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16 Feb 19. UK chancellor pulls out of trip to China. Defence secretary’s gunboat diplomacy scuppers chancellor’s trade mission. The new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will be deployed to the Pacific on its maiden voyage. The UK chancellor has cancelled a planned trip to China, in a sign of bumps in the relationship between the two countries. Philip Hammond had been expected to visit Beijing in order to meet senior figures including vice-premier Hu Chunhua. But preparations were disrupted when the defence secretary Gavin Williamson suggested that Britain would send a new aircraft carrier to China’s backyard. Mr Hammond’s meeting with Mr Hu was cancelled, leading the UK to abandon the trip altogether. The Treasury said “The chancellor is not travelling to China at this time. No trip was ever announced or confirmed.” Mr Hammond’s allies said the trip to China had been under preparation for many weeks and that the chancellor had planned to travel to the country this weekend. Mr Williamson said that the UK was prepared to use lethal force to deter countries that flout international law — a reference to China’s expansionist stance in the South China Sea. His speech, given on Monday, caused consternation among other government departments. Mr Williamson has long had a tense relationship with Mr Hammond’s Treasury, not least because of his high-profile lobbying for additional military funding. Mr Hammond has focused extra spending on areas such as the National Health Service. One cabinet minister said after Mr Hammond cancelled his China trip: “Williamson is a child. Defence cuts are on the way!” Claims Mr Williamson’s speech had disrupted planning for chancellor’s trip this weekend were “total bollocks”, according to a person close to the Ministry of Defence. Under the premiership of David Cameron, the UK courted Chinese investment and even the China-led development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite opposition from the US. George Osborne, who was chancellor under Mr Cameron, told BBC’s Week in Westminster programme on Saturday that the government’s relations with China were “all at sea”, adding that the UK should be China’s “best partner in the west.”
“They will have seen in recent years — including under the Cameron government when I was chancellor — a real effort from us to make them partners for the future — economic partners in things like the financial system and the trading of their currency in London, partners in things like civil nuclear power, partners in new international bodies like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which Britain helped set up.” “Are we more likely to deliver . . . if we engage with China? I was for engagement. I still am for engagement. As far as I can see, Philip Hammond and Jeremy Hunt are for engagement. It’s just that that message has not got around all the government.” London has been more sceptical of Beijing’s intentions since Theresa May took power in 2016, One of her first actions was to review Chinese involvement in a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. That was eventually given approval, and the UK has now become even more dependent on Chinese nuclear investment, after two Japanese companies — Hitachi and Toshiba — backtracked on plans to build new nuclear plants. (Source: FT.com)
16 Feb 19. Airbus CEO tells Germany to reform arms policy for good of Europe. Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders urged Germany to press ahead with plans to create common European regulations on arms exports, saying the issue posed a litmus test for Berlin’s ambitions to foster a European defence policy. By showing “a kind of moral superelevation” on arms exports, Germany was frustrating Britain, France and Spain, Enders told Reuters, adding that without a common European approach Airbus could consider manufacturing German-free products. German restrictions on arms exports to non-EU or NATO countries have been a thorn in bilateral co-operation for years because of the historical objections of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition. Berlin can stop exports of arms that include parts made in Germany under existing arrangements.
“Yes, the French and Germans are apparently talking about it and trying to find a new regulation … But at the moment there are no results,” Enders told Reuters in an interview.
“It has been driving us crazy at Airbus for years that when there is even just a tiny German part involved in, for example, helicopters the German side gives itself the right to, for example, block the sale of a French helicopter,” he added.
Much to France’s irritation, Germany decided unilaterally last October – following the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul – to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, its second largest market in the world after Algeria.
That decision has blocked the export licence for the sale of the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, which is supposed to equip the Saudi Air Force Eurofigher Typhoon.
The Meteor is assembled by European leader MBDA, a subsidiary of Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo, while its propulsion system and its warheads are manufactured in Germany.
A future warplane system launched this week by Paris and Berlin and a plan for a tank of the future could also be compromised if Berlin does not adapt its policies, French diplomatic and military sources warned.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen called on Thursday for a common European arms export policy, telling the Munich Security Conference:
“We Germans should not pretend that we are more moral than France or more politically far-sighted than Great Britain in terms of human rights policy.”
A French government official said on Friday that the two countries had exchanged letters on the subject as was normal procedure, but that work was still ongoing.
“On the fundamentals on both sides we’ve expressed our desire to resolve this problem. The work is still ahead of us,” the French official said.
Enders said Germany needed to secure common arms regulations if it wanted to push ahead with plans for a European defence policy.
“It is to some degree a litmus test as to how serious the Germans are about common defence and close Franco-German cooperation,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
15 Feb 19. Taking sides: Italian defense industry rep attacks Franco-German fighter deal. Plans by France and Germany to team up on a next-generation fighter are an affront to Italy and will weaken the European Union, according to the head of an Italian defense industry association.
In a strong attack on the Future Air Combat System, or FCAS, deal, Guido Crosetto told Defense News that Italy would seek closer ties with the U.K. as a consequence, despite the U.K.’s pending exit from the EU.
“The fighter deal between Germany and France leaves all others on the margins. And since the only other country with equal industrial capabilities is Italy, the deal is clearly against Italy,” he said.
“Have France and Germany tried to get the Italy involved? It doesn’t look that way,” he added. “Additionally, if two European stakeholders strike deals together, how should the others react? This risks weakening the EU, while giving more justification to those trying to weaken the EU.”
Crosetto is the head of the Italian defense industry association AIAD.
After signing to pursue a joint fighter last year, France and Germany this month awarded home players Airbus and Dassault a first contract for a concept study worth €65m (U.S. $73m), while Safran Aircraft Engines and MTU Aero Engines announced a partnership to supply propulsion.
The FCAS program covers both manned and unmanned aircraft, which are due in service from 2040 to replace French Rafale fighters and Eurofighters currently flown by Germany.
Showing that Paris and Berlin do want additional partners, Spain signed up Feb. 14, stating it would become an equal partner on the program.
But in the belief that Germany and France will call the shots, Crosetto said Italy would do well to sign up with the U.K. to work on the British future fighter known as Tempest.
“A jilted partner has the right to look around for other partners, and the U.K. has asked us to join Tempest,” he said.
Italy’s junior defense minister, Angelo Tofalo, said in December that the country “needed to enter the program immediately.”
Crosetto said he was not alarmed by the potential difficulty of doing business with the U.K. if and when it leaves the European customs union, which is due to happen this year. The split will be a headache for Italy’s defense champion Leonardo, which owns facilities in the U.K. and would spearhead Italy’s work on Tempest.
“Brexit would mean more red tape for Leonardo but would not be a difficulty — the Italy-U.K. relationship would remain very positive,” he said.
As Germany and France signal progress on FCAS, they are also drawing closer politically in the face of Brexit and the rise of populist governments in Europe, including in Italy.
Last month, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italian daily Corriere della Sera he was upset by France’s offer to Germany to get it a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council, despite long-term plans in Europe to give a new seat to the EU, and not to an individual country.
Italy is already involved in a row with France over migrant quotas and Italian support for the gilet jaunes protesters in France, which have targeted the government of Emmanuel Macron.
Crosetto said the current rift with Paris was not a cause of Italy’s being sidelined on the fighter deal. “That predates the recent rows,” he said.
The new Franco-German tie-up suggests the two countries will now look to work together on joint programs that can draw on cash made available by the new European Defence Fund, possibly isolating Italy.
Crosetto said the Italian government was now obliged to invest more heavily in Italy’s defense industry to make it more competitive and better able to grab slices of the funding.
“Industry now needs the government to invest more,” he said.
(Source: Defense News)
15 Feb 19. German halt in Saudi arms sales causing serious problems: Airbus. Germany’s halt in exports to Saudi Arabia is preventing Britain from completing the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes to Riyadh, and has delayed potential sales of other weapons such as the A400M military transport, a top Airbus official said Friday.
Germany in November said it would reject future export licenses to Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has not formally banned previously approved deals, which would entitle companies to compensation, but has urged industry to refrain from such shipments for now.
Airbus Defence and Space chief Dirk Hoke told Reuters that uncertainty about the issue had undermined Germany’s credibility, and could threaten future Franco-German defense projects, including a planned Eurodrone that was heading for an initial contract by the end of the year.
“This is a serious problem,” Hoke said in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. “We’re facing constraints in many projects, and many problems have been put on ice,” including what he called discussions about a sale of A400M military transports to Saudi Arabia.
Germany accounts for just under 2 percent of total Saudi arms imports, a small percentage internationally compared with the United States and Britain, but it makes components for other countries’ export contracts. That includes a proposed 10-billion-pound ($12.82 billion) agreement by Riyadh to buy 48 new Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets from Britain.
The deal, in the making for nearly four years, was finalised late last year, but has been held up for months due to the German position, triggering “massive, emotional reactions” from Britain and BAE Systems, Hoke said.
Eurofighter is built by a consortium of four founding countries – Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain – represented by Airbus, Britain’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo. Hoke said the current situation was difficult to explain to customers since there was no formal embargo. Top Airbus executives had appealed to the Foreign Ministry and the Economy Ministry to allow the Eurofighter deal to proceed, he said.
He said Germany’s politically driven stance could also have negative consequences for future Franco-German projects, including the Eurodrone project.
Germany and France have made progress in recent months on a bilateral agreement, but Berlin is resisting making it legally binding, according to French sources familiar with the matter.
“It will pose lasting damage to the German relationship with France if no serious, long-term solutions can be found,” he said. “Germany is simply viewed as unreliable on this issue at the moment.”
($1 = 0.7799 pounds) (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
15 Feb 19. NATO’s internal rifts emerge as powerful subtext at Munich forum. Germany’s defense minister has urged fellow NATO leaders to speak with one voice in their approach to ongoing crises, bringing to the forefront the simmering problem of diverging ideas threatening to split the alliance from within.
“Of course, NATO is about cash, capabilities and contributions,” Ursula von der Leyen said. “But it’s also about dignity, decency and dependability. Only if we can unify those aspects can we preserve NATO’s cohesion and inner strength.”
Her comments may be meant partly to mask the fact that Germany still has no plan to reach an alliance-wide military spending goal by 2024. But they also come as fundamental disagreements between the Trump administration and Europe continue to ding the alliance’s credibility. On top of that, governments ostracized on the continent for their non-democratic leanings — like Hungary or Poland — angle to find a kindred spirit in U.S. President Donald Trump and convert that bond into security guarantees independent of NATO.
“In NATO, we are more than partners; we are allies,” the German defense chief proclaimed. “That’s because every member unequivocally stands by Article 5, and because we stand by our weakest ally just as much as we stand by our strongest.”
That statement brings to mind Trump’s comments last summer questioning that NATO should come to the aid of a “tiny country” like alliance member Montenegro.
Von der Leyen argued that fairness in NATO should extend not only to financial burden-sharing but also to political decision-making. “For all our missions, we go by the principle, ‘in together, out together.’ ” That comment speaks to the perception here that the Trump administration made plans to withdraw from Syria and reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan without consulting allies.
Veteran U.S. diplomats Douglas Lute and Nicholas Burns outlined what they termed “challenges from within” to the alliance in a new report by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
“We think NATO has to pay attention to this,” Burns told reporters in Munich, referring to growing ideological fractures within the organization. He argued that the alliance’s secretariat in Brussels should be empowered to review and, if needed, penalize undemocratic regimes, for example by withholding common alliance construction funds.
“NATO needs to take a hard look at itself,” reads the Belfer Center report. “Across twenty-five indicators or democracy rated by Freedom House, the downward trend among NATO allies over the past decade is stark.”
As for the United States, a celebration for the alliance’s 70th anniversary planned in Washington in April had NATO officials in Brussels worried that Trump would use the occasion to deliver another broadside against the alliance. In the end, the event was downgraded to the level of foreign ministers.
At a time when NATO cohesion is in short supply, “it really should have been a summit of heads of government,” Burns said. (Source: Defense News)
15 Feb 19. UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia break international law, say Lords. Weapons ‘highly likely to be cause of significant civilian casualties’ in Yemen.
Britain is breaking international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and should suspend some export licences immediately, a cross-party House of Lords committee has said. The warning is the latest sign that UK political opinion has hardened against Saudi Arabia since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi last year. The Lords international relations committee said that British weapons were “highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties” in Yemen, where Saudi-backed forces are fighting Houthi rebels. The opposition Labour party has long called for all UK arms sales to Riyadh to be suspended because of the conflict in Yemen. However, Theresa May’s Conservative government has argued that it is “on the right side” of international humanitarian law, because of the Saudi-led coalition’s processes for investigating possible errors. In a report published on Saturday, the Lords international relations committee disagreed — saying the government is “narrowly on the wrong side” of the law. David Howell, the committee’s Conservative chair, said its conclusion on the likelihood of civilian casualties was based on “the volume and type of arms” being sold by the UK to Saudi Arabia. The report is an embarrassment to Jeremy Hunt, the UK foreign secretary, who has sought to energise the Yemen peace process since taking office last July. Mr Hunt said on Thursday that the process had reached “a crunch moment” over the port of Hodeidah. The warring Yemeni parties agreed to redeploy their troops around the port, which is controlled by Houthi rebels, at talks in Stockholm in December but there has been little progress on the ground. The port is the main artery for the import of aid and goods into Yemen. “I think there is a degree of optimism that things may finally start to move but also a lot of concern that things still haven’t been completed,” he added.
His comments followed a meeting of the so-called Yemen Quad — the foreign ministers of the UK, the US, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — in Warsaw. Recommended Mike Jackson Yemen’s forgotten conflict will leave a deadly legacy The Lords committee said the government “should be more willing” to use its role as penholder on Yemen at the UN Security Council, “if peace talks are not progressing”. The UK has been a big donor of aid Yemen but the committee said that in addition the government must tackle the “root cause of this suffering: the hostilities themselves”. The UK has licensed nearly £5bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia since the bombing of Yemen began in 2015, according to government figures analysed by the Campaign against the Arms Trade (CAAT), an advocacy group. The sales included aircraft, drones, grenades, bombs and missiles. CAAT has mounted a legal challenge to stop UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Lords committee said: “We are deeply concerned that the Saudi-led coalition’s misuse of their weaponry is causing — whether deliberately or accidentally — loss of civilian life. Relying on assurances by Saudi Arabia and Saudi-led review processes is not an adequate way of implementing the obligations for a risk-based assessment set out in the Arms Trade Treaty.”
14 Feb 19. Sixty years on; IISS Military Balance 2019. Marking its 60th year of publication, the Military Balance, published by the London based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) was launched at the Munich Security Conference. As the MoD in London considers how its Modernising Defence Plan (MDP) is to be implemented, this event gave a very timely reminder that developments around the world have an impact on the environment in which the UK government might expect its forces to operate. The multipolar nature of the current strategic environment is reflected by the competition between the US & China, and that between China & Russia. This competition is evidenced by the rise of modern technological platforms and sensors, eroding the wests supposed technical edge, reports Nick watts, U K Defence Forum Deputy Director General.
IISS notes that the gap between the Russian and Chinese defence budgets has widened significantly over the past decade. In 2008, China spent 1.5 times more than Russia on military expenditure; in 2017, this gap increased to 2.4, when measured in real terms. China’s defence expenditure has grown by an average of 8% of GDP, in the 10 years to 2017; despite an economic slowdown, defence expenditure in the last year grew by nearly 6%.
Regional competition in Asia is reflected by the introduction of new systems: China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, returned to sea after a refit and modifications. China will soon have two carriers in service for the first time. IISS believes that China aims to achieve a fully-fledged power projection capability by 2049. It is also noted that if China entered the INF Treaty today almost all of its ballistic- and cruise-missile inventory would be prohibited.
One rationale ascribed to the US position on INF is that it does not capture the missile capabilities of other states, notably China. China’s weapons that would be prohibited under the current Treaty includes the DF-21D so-called ‘carrier-killer’ ballistic missile and perhaps all of China’s short- and intermediate-range missiles ranged against Taiwan. Complying with INF Treaty restrictions would also remove a very significant percentage of China’s missile launchers. IISS commentators feel that every effort should be made to re-start INF verification regimes, to re-establish confidence and security building measures used in the 1980s. However, they are not optimistic on this happening anytime soon.China’s first low-observable combat aircraft, the Chengdu J-20, appears to have begun deployment with an operational unit, the 9th Brigade in Wuhu, eastern China. Previously, the aircraft has only been seen with test and operational evaluation units. The Wuhu-based unit has in the past been associated with the introduction of new types into PLAAF service, including the Su-27SK and Su-30MKK variants of the Flanker family.
The PLA Marine Corps has expanded its overall size, by converting four former army infantry and coastal-defence units into new marine brigades, two in each of the Northern and Eastern theatre commands. The size of the actual amphibious-assault force available to the PLA Army and Marine Corps remains largely unchanged, however; the new marine brigades are not yet equipped or trained for the amphibious-assault mission.
The Japanese government confirmed its intention to modify the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s two large Izumo-class vessels to accommodate the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variant of the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Tokyo emphasised the limited nature of the plan, and that the ships will not be able to operate as full strike carriers. Nonetheless, integration of the F-35B will significantly enhance the ships’ operational potential, including for limited power-projection – or at least independent operation – beyond the range of land-based aircraft.
Considering the debate between the present US administration and its European NATO Allies, the IISS notes a shortfall of billions between European NATO states defence spending and the 2% target. If this ambition was to be met, European Member States in NATO would have to raise their collective defence expenditure by 38%, some $102 bn. The United States accounts for 70% of total defence spending by NATO states. However, the IISS estimates that the actual costs of defending Europe represented 5.6% of the 2018 US defence budget, or US$35.8bn, with the United States’ military presence and operating bases in Europe costing an estimated US$29.1bn in 2018. By contrast, European NATO member states spent US$264bn altogether in 2018. In mid-2018, President Trump said that European NATO states should “immediately” increase defence spending to 2% of GDP and indicated that the US “might do its own thing” unless European allies started spending more on defence.
IISS notes developments in Russian military modernization: the 150th Motor-rifle Division, based near Rostov, activated its final motor-rifle regiment in December 2018, making it the first of the three divisions formed on the Ukrainian border to field the planned number of regiments. Russia has also expanded its special-forces and airborne capabilities, by adding independent Spetsnaz units at the army level, and to air-mobile infantry sub-units within existing motor-rifle formations. IISS commentators reminded their audience, at the launch, that Georgia’s ambition to join NATO should be considered alongside its own internal reforms, as much as any geo-strategic considerations. Both Georgia and Ukraine have some way to go to ensure good governance internally.
Meanwhile, in the Middle East the Israeli Army chief admitted that for the last two years Israel had conducted air and missile attacks against Iranian forces in Syria. These attacks, which featured extensive use of stand-off precision munitions, have aimed to reduce Iran’s direct threat to Israel and weapons transfers to Lebanese Hezbollah. Dr John Chipman, the Director General of IISS notes a rise in operations below the threshold of warfare: tolerance warfare – testing the tolerance of different kinds of aggression against states. This is seen in the breaching of agreements and internationally recognised rules. Democratic regimes find it difficult to respond to actions taken by autocracies, something which Putin and others have been exploiting.
(Source: Nick Watts)
14 Feb 19. Robles: “Spain Joins Future Fighter Aircraft Project on Equal Terms.” The Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, today attended the meeting of NATO defense ministers at its headquarters. In her public appearance at the end of that meeting, Margarita Robles highlighted the most important aspects of the day’s main event: the signing of the Letter of Intent to join the future combat air system, known as FCAS after its English acronym.
The minister stressed that “Spain joins this project on equal terms with France and Germany,” which will give Spain’s leadership some visibility within the European Security and Defense policy.
Likewise, Robles stressed the importance of this project for the modernization of the Armed Forces and, specifically, for the Air Force, as well as the impulse it provides for the development of the Spanish defense industry.
The Secretary of State for Defense (SEDEF), Ángel Olivares, who accompanied the minister, highlighted the historical importance of this day, both for what it means for the European Union and for its relationship with NATO, without forgetting its industrial and technological significance. The SEDEF compared the benefits of this project with those, back in the day, were provided by Spanish industry’s participation in the Eurofighter program.
This meeting has addressed issues of great complexity, such as the status of the treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF after its acronym in English). This treaty has not been respected by Russia for years, and this situation has led to its denunciation, agreed by the United States with the countries of the Alliance, on 2 February.
The position on deterrence and defense, the distribution of defense investments and commitments and the military operations that the Alliance maintains active, were also discussed by the defense ministers.
Likewise, there has been a debate on European Defense initiatives, a meeting which was attended by the High Representative of the EU for Security and Defense, Federica Mogherini.
The FCAS Program
This program, which was launched as an initiative by Germany and France, adds Spain as a third partner with an eye to the year 2040, when it is expected that the air forces of these three countries will begin to renew their current combat aircraft.
A feature that differentiates this consortium from other previous aeronautical programs; it is the intention to design and build not only a combat aircraft, but an entire integrated aeronautical system that is capable of operating jointly in any scenario.
The Spanish Ministry of Defense is making a clear commitment to provide quality opportunities to Spanish defense industry, so participation in this program will allow maintaining a solid base of the Spanish aeronautical industry, which will contribute to the creation of very high qualification and added value products. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Spanish Ministry of Defence; issued Feb 14, 2019)
14 Feb 19. Air2030: the Head of the DDPS Informs the Federal Council of the Continuation of the Procedure. At the meeting of 13 February 2019, the new head of the DDPS, Federal Councilor Viola Amherd, informed the Federal Council of her intention to continue the acquisition of new combat aircraft and a system long-range ground-to-air defense. Before submitting a concrete proposal to the Federal Council, however, she wants to obtain a complete overview of the project. To this end, she is seeking additional external advice on the “Future of Air Defense” expert report.
In addition, she requests that a current threat analysis be carried out within the DDPS in order to compare it with previous assessments and draw all the relevant consequences for the Air2030 program.
The Federal Council has taken preliminary decisions on the acquisition of new fighter jets combined with a long-range air-to-air defense system, including a decision in principle to provide the necessary means to protect the population against aerial threats.
Continuation of work within the DDPS
The head of the DDPS is continuing talks with specialists from her department, from Defense, Armasuisse and the General Secretariat.
She also seeks a second opinion, from an external and independent source, on the May 2017 “Future of Air Defense” expert report. Discussions on this subject are ongoing. She has also requested a new, updated internal threat analysis to compare it to previous assessments.
The next step will be to determine the modalities for organizing a referendum, in accordance with the mandate given by Parliament to the Federal Council last December with the adoption of motion 17.3604.
Impact on the calendar
As soon as the DDPS clarifies these issues, the Federal Council will again look at the renewal of airspace protection. This should take place during the first half of 2019. This work may have an impact on the project schedule. The evaluation is continuing as planned. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)(Source: defense-aerospace.com/Federal Armaments Office armasuisse)
15 Feb 19. Apache and Wildcat to touch down in Estonia as UK bolsters its commitment to NATO. Wildcat and Apache helicopters will be deployed to Estonia this year, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced at a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels.
The Army aircraft will provide aviation training opportunities to NATO allies on Estonia’s annual Exercise Spring Storm as well as to the UK-led battlegroup on NATO enhanced Forward Presence.
The helicopter deployment will boost our contingent to around 1,000 personnel in the Baltics, making the UK the largest contributor to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence – further reinforcing the Alliance’s deterrence and defence posture.
At NATO HQ, the Defence Secretary underlined the UK’s support for the USA’s position on the INF Treaty following repeated violations by Russia – a stance shared by Allies.
The Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
Whenever the call comes from NATO, the UK has always been ready to reach into its full spectrum of capabilities and offer its support.
That’s why we’re bolstering training in Estonia by deploying some of the world’s most advanced helicopters to the country.
Mr Williamson discussed a range of issues with counterparts – noting the continued progress being made by allies on defence spending and encouraging others to follow the example set out by the UK.
He also took the opportunity to welcome Macedonia as the latest member of the Alliance, recognising their accession as a positive for the Western Balkans region and for Euro-Atlantic security. Belgium’s contribution to the UK-led enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Estonia this year was similarly welcomed by the Defence Secretary.
With the meeting marking the first gathering of Defence ministers in NATO’s 70th year, Mr Williamson also looked ahead to future events marking the anniversary of the world’s most successful alliance – including the UK having been invited to host a meeting of leaders in December. (Source: U.K. MoD)
14 Feb 19. Turkish MP says Ankara sticking to Russian missile purchase. Turkey is going ahead with a purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system, a Turkish parliamentarian said ahead of an informal Friday deadline which a U.S. official said Washington has set for Ankara to respond to a rival U.S. offer. NATO member Turkey has repeatedly said it is committed to buying the Russian missile defence system, despite warnings from the U.S.-led alliance that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defence system.
Volkan Bozkir, chairman of Turkey’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, said Ankara would remain loyal to its S-400 deal with Russia as Turkish authorities needed the system to address security concerns.
“With regard to Patriots, if the opportunity is at a level we desire, we have expressed we could also buy those too,” he said during a visit to Washington, adding Turkey’s relations with Russia and the United States are both important.
“Just because … Russia has issues with another country that we care very much about – the resolving of that issue via Turkey would not be right,” he told reporters.
He said Ankara had already paid the bulk of the price for the S-400s and the systems are expected to arrive in November.
U.S. officials have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a $3.5bn Raytheon Co Patriot missile package.
They have also said it would jeopardize Turkey’s purchase of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in the United States imposing sanctions.
The formal U.S. offer for Turkey’s purchase of Patriot systems expires at the end of March, U.S. officials told Reuters, after which a new offer would have to be submitted.
The United States has asked Turkey to give at least an informal answer on whether they will go ahead with their S-400 purchase by Friday, one U.S. official said. (Source: Reuters)
14 Feb 19. Acting US Defense Secretary Meets Wary NATO Allies. Patrick Shanahan may have been well received by NATO, but it remains to be seen if Trump will let him stay Pentagon chief. Shanahan is filling in after his former boss Jim Mattis quit over disputes with the US president. The new acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan (above left) met with his NATO counterparts for the first time on Wednesday. The meeting was overshadowed, however, by the uncertainty over Shananan’s tenure after several spats with President Donald Trump over his staff selection.
Shanahan landed in Brussels as part of a whirlwind tour that also included Baghdad and Kabul. He met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (above right) for the first time since taking over from his predecessor Jim Mattis, who resigned last year over long-running disagreements with Trump.
“One of the other things that I am looking forward to during the time that we are together is to talk about the future of NATO, the capabilities that we can further develop,” said Shanahan ahead of the meeting.
Russian missiles could be “significant risk” to EU
After the talks, Stoltenberg put to rest any speculation that President Trump’s repeated digs at NATO had impacted their discussions with Shanahan.
“It was a very strong and a very clear message about the US ironclad commitment to NATO… also the very strong personal commitment he has to NATO,” Stoltenberg said.
He added that Shanahan, a former executive at Boeing, was “very well received by all allies.”
Stoltenberg’s pronouncement will likely be met with relief in Europe. Mattis had been widely respected in NATO, and his departure was meant with apprehension, as he was seen as one of the last men in Trump’s orbit not peddling his “America First” ideology.
Ahead of the meeting, Stoltenberg said the defense ministers would discuss alleged missile treaty violations in Russia, saying that would present a “significant risk” to Europe. The NATO chief said they would discuss how best to counter a more aggressive Moscow without starting an arms race. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Deutsche Welle German Radio)
13 Feb 19. U.S. says in talks with Poland on troop increase. The United States is in talks with Poland over Warsaw’s request for more American troops on its soil, but no decision has been taken so far, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, as Washington weighs potential military threats from Russia. Poland asked President Donald Trump last year for a permanent base to complement U.S. troops already present in Poland as part of a rotating NATO deployment in eastern Europe.
“We are taking a look at it and I don’t know the ultimate decision we’ll make,” U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo told reporters during a visit to the Orzysz military base in northeastern Poland, part of his tour of central Europe to bolster U.S. diplomatic engagement in the region.
“But we will make sure we have not only the right number of troops but the right mix of folks out here to do the work that Europe needs and NATO needs and that America needs,” he said.
Set up in 2017, the Orzysz base is located about 57 km (35 miles) south of Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad, where Moscow has stationed nuclear-capable missiles and an S-400 air missile defence system.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Financial Times quoted the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, as saying the troop numbers would be raised.
Asked whether the increase would run into the hundreds or thousands, Mosbacher was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “It will be significant. It passes the hundred mark, the hundreds mark.”
However, the Pentagon said it was too early to say.
“Any speculation on troop increases or agreements at this point is unfounded,” Eric Pahon said in a statement. “No agreements have been reached. We are continuing discussions and will announce the results of our talks at the appropriate time.”
The number of U.S. troops in Poland is capped at 4,500 but it fluctuates as formations rotate.
Poland, alarmed by Russia’s assertiveness on NATO’s eastern flank, has lobbied hard for the stationing of NATO troops on its soil, especially since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Addressing troops at Orzysz – mostly from the United States but also from other NATO members such as Croatia, Romania and Britain – Pompeo said the alliance needed to counter Moscow.
“As we enter the fifth year of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine — a war he launched on European soil — we take seriously those concerns that Russia may one day try to open a front along the line right here,” Pompeo said.
In Warsaw, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak signed a deal to purchase 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Lockheed Martin, in a ceremony at a Warsaw airbase attended by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence is in Warsaw to lead the U.S. delegation at a conference of foreign ministers on Middle East issues, where Washington aims to ratchet up pressure on Iran..
Poland’s conservative government hopes to bolster ties with the Trump administration, as it faces mounting isolation in the European Union over its democratic record. It agrees with Trump on issues such as migration, climate change and coal mining.
Trump came to Warsaw in 2017 as part of his second trip to Europe as president, in a major diplomatic coup for the Law and Justice government, which has been in power since 2015. (Source: Reuters)
13 Feb 19. Defence spending claims don’t add up, say experts. Gavin Williamson’s claims about Britain’s global rankings for military expenditure and defence exports have been called into question. The defence secretary claimed in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute on Monday that Britain had “the world’s fifth-biggest defence budget and [was] the second-largest defence exporter”.
His assertion that Britain was fifth for military expenditure was at odds with indices produced by international research institutes respected by the global defence community. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British organisation, last year placed Britain as the sixth highest for defence spending behind the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India.
Britain was placed seventh, behind France, by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), an organisation whose data is used by the Swedish government. Nato puts Britain ahead of France for defence spending.
Andrew Dorman, professor of international security at King’s College London and editor of the journal International Affairs at Chatham House, said that comparing defence expenditure between countries was an inexact science. He said of Mr Williamson’s remarks: “It strikes me that it’s a case of being overly positive about Britain’s relative position. As recent National Audit Office and public accounts committee reports show, the defence budget does not add up.”
Ben Moores, an analyst at IHS Markit, a research firm that produces an annual ranking, challenged Mr Williamson’s claims that Britain was the second-largest defence exporter. “Based on our data, this claim is highly questionable. The UK doesn’t come close to being second. It’s only just holding on to fifth position.”
It is understood that the MoD uses a number of sources to compare defence spending internationally, but it declined to cite them when questioned by The Times. Some rankings, including Sipri, include spending on paramilitaries which may boost the military expenditure recorded for a nation.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The UK is one of only four countries to meet the Nato 2 per cent of GDP defence spending target and is the second-largest spender behind the United States. In the last year alone we have secured a further £1.8bn.” (Source: The Times)
13 Feb 19. Airbus Expects New Billion Orders from the Bundeswehr. When Airbus presents its 2018 balance sheet on Thursday, the sales figures of passenger planes will be in the foreground. For years, military jets have been regarded as back store goods, for which Europe has little money. But that could change soon. Airbus expects new billion-euro orders from Germany. Specifically, the Bundeswehr plans to replace 33 older (Tranche 1) Eurofighters with more modern models of the Airbus fighter. In addition, the Air Force is also looking for a successor to 85 Tornado jets that could carry American nuclear weapons in an emergency.
“It would be a sovereign signal to transfer this role to Eurofighter,” Airbus Defence and Space Chief Executive Dirk Hoke told Handelsblatt. At the moment, however, the Ministry of Defense is also examining a parallel purchase of the Boeing F-18. Overall, it adds up to a contract volume of over ten billion euros. Hoke calls on Europe’s governments to make an industrial policy decision in favor of European technology.
In any case, Airbus plans to invest massively in the next generation of military technology. Just last week, the Group agreed with Dassault the development of a new fighter jet (FCAS), which should be operational from 2040. So far, Eurofighter (Airbus) and the Rafale (Dassault) are competing on the world market. The new aircraft is envisioned flying with swarms of drones, supported by Artificial Intelligence. Hoke also hopes for BAE Systems. The British have much expertise in the development of fighter jets, but are still waiting for the outcome of the Brexit. “Developing a system like the FCAS without the British being extremely dangerous,” Hoke says. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Handelblatt)
12 Feb 19. U.S. allies look for clues on acting Pentagon chief in European debut. U.S. allies will use the opportunity of Patrick Shanahan’s first NATO ministers meeting this week to see whether the acting defence secretary will be as supportive of the military alliance as his predecessor was, defence officials and experts said.
Shanahan, a former Boeing Co executive who has mostly focussed on internal issues since he joined the Pentagon in July 2017, took over on Jan. 1 from former secretary Jim Mattis, who quit over policy differences with U.S. President Donald Trump.
In his resignation letter, Mattis laid bare what he saw as an irreparable divide between himself and Trump, and implicitly criticized the president for failing to value allies who have fought alongside the United States in several wars. Mattis mentioned NATO twice.
Shanahan, who served as Mattis’ deputy, is not as well known in foreign policy circles, and allies are keen to see whether he will push back on rhetoric by Trump that has questioned the need for NATO.
Until earlier this week, Shanahan had never visited Afghanistan or Iraq, where the United States still has about 19,000 troops.
A European NATO diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the hope was that Shanahan would be someone they could trust and work with.
“Mattis was one of the few remaining senior Trump administration officials we could rely on, so there’s a great sense of loss,” the diplomat said.
“Frankly, Shanahan is an unknown to us.”
While Trump has said Shanahan is doing a good job, there is no certainty that he will be formally nominated for the position, which Trump shuffled Mattis out of just 11 days after he resigned. Shanahan has been serving in an acting capacity since the start of the year. The longest-serving acting defence secretary, William Taft, did the job for 60 days.
In a sign of just how precarious his situation is, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said on Tuesday he did not think Trump would nominate Shanahan.
Asked about Senator James Inhofe’s comments, Shanahan told reporters in Brussels: “Whether there is acting next to your name or not, it’s the same job, I’ll do the job the same way. It’s a pleasure to serve in this role.”
Derek Chollet, a former Pentagon official now at the German Marshall Fund think tank, said it was not fair to expect Shanahan to be able to calm nervous allies by himself, especially in an acting capacity.
A senior U.S. defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Shanahan would back NATO during his talks in Brussels.
“The overarching message is one of bringing reassurance and confidence to our alliance, that America remains deeply committed to the alliance,” the official said.
But the official added that Shanahan would push allies on the need for burden sharing and meeting their international commitments, a key demand of Trump’s.
Allies are likely to seek reassurances on a number of key policy areas, including on the future of NATO in Syria and Afghanistan, and plans to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.
In December, Trump confounded his own national security team and international allies with a surprise decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Shanahan will meet a small group of defence ministers in Munich to go over those plans.
On Afghanistan, U.S. officials have held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar in what is widely seen as the most serious bid yet for peace in Afghanistan, which has been at war since the United States ousted the country’s former leaders after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
However, the talks have created uncertainty within Europe about what it means for the NATO mission in the country, and individual countries are reconsidering their troop presence.
The senior U.S. defence official said Shanahan would also talk to allies about arms control, after the United States earlier this month announced it would withdraw from the INF treaty in six months unless Moscow ends its alleged violations of the landmark pact.
The official said the NATO summit would be an opportunity to discuss any potential new arms control architecture and what is needed to protect the NATO alliance. (Source: Reuters)
13 Feb 19. Hard Brexit would doom future merger of UK, Franco-German fighter projects-Airbus defence. Britain’s departure from the European Union without a deal would doom the prospects for a Franco-German next-generation fighter jet with a rival project in Britain, the head of Airbus Defence and Space told the Handelsblatt German newspaper.
Dirk Hoke told the newspaper he considered it “absolutely imperative” that the EU reach an agreement with Britain on security, defence and space given the closely interwoven ties between Europe and Britain.
“I consider it extremely dangerous to develop a system like FCAS (the Franco-German fighter programme) without the British,” he said, noting that potential order quantities would rise if Britain participated, making future aircraft more competitive.
France and Germany this month awarded a 65m euro (57m pounds), two-year contract financed equally by both countries to Dassault Aviation and Airbus to start designing a next-generation combat air system for use from 2040.
Hoke said there were discussions about Spain joining the Franco-German programme, but the Brexit negotiations would be decisive in determining any cooperation with Britain.
“In Britain’s case, we have to wait to see if there will be a hard Brexit,” he told the newspaper. “That would be fatal for the cooperation.” (Source: Reuters)
12 Feb 19. Europe risks losing its footing amid shifting world order, report warns. The European Union must quicken its pace toward greater military prowess to ensure the bloc’s 500 million citizens can emerge from an ongoing reshuffling of global order on their own terms, according to a new think tank report. The EU is “particularly ill-prepared” to tussle with global powerhouses Russia and China in what the analysis dubs “a new era of great power competition.” That term, borrowed from U.S. strategy documents, describes a shift away from terrorism as a predominant security problem and toward treating the aspirations of powerful nation states as likely drivers of conflict.
The report, released in Berlin today, sets the scene for the 2019 Munich Security Conference scheduled to take place in the Bavarian capital from Feb. 15-17. Among the many world leaders expected are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Conference chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador in Washington, predicted that Germany’s reluctance to drastically up its military budget will once again cause friction with the American delegation during the event. President Trump has often accused Berlin of underinvesting in the military and relying instead too heavily on the promise of U.S. help in case of a war.
The recent establishment of an EU-wide mechanism for coordinating and funding common defense projects is a a good start, but it is progressing too slowly, Ischinger told reporters in Berlin today. European officials should push to make defense and security a more prominent part of the bloc’s integration agenda, he argued.
Europe “can’t expect to be surrounded by pacifists who write nice letters to each other,” Ischinger said.
Officials in Germany are expected to continue their dance around an unpredictable relationship with the Trump administration, according to the report. That is, they acknowledge the need to remain on Washington’s good side for military protection while at the same time preparing for the possibility that America under Trump may pull its support.
“As a result, many European governments have been walking a thin line, trying to preserve Option A, while hedging and investing in Option B without making Option A less likely,” states the report.
The conference this year comes only weeks after the United States and Russia declared their withdrawals from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a sore point especially for Germany that will likely be a prominent topic in Munich.
Some analysts here believe that the treaty’s demise will animate eastern European NATO members within the range of once-forbidden Russian missiles, such as Poland, to seek security guarantees from the United States outside the alliance’s umbrella of collective defense. Such moves could further drive a wedge into NATO cohesion at a time when Russia appears to be actively looking for weak spots in its neighborhood with the West, the thinking goes.
At the same time, the report authors believe there a limits to would-be adversaries organizing an effective counterpoint to U.S.-led Western order. “Although China and Russia have developed all sorts of measures to influence other states or have tried to undermine Western cohesion, they have not been able to build large, supportive coalitions by themselves – and are unlikely to do so in the future.”
That dynamic should put the United States and Europe somewhat at ease, were it not for the U.S. president’s record of dinging America’s friends.
“For long-time transatlantic allies, it is still hard to stomach when Trump praises illiberal leaders from Brazil to the Philippines and defies his intelligence agencies in declaring his support for Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while reserving his harshest criticism for Canada, Germany, or the European Union,” the report states.
11 Feb 19. Spain to Join French-German FCAS Fighter Program. The Spanish Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, will sign an agreement on Thursday in Brussels to join the French-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the Madrid daily El Pais reported on Sunday). It is expected that the signing of the agreement between Robles and her French and German counterparts, Florence Parly and Ursula von de Leyen, will take place on the margins of the NATO ministerial meeting. The FCAS program aims to replace European combat aircraft currently in service, such as Eurofighter and Rafale, beginning in 2040. It was formally launched by the award of initial study contracts on Feb. 6, six months after the British government launched a similar project, dubbed Tempest. Spain wanted to join the FCAS since its launch in July 2017, but the former Minister of Defense, María Dolores de Cospedal, only obtained observer status. On November 28, Robles wrote to her counterparts asking for full integration and on January 30 the formal invitation to participate was received.
In Brussels, the three countries’ defense ministers will sign a Letter Of Intent (LOI) to open negotiations of the Integration Framework Agreement, which will in turn be signed next June at the Paris Air Show. Representatives of the Spanish Ministry of Defense will be integrated into the team working on the initial design phase, while Spanish companies will join the French-German industrial organization.
Spain’s incorporation into the program comes just a week after France and Germany on Feb 6 announced the first FCAS contract — a joint, two-year concept study worth 65m euros. It is estimated that the initial cost to Spain will be about 25m euros. Defense sources argue that the price of staying out would be higher since, even if Airbus — of which Spain owns 4.17% — is a contractor, nothing guarantees any workload for its 12,000 employees in Spain.
To maintain its current capabilities, the Spanish Air Force has already asked the Ministry of Defense to purchase 40 new Eurofighter aircraft for around 4bn euros to replace the 80 F-18 fighters that it will soon retire. The initial need is to replace the 20 F-18s deployed at Gando, in the Canary Islands, which must be replaced by 2022 at the latest, while by the end of the next decade it will also be necessary to replace the other 60 based in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid) and Zaragoza.
The Air Force doesn’t hide its preference for the US-made F-35, but considers it more realistic to opt for the Eurofighter that is manufactured in Spain, and whose assembly line will have to close in a year and a half if it does not receive new orders. Germany, which has just also abandoned the purchase of the F-35, will probably procure around 50 additional Eurofighters to replace its veteran Tornado strike fighters. (Source: defense-aerospace.com)
12 Feb 19. UK wins global F-35 support assignment worth £500m. The UK’s role as a leading partner on the global F-35 programme has received another huge boost today, after the F-35 avionic and aircraft component repair hub in North Wales was awarded a second major assignment of work worth some £500M by the US Department of Defense.
Following the announcement in 2016 that the UK would be the location of the global repair hub for the initial tranche of F-35 components, today’s news sees significantly more UK support work to the cutting-edge jets. This new assignment will support hundreds of additional F-35 jobs in the UK – many of them at the MOD’s Defence & Electronics Components Agency (DECA) at MOD Sealand, where the majority of the work will be carried out. It will see crucial maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade services for an even wider range of F-35 avionic, electronic and electrical systems for hundreds of F-35 aircraft based globally. The winning solution builds on the innovative joint venture formed between the MOD (DECA), BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman called Sealand Support Services Ltd (SSSL). SSSL support work and services for F-35 are scheduled to commence from 2020.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “This announcement keeps Britain right at the centre of the global F-35 partnership, the largest defence programme in history. It is a vote of confidence in our highly-skilled workforce and high-tech industry that provides us and our allies with the very best of what British engineering has to offer. Our vision of Global Britain brings with it new and exciting opportunities to provide top quality goods made in Britain to the rest of the world. This deal builds on the strong foundations of the UK’s enduring defence partnership with the US. It is a significant boost for British jobs and those highly-skilled workers who enable these world-class fighter jets to continue keeping us safe and secure.”
This assignment recognizes the world-class skills and critical support being provided at DECA – a MOD-owned Executive Agency. It places North Wales at the very heart of F-35 support delivery for the next 40 years and directly supports hundreds more high-tech F-35 jobs in the UK.
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said: “With this announcement, MoD Sealand is once again proving its credentials as a vital component repair hub for the F-35 aircraft. The UK’s defence outlook is bolstered by the skills of thousands of people employed across the industry in Wales, including those supporting essential equipment to the Armed Forces. I’m delighted that the skills of our labour force have been recognised with this reinforced investment in the north-east Wales economy, which will continue to provide a prosperous source of employment and growth to this region through the wider supply chain over the coming years.”
Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of the MOD’s procurement agency, Defence Equipment and Support, added: “In winning this work, the UK has demonstrated how MoD can collaborate effectively with industry bringing together a highly skilled and experienced workforce to offer an innovative and best value support solution for the benefit of F-35 partners. The UK also benefits from a long-term commitment to the F-35 programme and its unique defence relationship with the US. Together with our partners from DECA, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, SSSL will be able to offer the F-35 programme engineering excellence, world-class innovation and agility.”
DECA has a long and illustrious history in providing avionic services to fast-jet aircraft. This further F-35 assignment reaffirms DECA’s role in providing services and support to the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft for decades to come.
DECA’s Chief Executive, Geraint Spearing said: “It is particularly pleasing that we will provide such a critical and substantial element of the Global F-35 component sustainment solution. This is testament to the hard work and dedication of our workforce and will secure these world class skills in support of defence and security for many years to come.”
The news follows a November 2018 announcement that the UK has ordered 17 more F-35B aircraft, which will be delivered between 2020 and 2022, to join the 17 British aircraft currently based at RAF Marham and in the US, as well as another already on order.
Also, in November 2018, the MOD awarded a £160M contract to Kier VolkerFitzpatrick to deliver infrastructure to ready RAF Lakenheath for 2 squadrons of US Air Force F-35s. The Suffolk airbase will be the first permanent international site for US Air Force F-35s in Europe and continues the base’s long and proud history of supporting US Air Force capability in the UK. (Source: U.K. MoD)
11 Feb 19. Defence in Global Britain. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson gave a speech at RUSI outlining the future direction of the UK Armed Forces. Malcolm [Chalmers] thank you so much for having hosting this event here today at RUSI. It’s a real privilege and honour to be able to come along. It’s important to start off by asking the question why do we fight? It is fundamentally, to protect our people, protect our interests, and, of course, to defend Britain.
As a nation, we’ve never shied away from acting even if that has meant standing alone as we did in the darkest hours of the Second World War. Even after the Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago, when there was no overwhelmingly obvious threat to our security, we recognised the UK had a role and responsibility to stand up for our values across the globe. Defending our values took us to Kuwait, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Kosovo and it made a difference to millions of peoples’ lives.
But, after September 11th, the importance of defence increased as a deadly new threat arose. A threat not just to any nation but to all who cherished the values of the Western way of life. A global ideology seeking the destruction of everything that we hold dear. We have learned much from fighting Al Qaeda and Daesh. But, while we tackled this extremism, state-on-state competition has reviving. Today, Russia is resurgent – rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit. All the while, China is developing its modern military capability and its commercial power.
Today, we see a world of spheres of influence and competing great powers. Not only are we confronting a state like Russia. An ideological enemy without a state like Al Qaeda and Daesh. But the very character of warfare itself is changing. The boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred. Our adversaries are increasingly using cyber-attacks, subversion and information operations to challenge us and the rules-based international order. Operating in the ‘grey zone’. Operating below the threshold of conventional conflict. Our Joint Forces Command is already dealing with this. But, we need to go further. We need to bring together our strategic capabilities. We need to integrate them more effectively and a greater agility to meet the demands of this increasingly contested environment.
We and our allies must deter and be ready to defend ourselves. Ready to show the high price of aggressive behaviour. Ready to strengthen our resilience. And ready, where necessary, to use hard power to support our global interests.
But there is a great opportunity here too. As we look at our position in the world, we should remind ourselves that we are a nation with a great inheritance. A nation that makes a difference. A nation that stands tall. Inevitably, there are those who say that we are in retreat. Those who believe that, as we leave the European Union, we turn our back on the world. But, this could not be further from the truth. Whether people voted to leave or remain, they believe Britain must continue to play an important and major role on the international stage.
It is my belief that Britain has its greatest opportunity in 50 years to redefine our role. As we leave the European Union. And, the world changing so rapidly it is up to us to seize the opportunities that Brexit brings. We will build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required. We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership.
And Defence will be pivotal in reinforcing Britain’s role as an outward looking nation. We are making sure it does so in a number of key ways:
A GLOBAL PRESENCE
First, by increasing our global presence and building on our alliances.
NATO. 70 years on from its founding, remains the bedrock of our nation’s Defence. In the past five years, the Alliance has come a long way. It is far more focused and ready to deter and defend against Russian hostile acts. But, more European nations need to be ready and capable of responding too. Stepping up to the 2% NATO target and not being distracted by the notion of an EU Army.
Britain must be willing and able to lead the Alliance, to bring stability in a changing-world. We are a leader in NATO, this year hosting the Leaders Meeting here in London. Alongside this we have sent a Battle Group to Estonia to support NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. We lead multi-national maritime task groups in the Mediterranean and defend the skies over the Black Sea and the Baltics. And, we strongly support NATO’s Readiness Initiative to make sure forces are available and ready to do their job.
And in NATO, we must stand firm against Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty. If necessary being ready to deal with the threat that new Russian missile systems may pose. The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost. Nor, can we forget those countries outside NATO who face a day-to-day struggle with Russian attempts to undermine their very sovereignty. We stand ready to support our friends in Ukraine and the Balkans. These countries have the right to choose their own destiny and be free from Russian interference. At the same time, in such an uncertain age, like-minded nations must come together to increase their own security. That is why the United Kingdom is leading the nine-nation Joint Expeditionary Force which in a few months’ time will take part in its first deployment to the Baltics.
But we must not see this as our limit. We must be willing to go further. History has taught us that crisis comes when we least expect it. As uncertainty grows we must be ready to act, bringing others with us. Readiness has to be our new watchword.
In an era of ‘Great Power’ competition we cannot be satisfied simply protecting our own backyard. The UK is a global power with truly global interests. A nation with the fifth biggest economy on the planet. A nation with the world’s fifth biggest Defence budget and the second largest Defence exporter. And since the new Global Great Game will be played on a global playing field, we must be prepared to compete for our interests and our values far, far from home.
That is why Global Britain needs to be much more than a pithy phrase. It has to be about action. And our armed forces represent the best of Global Britain in action. Taking action alongside our friends and allies. Action to strengthen the hand of fragile nations and to support those who face natural disasters. Action to oppose those who flout international law. Action to shore up the global system of rules and standards on which our security and our prosperity depends.
And action, on occasion, that may lead us to have to intervene alone.
Now, I know there are some that question the cost of intervention. But it is often forgotten the cost of non-intervention. The fact that this has been unacceptably high. It will not always be the role of the traditional Western powers to act as a global policeman but nor can we walk-on-by when others are in need. To talk…but fail to act…risks our nation being seen as nothing more than a paper tiger.
I do not underestimate the challenges that this approach brings. But we do start from a position of strength. Our people are already acting around the world from the North Sea to the South Pacific to protect our interests and we already benefit from strong international partnerships. But we cannot take such relationships for granted.
Our global presence must be persistent…not fitful. Patient…not fickle.
So, as well as our relationships with Europe, we need to build on our established relationship with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada as part of the Five Eyes. With Singapore and Malaysia in the Five Powers Defence Arrangement. With other ASEAN nations, with Japan, the Republic of Korea and India. With our partners in the Middle East, and with our many friends in Africa – from Nigeria in the West to Kenya in the East.
And we are seeking to use our global capabilities to strengthen our global presence.
From this spring, HMS Montrose, along with five other naval vessels, will be permanently based in the Gulf using innovative crewing and support methods to keep the ship available for more of the time. Today, we also go further. And I can announce the first operational mission of the HMS Queen Elizabeth will include the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region. Making Global Britain a reality. Significantly, British and American F35s will be embedded in the carrier’s air wing. Enhancing the reach and lethality of our forces and reinforcing the fact that the United States remains our very closest of partners. We share the same vision of the world. A world shaped by individual liberty, the rule of law and, of course, the tolerance of others. We have the unique ability to integrate with US forces across a broad spectrum of areas. And, we are more determined than ever to keep working together.
We will also be using our string of global support facilities and military bases more strategically…to consistently project power both hard and soft. The Duqm port facilities in Oman are large enough to be able to support our aircraft carriers. The Al Minhad and Al Udeid Air Bases, in the Emirates and Qatar respectively, provide strategically important capabilities. In Bahrain, our Naval Base and our long-standing Maritime Command make a major contribution to our activities in the region but also beyond. Further afield we already benefit from facilities in Belize, in Brunei, in Singapore as well as our bases in Cyprus, Gibraltar and Ascension Island.
And, I believe that we need to go further. Considering what permanent presence we might need in areas including the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific to extend our global influence. Our proactive approach shows we are not getting by on half measures. For us global engagement is not a reflex reaction to leaving the European Union. It is about a permanent presence.
ARMED FORCES WITH MORE MASS
But having that presence goes hand-in-hand with our multi-million-pound Transformation Fund, making sure our armed forces have the right capabilities as quickly as possible. And today, I can announce some of the first investments from that Fund.
Take the Royal Navy. They are exerting British influence through greater forward presence. I want to capitalise on that. Investing now to develop a new Littoral Strike Ship concept. And, if successful, we will look to dramatically accelerate their delivery. These globally deployable, multi-role vessels would be able to conduct a wide range of operations, from crisis support to war-fighting.
They would support our Future Commando Force. Our world-renowned Royal Marines – they’ll be forward deployed, at exceptionally high readiness, and able to respond at a moment’s notice bringing the fight from sea to land.
Our vision is for these ships to form part of 2 Littoral Strike Groups complete with escorts, support vessels and helicopters. One would be based East of Suez in the Indo-Pacific and one based West of Suez in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic. And, if we ever need them to, our two Littoral Strike Ships, our two aircraft carriers, our two amphibious assault ships Albion and Bulwark, and our three Bay Class landing ships can come together in one amphibious task force. This will give us sovereign, lethal, amphibious force. This will be one of the largest and best such forces anywhere in the world.
In 1940, Winston Churchill said: “Enterprises must be prepared with specially-trained troops of the ‘Hunter Class’, who can develop a reign of terror down enemy coasts.” Our actions mean that we will deliver on Churchill’s vision for our Royal Navy and for our Royal Marine Commandos.
Turning to our Royal Air Force, fresh from celebrating its centenary last year, it is now firmly focused on the next 100 years. They already have 17 new RAF and Royal Navy F35 Lightning jets, capable of land-based operations anywhere on the globe and due to embark on our aircraft carrier for the first time later this year. We’ll soon have nine new Poseidon P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft enabling us to patrol thousands of miles of ocean and greatly enhancing our anti-submarine and maritime capability. We’re upgrading our AWACS aircraft with modern and better capability that will improve our battle winning airborne command and control. We are growing our operational Typhoon squadrons from five to seven – equipping them with world leading radar and now carrying deep strike Storm Shadow cruise missiles. And, to complement leading edge technology from F35, I have decided to use the Transformation Fund to develop swarm squadrons of network enabled drones capable of confusing and overwhelming enemy air defences. We expect to see these ready to be deployed by the end of this year.
And the Army is continuing to modernise its forces. We will have a Warfighting Division with troops able to deploy from our bases at home and in Germany. We’ll increase the firepower and protection of the battle-proven Warrior and introduce the ultra-modern AJAX. And, at the tip of the spear, will be our elite Parachute Regiment within 16 Air Assault Brigade, able to deploy into any environment at a moment’s notice.
So, we are making sure our armed forces have the sufficient mass to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment to deal with the coming dangers.
TRANSFORMING DEFENCE THROUGH INCREASED LETHALITY
Finally, if we are to live up to our global role then our armed forces must continue to be a lethal fighting force fully adapted to the demands of 21st century warfare.
When I came into the Department the talk was about cutting capability. But instead, this Government has delivered an extra £1.8bn of Defence funding, keeping us on track and prioritising the right UK Defence for the decade to come. That includes £600m to protect the future of our nuclear deterrence. This ensures we will deliver the new submarines on time and means that we are spending £4bn every year to ensure the ultimate guarantee of our safety for another 50 years.
That means £60m to invest in Typhoon’s next generation radar. And, as the cyber threat grows, we are making a very significant additional investment on the £1.9bn we spend on cyber capabilities. That’s funding to improve offensive cyber, putting the command and control structures in place across-Government. And, it will give us extra money to protect our network resilience from online attacks.
With the threat from the Kremlin increasing in the North Atlantic, we’re spending an additional £33m to improve our anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
And, we will also spend £100m on a variety of initiatives to modernise how we do business in defence. If this isn’t enough there will also be a further £24m available through innovative Spearhead projects.
Meanwhile, we are using our Transformation Fund to further increase our armed forces’ lethality. For example, we’re going to make sure that our ground troops – whether in the Army, the Royal Marines or the RAF Regiment – are going to get the same night vision equipment that their colleagues in Special Forces have. We’re also going to buy pioneering robotic fighting and logistic vehicles. Reducing the risk to our personnel and increasing the firepower and agility of our infantry.
In addition, as a result of the Transformation Fund the Royal Air Force will double our armed ISR capability so we can identify and neutralise targets far faster. The Venom kinetic strike capability will mean those who wish to do us harm have more to fear.
And to our armed forces quite simply the sky is not the limit. In space, they look forward to the investment we are making to enhance our space operations centre bringing together the best civilian and military minds.
And our ambitions are greater still.
I want to see our armed forces embracing transformation at an ever-faster rate, keeping pace with technological change, enhancing our mass and increasing our lethality. We shouldn’t be shy about the ambition that we have for our forces. The future of conflict will require us to be adaptable, agile and capable of using new technologies quickly and cost-effectively. I am determined to focus the Transformation Fund on investments that will create the armed forces of the future.
That future, of course, is uncertain. But I expect to see, the Army using both manned and unmanned teams, Artificial Intelligence and the unmatched quality of our personnel to win, not just conventional wars but also dominate the conflict in the grey zone.
I expect the Royal Navy to deploy flexibly, to be capable of being in many places at once and to ensure we have an efficient fleet of warfighting ships, looking at how they can grow both their mass and their lethality.
And, I expect the Royal Air Force to operate the next generation with modern Air Command and Control, more combat air squadrons and energy weapons to keep our skies safe.
Wherever I go in the world I find that Britain stands tall. It’s not just because are the world’s fifth biggest economy. Not just because we have the world’s finest scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It’s because we have the world’s finest and best Armed Forces. Brave men and women who stand up for the values that we hold dear. Men and women that we are so truly proud of.
They are contributing and they are the key capabilities that guard UK airspace and waters. They are supporting the civil authorities right across the United Kingdom. They are ensuring that we remain a leading member of NATO. They are protecting our interests and enhancing our prosperity. And they are showing, they are showing that Britain still matters on the global stage. Some still wish to cut Britain down to size and send her back to her shores. But to those I say that has never been our way. It is not in our nature. Britain has always sought to take risks. Britain has always stood up for its deeply held values. Britain has always been an outward looking nation. And against adversaries upping their spending…investing in new technologies… we have to respond. If we do not, we will find ourselves with fewer options when we face the challenges and the threats in the future.
And Brexit. Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.
So today I set out my vision for UK Defence in a more global age. But as we look to life beyond Brexit, I believe it is incumbent on us all to consider the role of Defence in our national life. Defence has always been the most vital and first duty of Government. But now we have an unparalleled opportunity to consider how we can project and maximise our influence around the world in the months and years ahead. It is up to all of us…from here on in…to make sure that our great nation seizes and grasps the opportunity that present themselves with both hands. (Source: U.K. MoD)
11 Feb 19. Post-Brexit UK ready to use “hard power” – defence minister. Britain will use military force to support its interests after Brexit, defence minister Gavin Williamson said on Monday, in a speech setting out a global role for the armed forces but with little detail on how to fund such ambitions in the long term. Williamson outlined plans to send Britain’s new aircraft carrier to the Pacific, where London has been seeking to demonstrate its influence in relation to China, and invest his defence budget in new equipment and cyber capabilities.
Citing Russia as a danger to the international order, Williamson called for a tougher military stance after Brexit.
“Brexit has brought us to a great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass,” he said.
He said boundaries between peace and war were becoming “blurred” by the increasing use of technological warfare, subversion and propaganda, and that Britain and its allies had to be ready “to use hard power to support our global interests”.
The opposition Labour Party accused him of “sabre rattling”.
In his speech in London, Williamson did not announce any new funding beyond what was allocated at a 2018 budget.
Britain spends around 36bn pounds ($46.45bn) per year on defence – the seventh largest sum globally, measured in dollar prices in 2017, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That budget is dwarfed by those at the top of the list, with the United States spending 13 times more and China spending five times more.
Brexit has brought on Britain’s biggest political crisis since World War Two as Prime Minister Theresa May scrambles to find a last-minute agreement on the terms of withdrawal from the EU, due to take place on March 29. Brexit supporters say the decision to leave the EU will provide a chance for Britain to take on a new global role. Opponents describe it as a blow both to Britain’s influence and to the West as a whole.
“We will build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required. We should be the nation that people can turn to when the world needs leadership,” Williamson said.
He announced that the first mission of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will include work in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Pacific regions, and the vessel would carry two squadrons of British and U.S. F-35 jets.
In August a different British warship sailed close to the Paracel Islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, prompting fury in Beijing.
Williamson has previously lobbied successfully for more defence funding. Nevertheless, the armed forces face a long-term budget shortfall estimated by a parliamentary committee to reach 15bn pounds over the next decade.
Williamson highlighted close U.S.-UK military links and echoed Trump’s call for NATO countries to increase spending, citing a need to better confront Russia.
Britain is one of only a handful of NATO countries who meet the alliance’s target to spend 2 percent of output on defence. It was Washington’s main battlefield ally in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with more than 600 troops killed.
Without citing specific examples, Williamson warned that the cost of non-interventions had often been “unacceptably high” and said that Western powers cannot ignore those in need.
“To talk but fail to act risks our nation being seen as little more than a paper tiger,” he said. ($1 = 0.7750 pounds) (Source: Reuters)
11 Feb 19. UK to boost amphibious capability with Future Littoral Strike Ships. Not content with a raft of global military deployments, new bases and commitments to existing defence programmes, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, has announced an intention to establish two ‘littoral strike groups’ with a focus on the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions. Delivering a speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on 11 February, Williamson said that concept work was underway for the Future Littoral Strike Ships (FLSS), although further details and the costs involved were not divulged. However, it seems likely that such platforms would be based on existing commercial designs or ships, similar to the US Navy’s Expeditionary Mobile Base platforms (pictured).
During the RUSI event Williamson said that the UK needed ‘to be more competitive’ in how is procures military capabilities, which meant ‘sometimes taking on aren’t completely new but actually in use’ with other armed force’s and the commercial or civil sector.
The two Littoral Strike Groups ‘will be able to conduct a wide range of operations, from crisis support to war fighting,’ Williamson said, adding that the programme had been costed and covered.
It was acknowledged that capabilities derived from commercial-standard technology would have ‘a shorter life-span’ in the armed forces, compared with more robust, bespoke military designs.
How these strike groups would fit into the current overseas infrastructure remains to be seen. The UK already has a significant logistics and basing capability in the Middle East, with sites in Bahrain and Oman all available for use.
It’s commitments in the Middle East include four mine countermeasure vessels, one Bay-class Landing Ship Dock and a Type 23 frigate, HMS Montrose, which will arrive on station later in the year.
The FLSS could augment, or indeed replace, the Bay-class in the region.
It was also announced that HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy, deploy to the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions on its first operational deployment.
Further, the defence secretary revealed an initial £7m ($9.05m), sourced from the Transformation Fund, to develop ‘swarm squadrons of network enabled drones capable of confusing the enemy and overwhelming their air defences’.
Networked unmanned platforms, or swarms, have long been considered an evolving capability for the future battlefield. With counter-UAS technology still maturing the ability to deploy large numbers of small, relatively inexpensive platforms could cause significant disruption to an enemy’s infrastructure.
It remains to be seen how the UK will balance its defence budget, with a recent National Audit Office report warning of a £7bn gap in the Equipment Plan. (Source: News Now/Shephard)
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