UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced GBP1.1 billion (USD1.88 billion) in defence spending projects as he officially opened the Farnborough International Airshow 2014 on 14 July.
The most significant news includes a commitment to develop the Captor-E radar for the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft and the expected announcement to maintain the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) Beechcraft King Air 350-derived Shadow R.1 electronic intelligence (ELINT) and Raytheon Sentinel R.1 Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) surveillance aircraft in service until 2018.
Putting an active electronically scanned array radar (AESA) capability on the Typhoon has long been a goal for the UK and the other Eurofighter Typhoon partners, with AESA seen as a key selling point for export orders. The UK commitment refers to its share of a EUR1 billion (USD1.36 billion) development contract for the Captor E, which Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director of Programmes & Support at BAE Systems told IHS Jane's he hopes will be signed by the end of the year.
Whitehead describing Cameron's announcement as "brilliant", added: "It was a strong message that was heard by industry and our international customers."
Once development work is complete, it is expected to be followed by production contracts by individual Typhoon partner nations to buy radars for installation in their aircraft.
"We anticipate the UK's 40 Tranche 3 aircraft will receive the radar, that is our focus," Whitehead told IHS Jane's . "They are built with provision for the radars. Fitting it to Tranche 2 aircraft would involve additional costs."
The Captor-E announcement sits with a GBP300 million spending package that also includes new spending on the Future Combat Air System (FCAS - an Anglo-French unmanned combat aerial vehicle project, for which further details are expected to be announced on 15 July), and "improved protection and communications for our Armed Forces operating in the Gulf".
The Sentinel and Shadow service extension is driven by need to "respond to global threats" Cameron stated. Both systems were originally procured for use in Afghanistan, and had been scheduled to be retired when that conflict ended. Their extension forms part of a GBP800 million intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) package. This package also includes additional funding for unspecified special forces equipment and new spending in the cyber domain.
According to Number 10, this GBP800 million spending package will "extend the range and flexibility of our options in responding to the threat of global terrorism and hostage taking".
Asked whether the spending represented 'new money', Cameron stated that it was. He clarified however, that the GBP1.1 billion in funding actually came from an underspend by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in its previous years accounts and instead of being automatically re-gathered by the UK Treasury had been re-assigned back to the MoD to spend on these new projects.
Writing in the Telegraph on 13 July, Cameron expanded further on the announcements: "Since 2010 we have been engaged in fixing this mess (the so-called MoD budget 'black hole'). Many difficult decisions had to be taken, but we have now balanced the defence budget and set out a fully-funded equipment plan of more than GBP160 billion over 10 years. The house that was built on sand is now built on rock, meaning that the so-called 'underspend' can now be re-invested. This is a crucial point; that money wasn't taken back to be used elsewhere, it was put back into kit for our Forces, as we are seeing today."
Cameron also announced the creation of two new UK defence centres of excellence, being formed under the Defence Growth Partnership - created at the 2012 iteration of the Farnborough International Airshow. The first of these will be located at Farnborough, and will focus on military aircraft, including engines, platforms, and systems. The second will be created in Portsmouth and be focused on maritime systems. The flagship project of the Portsmouth centre of excellence will be on the creation of concepts for a new unmanned underwater maritime reconnaissance vessel - billed by Cameron as a "high-tech submarine".