected to be on hand to sign the program’s memorandum of understanding, a more high-level, vague text beginning Madrid’s road to full participation. As of Friday, lawmakers had yet to receive the requested information on Airbus, which is to include an analysis of management personnel down to the third tier throughout different locations, separated by programs and individual job functions. As June 10 is federal holiday in Germany, that leaves four business days next week before the Paris Air Show begins. An Airbus spokesman told Defense News on Friday the company is working to resolve the issue and is coordinating with the government. A Defence Ministry spokesman did not immediately return an emailed request for comment. Documents obtained by Defense News suggest that a previous back-and-forth between the Budget Committee and Airbus, through the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, left a bit of bad blood, raising the question of whether the company will comply at all. While executives provided some information — forwarded in a confidential letter to the Bundestag by the ministry on April 26 — Airbus largely claims the detailed data demanded by the committee would needlessly reveal competitive secrets. “Airbus, in return, asks for information about the background of the request,” the company’s written response states. “The question must be raised whether other companies where the German government is a shareholder, like Deutsche Bahn [the German rail service], is subject to similar requests.” The company claims to have given the administration a detailed personnel breakdown by subsidiary and nationalities in 2018, which was also offered to committee members. According to Airbus, no lawmakers were interested. Airbus Defence and Space, which would lead the conglomerate’s work on FCAS, is based in Ottobrunn near Munich, Germany. As of December 2018, roughly 40 percent of the subsidiary’s employees were based in Germany, around 22 percent in France, 27 percent in Spain and 12 percent in the United Kingdom, the company wrote to lawmakers in April. As the FCAS program progresses, Budget Committee members want the government in Berlin to safeguard a 50-50 cost and workshare plan with France.

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