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11 Feb 19. MoD under fire over £1bn support vessels tender. Ministers stick to international procurement plan despite calls to protect UK jobs. The three planned support ships will support Britain’s aircraft carrier fleet with provisions and munitions. The Ministry of Defence has come under renewed pressure over its decision to put a £1bn contract to build support vessels for the Royal Navy out to international tender amid rising fears of job losses at British shipyards. Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP who chairs the House of Commons defence select committee, has written to Stuart Andrew, the minister for defence procurement, asking why the government did not classify the three auxiliary ships as warships. Unions and shipbuilders have repeatedly pushed for the vessels, known as fleet solid support (FSS) ships, to be considered as complex warships, which would exempt them from EU laws preventing protectionism. In the letter, which was sent last week, Mr Lewis pointed out that both Italy and France classified their equivalent ships as warships and decided to follow a single-source procurement process. “We should be grateful if you could explain what the potential benefits were that led to ministers’ apparently perverse decision, which is to the detriment of UK companies and workers,” Mr Lewis wrote in the letter. To talk but fail to act risks our nation being seen as little more than a paper tiger Gavin Williamson, defence secretary At about 40,000 tonnes each, the three ships will support Britain’s aircraft carrier fleet with provisions and munitions. The £1bn contract would be a big boost to UK yards and could be a bridging programme between the end of the carrier programme and the first overhaul of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier. On Monday Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, is to confirm in a speech that the carrier will be deployed to the Pacific as part of a policy to stand up to those who “flout international law” and that “may lead us to intervene ourselves”. He will also warn that the price of non-intervention in global crises has often been “unacceptably high” and western powers could not “walk on by when others are in need”. “To talk but fail to act risks our nation being seen as little more than a paper tiger.”
The MoD has stuck by its decision to put the support ship contract out to international tender as a way of reducing costs. Four international shipbuilders, along with a British consortium comprising BAE Systems and Babcock International, were shortlisted in December to compete for the contract. The other companies are Italy’s Fincantieri, Spain’s Navantia, Japan Marine United Corporation, and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of South Korea. Unions have repeatedly called on the department to reconsider. Babcock announced last week it was cutting 150 jobs at its yard at Rosyth in Fife where about 1,700 people are employed as work on the aircraft carriers starts to wind down. Unite, the union, described the news of the job losses as a “kick in the teeth for the Scottish economy”. Recommended Aerospace & Defence UK set to become ‘minor player’ in defence export market Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said it would be “a gross betrayal of a skilled workforce and British manufacturing if the government continued with its obsession to award such work to overseas shipyards and deny manufacturing and communities in the UK the economic benefits that building the Royal fleet auxiliary ships would bring”. The MoD said: “We are required by law to procure the Fleet Solid Support ships through open international competition . . . The final decision regarding the winning bid will be made in 2020.” (Source: FT.com)
11 Feb 19. Gavin Williamson heats up UK defence rhetoric Britain cannot be seen as ‘paper tiger’, says minister, as MoD prepares to send carrier to Pacific. Defence secretary Gavin Williamson on board HMS Queen Elizabeth with its captain during the carrier’s sea trials. Britain must be prepared to take military action against countries that “flout international law” or risk being seen as a “paper tiger”, Gavin Williamson will say on Monday in a speech that marks a more aggressive tone from the UK as it seeks to forge a new international role after Brexit. As part of the shift, the defence secretary will also confirm that the first deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth, one of the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, will be in the Pacific — a move likely to be seen as provocative by Beijing. That maiden mission for the aircraft carrier will be part of making “Global Britain” a reality, he will claim: “Significantly, British and American F-35s will be embedded in the carrier’s air wing, enhancing the reach and lethality of our forces and reinforcing the fact that the US remains our very closest of partners.”
Last year China accused Britain of infringing Chinese sovereignty when one of the Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ships, HMS Albion, sailed close to the disputed Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. Mr Williamson will use the set piece address at the Royal United Services Institute in central London to insist the UK will stand up to adversaries with both traditional military power and a significant investment in Britain’s cyber warfare capabilities. Western allies must be prepared to “use hard power to support our interests”, he will say, promising to increase the “mass and lethality” of the country’s forces. But the rhetoric is likely to be seen by some military commentators as overblown because of the hollowing-out of Britain’s military capabilities in recent years. The British army is the smallest it has been in decades with its full-time fighting force unlikely to meet its target of 82,000 by 2020. Despite winning an extra £1bn for defence in last year’s budget, the Ministry of Defence faces a £15bn shortfall in its equipment plan over the next decade, a funding gap which could lead to further capability cuts unless Mr Williamson wins more money in the upcoming Whitehall spending review.
Mr Williamson’s speech comes ahead of a meeting this week of Nato defence ministers in Brussels and the annual Munich Security Conference at the weekend which will focus on how escalating tensions between the US, China and Russia are placing international arms control treaties and global institutions under strain. Nato must be prepared to face up to the new threat posed by a “resurgent” Moscow following the collapse of the US-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Mr Williamson will argue, urging fellow member countries to increase their defence spending to the target limit of 2 per cent of national GDP. The speech will fuel speculation that Mr Williamson, who became defence secretary a year ago, fancies his chances in a future Tory leadership contest. He will declare that Brexit has “brought us to a great moment in our history”. Nia Griffith, shadow defence secretary, pointed to spending cuts at the MoD: “Instead of simply engaging in yet more sabre-rattling, Gavin Williamson should get to grips with the crisis in defence funding that is happening on his watch.” (Source: FT.com)
08 Feb 19. French Air Force chief: France and Germany working on export controls for future fighter. The French Air Force chief of staff provided top cover for the future Franco-German fighter at a time when the French defense industry is increasingly concerned that cooperation with Germany could curtail its ability to export the system.
“There is a real determination” at the highest levels of government — including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — to agree on export controls, said Gen. Philippe Lavigne during a Feb. 7 roundtable with reporters.
“It’s a need for our security, but it’s also a need for our industry, and we have to develop this,” he said, adding that Spain has already signed on as an observer to the program and that others are expected to follow.
The French government is generally seen as more supportive of arms sales than its partner in the sixth-generation fighter program, called the Future Combat Air System, or FCAS. While enthusiasm for the program remains high, some French defense industry officials are concerned that Germany’s involvement could prevent sales to countries that Berlin considers rogue actors.
But settling an export policy is just one of the many questions about the FCAS program that are still yet to be answered.
So far, France and Germany’s concept for FCAS involves a network of swarming UAVs, new weapons and a sixth-generation fighter that can exchange information with each other. FCAS would replace France’s Rafale and Germany’s Eurofighter around 2040.
“We haven’t decided what will be the architecture,” Lavigne said. “Will it be this type of aircraft? Will it be this type of [UAV]? Will it be this type of unmanned combat air vehicle? Will it be this type of missiles? But we know that we will share an architecture.
“The gamechanger is the connectivity between different platforms.”
Earlier this week, the French and German governments awarded €65m (U.S. $74m) to Dassault and Airbus for the two-year study that will solidify a path forward for FCAS, and the companies plan to announce demonstrator programs at the Paris Air Show this summer.
Lavigne wasn’t clear on how the governments would reconcile different requirements, like France’s intention to launch FCAS from aircraft carriers, which could drive different design attributes than a fighter that takes off and lands conventionally.
“Of course we will have national interests in France with the nuclear deterrence. Germany will have different national interests,” he said. However, he stopped short of saying how much commonality is expected between the two militaries.
Until the study is complete, it is “too early to say” whether FCAS will be manned or unmanned. However, Lavigne said a human will continue to be in the loop — especially for nuclear deterrence missions — whether a human is in the cockpit or it is remotely piloted.
“We are open to look at the technical solution,” he said. “For me, it’s optionally piloted.”
FCAS’ system-of-systems approach is similar to the U.S. Air Force’s vision for Penetrating Counter Air, its future air superiority concept. The Air Force hasn’t shared which defense companies are involved in conceptualizing or prototyping future technologies that could be pulled into a PCA program of record, but it requested $504m in fiscal 2019 to push the effort forward, with investments projected to hit $3bn in FY22. (Source: Defense News)
07 Feb 19. France To US: You’re Really Important To Our New Fighter. France’s commitment to a cutting-edge sixth-generation fighter — working in tandem with drones and long-range sensors — is a sign of its commitment to deterring Putin’s Russia. Talk about strong signals. The day after France and Germanyannounce plans to build a sixth generation fighter, the head of the French Air Force flies to Washington for 24 hours to meet with defense reporters and Pentagon officials.
Despite that whirlwind schedule, Gen. Philippe Lavigne, the French Air Force chief of staff, made time to sit down with reporters at the Air Force Association building to discuss his service’s new strategic plan. Crucial to that plan will be Future Combat Air System (FCAS), an array of sensors and drones built around what Lavigne said will probably be an “optionally manned” 6th-gen fighter. This “system of systems” strategy, mixing manned and unmanned, is very similar to the US approach to its new B-21 Raider bomber.
The initial study contract of $74m was announced yesterday by French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and her German colleague Ursula von der Leyen. Lavigne told us the two-year study by Airbus and Dassault, who will build the system if it goes ahead, will lead to a system meant to deploy two decades from now.
“This contract is the very first brick of a stupendous building,” Parly said at the event. That said, as anyone knows who has followed huge multinational programs in Europe, laying all the bricks to actually build something can take a long time and a lot of painful politicking. But one positive indicator is that Spain has signed on as an observer and Lavigne indicated they were likely to join the program at some point.
For those watching Europe with a jaundiced eye in this age when an American president regularly praises Russia’s president and criticizes his closest allies, it’s important to look beyond the rhetoric. The French are much closer to the front lines than we are, and they have been demonstrating their commitment to respond to Putin’s posturing. The commitment to the FCAS is one example. Another important indicator: Earlier this week, a French Rafael nuclear-capable fighter carried a nuclear weapon — albeit without a live warhead — for more than 10 hours. It fought through an A2/AD scenario while also being refueled by A330 tankers, Lavigne said.
France is also pursuing research and development of a hypersonic system, which the general said will be “very important for our security,” though there are no plans to build a system yet.
Finally, Lavigne said “France recognize the Russians have violated the INF (Treaty),” adding that he thought France’s “work was helpful” as the US worked to decide whether to leave the landmark 1987 arms control accord, which banned intermediate-range missiles that put both Moscow and NATO capitals at risk of a surprise strike. But the general kept the barn door open, saying France retained “the hope the Russians will come back to the INF.” Well, we can all hope. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
07 Feb 19. French Shipbuilding Challenges Government’s ‘Perverse’ Obsession With International Tender For £1bn Royal Navy Contract. Today we have once again seen the cost of this Government’s betrayal of UK shipbuilding with the proposed job cuts at Babcock Rosyth says GMB Union. GMB, the shipbuilding union, says French defence policy challenges the Government’s perverse obsession with putting a £1bn Royal Navy contract out to international tender. The union has long campaigned to keep the crucial £1bn order for three new military support ships in the UK.
GMB estimates £285m would also be returned to the taxpayer through income tax, national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments. 
However the Government’s current policy is to put the deal out to international tender – even though they are not bound by normal EU rules on competitive tendering when it comes to military ships.
France has just announced its decision to build four similar logistics ships in France with no international tender. 
Meanwhile Julian Lewis, Conservative Chair of the Commons Defence Committee, wrote to the Government saying: “Our allies, such as both France and Italy, classify equivalent ships as warships.” 
Shipbuilding and ship repair employment in Great Britain has fallen from an estimated 122,200 in 1981 to under 32,000 in 2016 – threatening the UK’s sovereign defence manufacturing capability.
Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer and CSEU National Chair of Shipbuilding, said:
“Today we have once again seen the cost of this Government’s betrayal of UK shipbuilding with the proposed job cuts at Babock Rosyth.
“They are killing the industry by starving it of the oxygen of work.
“The Government’s obsession with putting the £1billion FSS contract out to international tender is made all the more perverse compared with France’s intention to build four similar logistics ships in France with no international tender.
“Why can’t UK do the same instead of a misguided race to the bottom price to overseas yards, with no thought on prosperity and return to the UK treasury in the form of tax and NI, plus workers’ spending in UK shipbuilding communities.
“Government Ministers have hidden behind EU regulations to avoid building these FSS ships in Britain.
“It smacks of double-standards and betrayal. What happened to the red white and blue Brexit they were promised?”
06 Feb 19. UK set to become ‘minor player’ in defence export market Looming military kit deficit first since English civil war, report says. Britain is set to become a net importer of defence equipment for the first time since the civil war in the mid-17th century, according to a new report, underlining long held concerns about the country’s declining manufacturing base. Analysis by the research firm IHS Markit forecast that from 2024 Britain would become a “minor player” in the global defence export market owing to what it described as “planning and investment failures in its domestic defence industry”, exacerbated by Brexit. “Based on existing orders and import backlog the UK is now set to become a net defence importer at a system level by 2024 for the first time since the English civil war,” said report author Ben Moores. The report said the UK’s defence industrial policy was to acquire capability “at the lowest possible cost, often regardless of potential domestic partnership or offset work”. “This policy led to the end of the vehicle industry over the past decade and is now set to see the UK’s aviation sector lose large segments through lack of domestic offset from foreign manufacturers. Brexit will accelerate this trend.” UK defence companies including BAE Systems and Babcock International have traditionally been among some of the largest manufacturers of aircraft, warships and tanks. BAE Systems has a lead role on the Eurofighter Typhoon programme and Britain has sold 72 jets to Saudi Arabia, one of the UK’s largest defence exports customers.
Another potential order, for an additional 48 jets, has not yet been finalised. Longer-term, however, concerns have focused on Britain’s reliance on foreign companies for the next generation of fighter jets to replace Typhoon. America’s Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor on the F-35, the new stealth fighter that flies from the UK’s two new aircraft carriers. BAE holds a 15 per cent stake in the programme and makes the rear fuselage section in Lancashire. Defence experts believe continued work on the F-35 and investment in a UK-led planned sixth-generation fighter, dubbed Tempest, is critical if Britain is to retain key industrial capabilities. France and Germany on Wednesday announced they were moving ahead with plans for their own next generation jet. The IHS Markit report painted a gloomy picture as contracts for major pieces of defence equipment and weapons systems tail off in the coming years. “The UK is set to become the fifth largest market for defence imports, despite being traditionally outside the top 10 importers,” the report said. The defence secretary Gavin Williamson launched a refreshed industrial policy in December 2017 which highlighted recent moves to shore up the industry, including the national shipbuilding strategy. BAE won a multibillion pound contract to supply nine of its Type 26 warships to the Royal Australian Navy last year. The victory was a coup for the company, but while UK design and engineering teams will be involved, the ships will be built in a government-owned shipyard in Adelaide and few jobs will be created in Britain.
A report by the former defence minister Philip Dunne said that on average the sector generates £7bn of exports each year. Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, said that to grow its share of the global export market in the coming years the UK would have to focus on high end equipment which could not be produced more cheaply by new players like Turkey, South Korea and China. “If the UK is to return as a serious player in defence exports, we cannot compete for the lowest common denominator,” said Mr Tusa. “We have to go high end.” The IHS study also underlined the emergence of Qatar as a key importer of defence equipment, with the country jumping to ninth position globally after only entering the top twenty importer list in 2016. France is predicted to overtake Russia as the world’s second-largest exporter in 2020, with annual exports due total $7bn, driven by sales of the Rafale fighter jet. (Source: FT.com)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Seasoned BATTLESPACE readers will have seen us predicting this situation for some years. It appeared to be deliberate government policy under Gordon Brown, who was known to be anti-defence, to deliberately place most of the lucrative Afghan and Iraq UOR contracts overseas. A 2009 Think Tank briefing made it quite clear that there was a strong wish by some people in Government to run the defence industry down. Clair Short’s decision not to ‘Buy British’ with our aid money was another blow to UK industry.
Our recent feature on Jankel, the one remaining jewel in the once burgeoning UK military vehicle industry, clearly showed the decline and shutdowns in this sector alone. This policy was further expanded under the Drayson regime who decided that the UK was no longer a under of APC hulls. Once the hulls go the systems follow as was clearly seen on the Ajax deal where GDUK promised a vehicle British to its Bootstraps’ when the actual outcome was a vehicle with systems and sub-assemblies supplied by the ASCOD Spanish supply chain, this one factor speeded the decline of GKN Land in particular and the latter sale to Melrose. The Rheinmetall/KMW MIV team moved swiftly to establish a UK supply chain to win the deal which again ultimately reduced BAE’s position in the market with the formation of the JCV. The Defence export figures have long been massaged by UKTI adding security products to boost numbers.
Sadly this decline will continue and with Brexit, this will shut off more deals in Europe as the announcement this week that the new Franco/German fighter is going ahead without the UK. The dire position of the UK’s own defence budget has seen many SMEs struggling to stay in business, expect more closures and mergers and eventually the long-term decline of the UK’s indigenous defence industry which has become more reliant on US equipment. The size of the UK’s armed forces post-Brexit and the fact that the UK won’t be included in pan-European defence projects means that the numbers required in aircraft, ships and vehicles is simply too small to justify an indigenous industry. Without that indigenous industry, export decline follows. BATTLESPACE has also commented on Liam Fox’s ongoing reluctance to support the UK defence industry and the almost invisibility of UKTIDSO, a once powerful force in export promotion. However, warnings should be flashing, when the UK government makes its next overseas foray, beware, the indigenous industry won’t be there to perform and supply the vital UORs to save lives in combat.
06 Feb 19. NATO Chief: Germany must continue to raise defence budget. Germany must continue to increase its defences spending despite having less wiggle room in its budget, NATO Secretary General said, after a government document on Monday showed the tax revenues were likely to rise less than expected in coming years. Germany has begun to increase its spending and it has to continue on this way, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Germany’s Funke newspaper group.
“I understand that this is not easy and states prefer investing in health, education or infrastructure, but we have to invest more in our security if the world becomes more unsafe,” Stoltenberg said.
The German government has assured NATO that it will stick to its aim of boosting defence spending to 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product by 2024, despite having less wiggle room in its budget, a German security source told Reuters on Wednesday. (Source: Reuters)
06 Feb 19. Royal Marines begin training for Arctic defence. Royal Marines have arrived in the high north for their first test on the UK’s new mission to defend the Arctic. The elite commandos are training hundreds of miles inside the Arctic Circle for the next two months, honing their survival and combat skills in temperatures as low as -30°C alongside NATO allies. The Royal Marines – the Naval Service’s amphibious light infantry and the UK’s cold weather warfare experts – have operated in this region for half a century and are spearheading Britain’s strategy to defend the Arctic.
Minister of Defence Gavin Williamson underlined the UK’s ongoing commitment to the Arctic in September, putting the area central to the security of the United Kingdom.
“As the UK’s specialists in extreme cold weather warfare, Commando Forces, led by 40 Commando Royal Marines, are currently operating above the Arctic Circle to maintain and develop our warfighting skills in one of the world’s most extreme environments,” said Lieutenant Colonel Paul Maynard, Officer Commanding of 40 Commando. “Working closely with our NATO allies, we are directly supporting the UK MOD’s new Arctic Strategy to provide regional reassurance and deter against aggression.”
The commandos are building on strong partnerships with the US Marines Corps by delivering the Cold Weather Warfare course – run by the Royal Marines Mountain Leader cadre – to 240 American personnel. The winter deployment will culminate with a show of firepower in war games alongside USMC and the Norwegian army, pitting their wits against NATO partner nations, Sweden and Finland. The annual deployment to the region is designed to keep the green berets fresh and ready for combat in mountain and cold weather warfare, as well as passing on wisdom to allies and the new generation of Royal Marines.The opening weeks of the exercise have seen commandos focus on survival out in the wilderness around the fjords and mountains near Bardufoss, Norway. They are honing skills in shelter construction, travelling huge distances on skis and navigating by the stars alone.
“For me the course has been very good, it is a really beautiful place in the world to be working, somewhere where I wouldn’t have the opportunity to come if I hadn’t joined the Royal Marines,” said Lance Corporal Sean Johns of 40 Commando, normally based at Norton Manor near Taunton.
“Obviously, the temperature is something you’re fighting against, but we have all the best kit, equipment and attitude to deal with it.”
The first week ended with the infamous ‘ice-breaking’ drill; the Royal Marines drop into the bracing water through a hole cut in ice on a frozen lake, then scramble out with their ski poles. Over the coming weeks the commandos will see further distances covered on skis with heavier weight, whilst enhancing their soldiering. After the cold weather training, the Royal Marines will start preparing for war games in Sweden next month. (Source: Royal Navy)
05 Feb 19. Germany’s plan to boost defense spending hits a snag. Germany may be unable to deliver on its pledge to increase the defense budget due to smaller-than-expected economic growth, according to a new Finance Ministry analysis. The projections peg the military budget to be several billion euros short of the trajectory to meet the government’s goal of reaching 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2024. Analysts even see the current spending curve unable to sustain 1.35 percent in the years ahead. NATO members in 2014 agreed to boost their defense spending to 2 percent of GDP within 10 years.
Germany’s defense budget is roughly €43bn (U.S. $49bn) for 2019, or about 1.2 percent of GDP. That is a boost of €4bn over the previous year.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Monday said Germany remains committed to hitting the self-declared 1.5 percent target in 2024. She portrayed the Finance Ministry’s analysis as a mere first step toward a budget proposal negotiated by Cabinet secretaries. The government is expected to unveil such a plan in late March.
The Trump administration has often criticized Germany for underspending on defense, arguing Berlin rides on American coattails when it comes to security. News that the country’s spending target is at risk is sure to embolden the narrative in Washington that Europe is somehow taking advantage of the United States. It could weaken the negotiating position of German government delegates at two high-profile events in mid-February: a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, and the Munich Security Conference.
The Finance Ministry’s economic outlook estimates that agencies will have to reconcile new spending priorities within their previously established budget targets. That means no fresh money would become available for the government’s push on artificial intelligence, for example, according to the document. (Source: Defense News)
05 Feb 19. Germany to fund military infrastructure in Lithuania. Germany will invest €110m ($127m) in military infrastructure in Lithuania until 2021, its defence minister said on Monday, on a visit to mark two years since NATO installed battalions in the Baltic region to ward off Russia.
In 2017, NATO deployed four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states as a counter against possible Russian action following the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Germany leads the NATO battalion in Lithuania comprising of 1,200 troops from ten countries.
‘We’re going to invest in the long-term engagement,’ Ursula von der Leyen told reporters, adding that Berlin would invest in ‘common barracks and training fields’ in Lithuania until 2021.
Lithuania’s defence minister Raimundas Karoblis hailed Germany’s spending plans as evidence of commitment to the NATO deployment. ‘We have heard very officially, very clearly at the political level.. that Germany is for the long run here and will stay here as long as the security situation will demand it,’ Karoblis said.
The other three NATO battalions deployed in 2017 are based in Estonia, Latvia and Poland and are led by Britain, Canada and the US, respectively.
The three Baltic states, with a combined population of just 6 million people, were occupied and annexed by Moscow during World War II. They broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991 and joined both the European Union and NATO in 2004. (Source: Shephard)
05 Feb 19. Germany’s Budget Hole Casts Doubt Over Defense Spending Goals. Germany is reportedly expected to collect less tax revenue over the next five years. The shortfall casts doubt on whether the government can meet NATO defense spending goals and avoid the ire of its allies. Germany will meet its pledge to boost military spending to 1.5 percent of economic output by 2025, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Monday following reports that a budget gap could undermine that goal. The Finance Ministry estimates that Germany would need to allocate far more money to defense spending than it already has in order to raise the defense budget to 1.5 percent of economic output by 2024, according to an ministry analysis seen by Reuters and DPA news agency. The analysis reportedly also predicts a €25bn ($28.6bn) shortfall in tax revenues up until 2023 due to a slowing economy. Germany is under pressure from the United States and other NATO allies to increase spending to 2 percent of GDP in line with an alliance agreement struck in 2014. Last year, the government promised NATO allies that it would meet 1.5 percent by 2024. Spending on the military has been a source of tension between Germany’s ruling coalition, with Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) opposing demands from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives (CDU/CSU) for a rapid rise in the defense budget.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a CDU member, said during a visit to Latvia that coalition partners had been “clear” in their commitment to boost military spending to 1.5 percent of GDP. Budget talks had just begun and would be completed by March, she added. Military spending rose to 1.24 percent of GDP in 2018 from 1.18 percent the year before. However, current budget plans have defense spending reaching only 1.23 by 2022. Reaching the 1.5 percent target could prove politically difficult because it would likely require shifting money from other government programs to the military. The German government maintains a policy known as the “schwarze Null” (“black zero”), which requires a balanced budget and no new net borrowing. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Deutsche Welle German Radio)
04 Feb 19. RAF Typhoons replace Tornados in Operation ‘Shader’ armed with Brimstone for first time. The UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) Typhoon Force flew its first operational sortie carrying the Brimstone 2 precision attack missile on 30 January. The following day, the Tornado flew its final Operation ‘Shader’ sortie.
Details of the Typhoon sortie emerged on Twitter on 30 January when Air Commodore Justin Reuter, UK air component commander for Operation ‘Shader’ and Air Officer Commanding 83 Expeditionary Air Group, shared a video. The video showed preparations for the first operational Typhoon sortie carrying the Brimstone air-to-surface missile. The video was filmed at RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus, from where the six Typhoons and eight Tornados of No 903 Expeditionary Air Wing fly their missions against so-called Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.
The mission was apparently flown by II (AC) Squadron, according to the Squadron Association’s Twitter feed, which announced, “This is what Shiney Two have spent the last few months working up to.”
The video showed individual missiles being fitted to only the outboard hardpoints of the now-standard Brimstone triple carriers that are fitted outboard of the Typhoon’s underwing tanks. The aircraft also carried a pair of 500-lb Paveway IV dual-mode bombs, and a Litening 3 laser designation pod on the centre line. For self defence, the aircraft carried a pair of underwing Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAMs) outboard and a single AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range-Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) in the forward port missile recess.
Integration of Brimstone into Typhoon means that the aircraft can now carry all the same weapons as the soon-to-retire Tornado GR4, clearing the way for the withdrawal of the Tornado from Operation ‘Shader’, prior to its official retirement by the end of March. The Typhoon fit represents double the weapon load of the most recently seen Tornado ‘Shader’ fit, which included only a single Paveway IV and a single Brimstone, with no air-to-air missiles. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
04 Feb 19. EU concerned by Iran missile work, regional security role. The European Union said on Monday it was gravely concerned by Iran’s ballistic missile launches and tests and called on Tehran to stop activity that deepened mistrust and destabilised the region. Iran has expanded its missile programme, particularly its ballistic missiles, in defiance of opposition from the United States and expressions of concern by European countries. Tehran says the programme is purely defensive.
“The Council is … gravely concerned by Iran’s ballistic missile activity and calls upon Iran to refrain from these activities,” the EU said in a rare joint statement on Iran.
“Iran continues to undertake efforts to increase the range and precision of its missiles, together with increasing the number of tests and operational launches … These activities deepen mistrust and contribute to regional instability.”
Tehran should refrain in particular from any work on missiles designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, the EU said.
A U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers called upon Tehran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Iran says its missile tests are not in violation of the resolution and denies its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. In the 12-point statement, the European Union said it was committed to the landmark 2015 accord and welcomed Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments.
However, the bloc also expressed concern at Iran’s role in growing Middle East tensions, including support for groups in Lebanon and Syria and Iran’s own forces in Syria. In addition, it called on all parties involved in Yemen, including Iran, to work towards ending the conflict there. The bloc was also critical of Iran’s human rights record, highlighting its use of the death penalty and urging it to respect equal rights for women and girls and minorities. The European Union has adopted a so-called two track approach aims to Iran. It aims to uphold the nuclear accord with Iran that U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of last May, while warning the Islamic Republic that the EU can no longer tolerate what it says are Iranian assassination plots on its soil and missile tests. Britain, France and Germany last week launched a system to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and avoid U.S. sanctions, although Iran’s top judge said the systems conditions were unacceptable. (Source: Reuters)
02 Feb 19. Italian row with France unsettles naval industry cooperation. A series of diplomatic rows between France and Italy, culminating in the exchange of insults between leaders, is casting doubt on naval industry cooperation between the countries. Moves by France’s Naval Group and Italy’s Fincantieri to integrate their shipyard work has coincided with a crescendo of acrimony between Rome and Paris following the election last year of Italy’s first populist government.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and French President Emmanuel Macron have battled over who should take responsibility for migrants that sail to Europe from Africa, with Salvini last month calling Macron a “terrible” president who deserved to be voted out of office.
Italy’s second deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, who leads the anti-establishment Five Star party, has meanwhile openly backed the so-called Yellow Vest protesters who have rioted on the streets of France in protest at Macron’s government and its policies.
Asked about the verbal attacks from Rome on Jan. 27, Macron replied: “Italy is a great people; the Italian people are our friends and deserve leaders worthy of their history.”
Underlying the row is the Italian government’s new nationalism, which has put it at loggerheads with the European Union and Macron, who is seen by Rome as a pro-globalism politician. The spat is expected to increase as both Italy’s ruling parties — Five Star and Salvini’s League party — get on the campaign trail ahead of European parliamentary elections in May.
Analysts fear fallout for defense industry collaboration between the countries, which starts with the well-established satellite and space joint venture between Italy’s Leonardo and France’s Thales.
But the main concern is the naval deal, which was signed last October, under which Fincantieri and Naval Group created a 50-50 joint venture to build and export naval vessels.
Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono said he hopes the deal is the start of wider collaboration.
Speaking at the launch of Italy’s ninth FREMM frigate on Jan 26, Bono played down the frictions with France, telling reporters, “We are part of the same alliance, we have common history,” and adding that the diplomatic tensions “will not influence the work we are doing with Naval Group.”
But one analyst was less sanguine. “It’s a complicated deal, and as it gets more complicated, external events become more influential,” said Jean Pierre Darnis, scientific adviser at Rome’s IAI think tank.
“If ministers from the two countries don’t meet, and we are waiting for [the] next bilateral [meeting], problems won’t get resolved. Right now the Italian-French business community is very concerned,” he added.
The naval deal was spurred by an earlier accord for Fincantieri to take control of French shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique. That deal, too, was up in the air when France and Germany referred the agreement to the European Commission for anti-trust scrutiny last month.
“What has happened is extremely serious, France and Germany behaved wrongly. It throws into doubt all accords,” Italy’s Salvini said.
Bono said he was confident the EU would not oppose the deal, given it is “in the interests of Europe,” echoing claims that a consolidated European shipbuilding industry would enable competition since it could compete with large players outside Europe.
But Europe’s ability to consolidate industry was again thrown into doubt in January when Macron and German leader Angela Merkel agreed to forge closer ties between Germany and France to head off the political challenge in Europe from populist governments like Italy, Hungary and Poland. One consequence, warned Italian IAI analyst Michele Nones, was that closer Franco-German ties could squeeze Italy out of access to defense industry funding provided by the new European Defence Fund. (Source: Defense News)
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