Tuesday, September 27, 2022

US Defense Contractor Seizes A ‘Billion Dollar Deal’ As Europe Boosts Its Military Spendings Amid Russian Aggression In Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered security concerns among countries in various regions, prompting them to look for ways to bolster their defenses. And this seems to have provided the US weapon manufacturers with a golden opportunity to rake in the moolah.

Major defense sales are already underway. On March 15, the State Department authorized a prospective Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of eight Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopters to Spain, a NATO country, for $950 million. 

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Spain of MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopters with Support and related equipment for an estimated cost of $950 million,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a press release.

Spain requested for eight MH-60R helicopters, 20 T-700-GE-401C engines (16 installed, 4 spares), 32 AGM-114R(N) Hellfire missiles (all up rounds), two Hellfire II Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), 100 WGU-59/B Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II Guidance Sections (all up rounds), and eight Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems Joint Tactical Radio Systems, among others.

Two U.S. Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 (HSM-41, 'Seahawks') helicopters, a SH-60B Seahawk (
US Navy Seahawk helicopters (via Twitter)

The State Department has stated that the helicopter will strengthen the Spanish Navy’s capabilities and remain interoperable with the US and NATO. 

EU Nations Increase Defense Spendings

The ongoing Ukraine war coupled with Western worries of potential escalation has resulted in increased defense spending among European nations. 

NATO has clearly said it would not fight against Russia. “We are not part of this conflict,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had said. However, the military alliance has pledged support in the form of weapons supply to Ukraine.

putin
File Image: Vladimir Putin and
Sergey Shoigu

Parallelly, European nations have earmarked large funds for their military. Germany, which has been committed to pacifism since World War II, announced plans to spend more than 100 billion euros ($112.7 billion) on its military. 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the German budget will allot 100 billion Euros ($109 billion) for a one-time increase in military spending this year, which is more than double the total defense budget for 2021 — 47 billion Euros.

Furthermore, Germany has also announced on March 14 that it would procure 35 F-35A fighter jets manufactured in the United States. This is the first major arms acquisition that has been publicly disclosed since Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to increase defense expenditure in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Poland, which borders Moscow’s ally Belarus on one side and Ukraine on the other, has also announced an increase in defense spending.

The Polish government adopted a new defense measure last month in what officials depicted as a direct response to Russia’s actions against Ukraine. The plan would significantly increase military spending.

Furthermore, just prior to the invasion, the US State Department authorized the sale of 250 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams main battle tanks worth $6 billion to the Polish government.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that Denmark will significantly increase its defense budget and try to become self-sufficient in natural gas, reducing dependence on Russia. Moscow had threatened to cut gas supply to Europe after the EU sought to cripple Russia with sanctions.

According to an agreement signed between the major political parties, Denmark will gradually increase military spending to reach 2% of GDP by 2033, equal to an increase in the annual defense spending of around 18 billion Danish crowns ($2.65 billion).

Denmark is likewise planning a referendum on adopting the joint EU military policy on June 1, with the government conceding that the country’s major political parties “agree that European security is threatened.”

Aside from individual members, the European Union, which has long touted its “soft power,” is also committing hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase weapons for the Ukrainian military.  

MH-60R Seahawk Helicopter

The MH-60R Seahawk, which Spain intends to procure from the US, is a multi-mission helicopter. It is regarded as the most advanced maritime chopper in the world. The rotorcraft replaces the SH-60B and SH-60F helicopters in the US Navy’s service, consolidating their capabilities. The MH-60R is also known as ‘Romeo.’

The helicopter is capable of anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), search-and-rescue (SAR), naval gunfire support (NGFS), surveillance, communications relay, logistics support and troop transfer, and vertical replenishment (VERTREP).

For vertical replenishment flights, the helicopter is equipped with a cargo hook weighing 2,721.55kg (6,000lb). The mission system’s integrator is Lockheed Martin. 

The MH-60 helicopter has dual controls and can carry a pilot, co-pilot, and tactical mission officer. In the cabin, the sensor operator station is located.

Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk - Wikipedia
Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk – Wikipedia

The MH-60 Romeo helicopter has a large and spacious cabin with plenty of legroom for passengers. Three or four flight crew members and five passengers can be accommodated in the cabin. 

For anti-surface warfare missions, the helicopter’s four weapons stations can be outfitted with a variety of weaponry, including Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire anti-surface missiles. The MH-60R may deploy up to three ATK mk50 or mk46 active/ passive lightweight torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare. For self-defense, a pintle-mounted 7.62mm machine gun can be equipped.

Lockheed Martin’s MH-60R is being purchased and deployed by an increasing number of countries. Customers of Romeo include the United States Navy, the Royal Danish Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, and the Hellenic Navy. South Korea and India have also placed orders for the helicopters for 2021.

The helicopter would be extremely relevant to Spain due to the built-in interface between the Romeo and Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Combat System, which is installed on Spain’s lvaro de Bazán-class air-defense frigate.

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