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09 Aug 19. Spend more on defence or we move troops to Poland, U.S. envoy tells Germany. An envoy of U.S. President Donald Trump suggested on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unwillingness to boost defence spending might give the United States no choice but to move American troops stationed in Germany to Poland.
The comments by Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, signal Trump’s impatience with Merkel’s failure to raise defence spending to 2% of economic output as mandated by the NATO military alliance.
“It is offensive to assume that the U.S. taxpayers continue to pay for more than 50,000 Americans in Germany but the Germans get to spend their (budget) surplus on domestic programmes,” Grenell told the dpa news agency.
Germany’s fiscal plans foresee the defence budget of NATO’s second-largest member rising to 1.37% of output next year before falling to 1.24% in 2023.
Eastern European countries like Poland and Latvia, fearful of Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have raised their military spending to the 2% target, drawing praise from Trump who wants Germany to do the same.
U.S. complaints about Germany’s defence spending pre-date Trump but relations with the United States have deteriorated since he became president. The two allies do not see eye-to-eye on a range of issues, including Iran, trade tariffs and the NordStream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
Trump said in June he would deploy 1,000 U.S. troops from Germany to Poland, which sees the measure as deterrence against possible aggression from Russia.
Georgette Mosbacher, U.S. ambassador to Poland, has made a similar criticism of Germany’s reluctance to commit more financial resources to NATO.
“Poland meets its 2% of GDP spending obligation towards NATO. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland,” she wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
The United States has more than 33,000 soldiers in Germany and an additional 17,000 U.S. civilian employees to support them. It is believed the United States also has nuclear warheads in Germany.
“President Trump is right and Georgette Mosbacher is right,” Grenell told dpa. “Multiple presidents have asked Europe’s largest economy to pay for its own defence. This request has been made over many years and by many presidents.”
Grenell added that the United States must react if Germany continues to ignore Trump’s demand to boost defence spending.
Trump travels to France this month for the G7 summit where Iran will be a major topic. Trump will also visit Poland and Denmark.
Grenell earlier this month criticised Germany for showing reluctance to join a planned U.S. naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz, close to Iran. (Source: Reuters)
09 Aug 19. RAF’s New Fighter Jets Tested on Operation SHADER. The MOD has released the latest details of Operation SHADER against the Islamic State, revealing that RAF Typhoons are still engaging Islamic State targets and that the RAF’s new fighter jets, the F-35B Lightning II, have been deployed on their first operational sorties.
Although the liberation by the Syrian Democratic Forces of Baghuz Fawqani in March 2019 deprived the Islamic State of the last remaining territory held by them in Syria and Iraq, constant vigilance has been maintained to ensure that Islamic State terrorists are unable to regain a foothold. To this end, Royal Air Force and other coalition aircraft have flown daily missions to support partner forces on the ground.
On Sunday 19 May, a pair of RAF Typhoon FGR4s, based at RAF Akrotiri, were tasked to assist the Iraqi security forces with the destruction of a tunnel wherein a group of Islamic State fighters were reported to have established themselves. Our aircraft carefully checked the area, in the hills to the south-west of Mosul, for any signs of civilian activity that could be placed at risk, before conducting a precision attack with a pair of Paveway IV guided bombs which successfully destroyed the entrance to the tunnel.
A further such attack in support of the Iraqi security forces was delivered by Typhoons on Thursday 13 June. A small group of Islamic State terrorists had been tracked to an area of marshland some 27 miles south-west of Kirkuk. A single Paveway IV was released by our aircraft, and, despite the need to target them hidden in a thick bed of reeds, was reported to have successfully dealt with the terrorists.
A detachment of F-35B Lightnings from RAF Marham has been forward-based at RAF Akrotiri since late May to develop the capabilities of this formidable new, fifth generation combat aircraft. Since their training at Akrotiri had exceeded expectations, it was decided that, to validate and advance yet further this work, it would be appropriate for the Lightnings to undertake a limited number of operational sorties over Iraq and Syria alongside the Typhoons engaged in combatting the Islamic State on Operation Shader. The first RAF Lightning operational sorties were therefore flown on Sunday 16 June – two aircraft conducted a patrol over Syria – and further such missions have subsequently been flown. (Source: U.K. MoD/Warfare Today)
08 Aug 19. RAF Typhoon fighter jets intercept five Russian military aircraft. The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has twice scrambled Typhoon fighter jets to intercept five Russian military aircraft in a span of two days. On 05 August, the RAF Typhoons intercepted four Russian aircraft including an Antonov AN-26 “Curl” transport aircraft, a TU-142 “Bear” Bomber and two SU-27B “Flanker” fighters. The British aircraft were launched again on 06 August to intercept a Russian Tupolev TU-134 “Crusty” transport aircraft flying near Estonian airspace. The Typhoons took off from the Ämari Air Base in Estonia where they are deployed in support of Nato’s Baltic Air Policing mission.
A XI (Fighter) Squadron Typhoon pilot said: “We were scrambled to intercept a Russian AN-26 aircraft routing west close to Estonian airspace. Once complete with this task, a second task was initiated to intercept a group of contacts operating to the south close to Lithuanian airspace. These aircraft transiting the Baltic region were not on a recognised flight plan or communicating with Air Traffic Control. In the end, the intercept was uneventful and conducted in a professional manner throughout.”
The Typhoon fighter jets escorted the Russian aircraft as part of a routine NATO mission. Since taking charge of the Baltic Air Policing in May this year, the RAF has carried out 16 Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) scrambles. The RAF is deployed in Estonia as part of the UK’s commitment to the security of the region. The latest intercept mission comes after the service sent Typhoons to intercept a Russian IL-76 military transport aircraft on 28 July. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
07 Aug 19. Germany grounds Tiger helicopters after Eurocopter crash warning – Spiegel. Germany’s armed forces have grounded all Tiger helicopters after European group Eurocopter issued a safety warning, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Wednesday. Spiegel said Eurocopter, a unit of Airbus (AIR.PA), had warned that a component in the rotor control could malfunction and cause a crash. A spokesman for the German defence ministry was not available for comment. A German pilot died and another was injured in a Eurocopter crash last month. (Source: Reuters)
06 Aug 19. A hazy future: Amid a competition to build British frigates, a UK shipyard hits hard times. The Northern Irish shipyard that built the Titanic ceased business Aug. 5, and its part in a bid to build a new class of the general-purpose frigate for the British Royal Navy appears to have sunk with it. Harland and Wolff was the lead U.K. yard in a proposal by German-based warship company Atlas Elektronik to build five Type 31e frigates for the Royal Navy.
But the Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff went into administration after a 158-year history, which included production of the Titanic and ended with its parent company insolvent and running out of offshore renewable-energy work that had become the mainstay of its business.
Industry executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that unless Atlas has a plan B, the bid has likely been scuttled by the Belfast yard slipping into administration and thus putting the jobs of 125 on-site workers at risk.
Atlas Elektronik UK did not return calls regarding its bid.
British warships must be locally built, but designs can be foreign. Atlas Elektronik UK is offering parent company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems’ Meko A200 frigate to Britain. Currently, Atlas Elektronik and its U.K. partners Harland and Wolff and Ferguson Marine Engineering of Scotland are vying for the deal against rival proposals led by BAE Systems and Babcock International.
An announcement by the Ministry of Defence on a winning bidder for the program worth more than £1.25bn (U.S. $1.52bn) could come next month. The procurement competition was aimed at breaking the local maritime monopoly of BAE Systems.
Sharing work across the shipbuilding sector via the Type 31e was part of a national shipbuilding strategy published by the British government in 2017. A strategy review was completed this year by its author, John Parker, but the findings have not been published by the MoD.
New Defence Procurement Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyn, the fourth such minister in three years, will likely give Parker’s findings a close review. Trevelyn has no previous ministerial experience, but she is known in maritime circles for her membership of Parliament’s all-party group on shipbuilding and ship repair, which recently published a report advocating for the domestic production of a new fleet of logistics support ships.
However, it’s unclear how long the government, and hence the new ministerial team at the MoD, will survive given the political uncertainty here around Britain’s exit from the European Union and murmurings of a general election.
The logistic vessels, known here as fleet solid support ships, are not considered military vessels by the British government; this is so the government can procure them more cheaply overseas. A competition is underway with a U.K. team led by BAE Systems bidding against overseas rivals.
But the tide may be turning, as there’s parliamentary pressure that two or three large supply ships be built locally.
The industry executives who spoke to Defense News said that although the upcoming DSEI defense show had been touted as a possible venue for some kind of an announcement, the timing was — like most other defense issues — clouded by political uncertainties, including the appointment of a new defense secretary and defense procurement minister as part of the government reshuffle by the new prime minister, Boris Johnson.
An MoD spokesman said the department wouldn’t provide a running commentary on the Type 31e competition or Harland and Wolff’s part in it. However, the spokesman did suggest an announcement could take place after DSEI.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on Harland and Wolff’s involvement in the Type 31e program, whilst this is subject to an ongoing competition,” the spokesman said. “The competitive design phase is proceeding to schedule. The outcome of the competition for the design and build of the ships will be announced by December 2019.”
All three bidders have been in a competitive design phase ahead of submitting their proposals in late June.
The MoD previously ran a competition for the Type 31e (the “e” stands for export), but it halted the procurement effort when all of the bidders failed to submit fully compliant bids.
The Royal Navy wants the first of the five Type 31e frigates handed over during 2023 to start replace aging Type 23 frigates in its fleet.
Some analysts and industry executives think that’s a tall order.
The government originally demanded a price tag of no more than £250m per frigate, although earlier this year, industry executives said the budget restriction had been abandoned, as the MoD agreed to supply more equipment and systems at its own expense.
Atlas Elektronik isn’t the only company with Harland and Wolff on its team. Babcock International also listed the Northern Irish yard in its proposal. But Babcock has various options, including using its site at Rosyth in Scotland, where the second of two aircraft carriers being assembled for the Royal Navy is now virtually complete.
“Our solution for the T31(e) requirement includes a flexible U.K. build approach that can accommodate the use of a range of delivery sites,” a Babcock spokesman said.
BAE’s plan is to build it’s Leander-class warships at the Cammell Laird yard near Liverpool while its own yards on the River Clyde in Scotland focus on completing the design and build of eight Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates destined for the Royal Navy. Three have been ordered so far.
Steve Turner, the assistant general secretary for manufacturing at the Unite union, said there are strategic defense interests why the Belfast yard should be saved.
“The shipyard works with BAE on the Dreadnought [nuclear] submarine program, has an important part to play in the building of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e and is central to the U.K. consortium’s bid to build the Navy’s fleet solid support ships,” Turner noted. “All this proud workforce needs is a temporary boost from government and a commitment from U.K. ministers that they will back U.K. shipbuilding by block building the new fleet solid support ships in yards across the UK.”
Harland and Wolff is not the only potential Type 31e supplier in a tough spot. Ferguson Marine, which has a yard on the River Clyde and has been part of the Atlas and Babcock proposals, is experiencing significant cost and time overruns building two ferries. Nationalization by the Scottish government is one option under consideration for the financially fragile company. (Source: Defense News)
06 Aug 19. Erdogan says Trump will not allow ties to be held ‘captive’ to S-400 row. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that he believes U.S. President Donald Trump will not allow ties between the two NATO allies to become captive to a dispute over Ankara’s purchase of a Russian S-400 defence system. Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defences and pose a threat to its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
Last month, Turkey received the first shipment of the S-400s and said a second shipment would arrive in Ankara next year. The move prompted Washington to begin formally removing Ankara from an F-35 programme in which Turkey was both customer and producer.
Washington warned that Turkey will face U.S. sanctions over the S-400s, but Ankara has so far dismissed the warnings and instead put its hopes on sympathetic remarks from Trump at a G20 summit in June. Trump however has not ruled out sanctions.
Speaking to Turkish ambassadors in Ankara, Erdogan said it was wrong to question Turkey’s commitment to NATO over the Russian deal.
“There is no concrete evidence showing the S-400s will harm the F-35s or NATO, nobody should deceive each other. Many NATO member states have purchased from Russia. We don’t see this being turned into a crisis,” Erdogan said.
“Turkey made a business decision for its security and what pushed Turkey to do this was the ucompromising stance of its allies. Trump’s statement at the G20 that Turkey was treated unfairly is the confirmation of this fact at the highest level,” he added.
“I believe Trump won’t allow Turkish-U.S. relations to become captive of the S-400 issue.”
Ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained over a host of issues, including conflicting strategies in Syria, but the dispute over the Russian systems has brought the NATO allies to the brink of one of the biggest ruptures in ties. (Source: Reuters)
06 Aug 19. Balkan countries boost their air defense capabilities, albeit for different reasons. A number of Eastern European countries are gearing up to boost their Soviet-designed air defense systems, though their motivations for the investments vary. While Russia’s activity in Ukraine represents a major factor accelerating the procurements of certain nations — as shown by Poland and Romania’s Patriot acquisitions — regional rivalries constitute a second driving force, as exemplified by Serbia and its tense relationship with Croatia.
In Romania, which has positioned itself as one of the leading Eastern European allies in terms of defense procurement over recent years, a large share of military expenditure focuses on the acquisition of Raytheon’s Patriot air and missile defense system. In November 2017, Bucharest inked a letter of offer and acceptance to pave the way for the system’s purchase under a contract valued at up to $3.9bn. To demonstrate the system’s capabilities over the Black Sea, the United States and Romanian military held a joint exercise in June.
George Scutaru, a lawmaker for the Romanian National Liberal Party and the director for development at the New Strategy Center think tank in Bucharest, told Defense News that “Romania wants to show determination in the process of increasing its own defense capabilities” and contribute “to NATO’s effort to discourage Russian actions in the Black Sea region.”
Scutaru also noted that Romania signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to buy both the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System for $1.25bn, making it the first European HIMARS customer.
“Romania’s posture and responsibility remains crucial between the Black Sea, western Balkans and the eastern flank cohesion,” he said.
Locked in an arms race with Croatia, Serbia has positioned itself as a neutral state capable of purchasing weapons and military equipment both from NATO and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization military alliance.
Serbia acquired Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters from Belarus and Russia, and it expressed interest in buying Russian-made S-300 air defense systems. However, the Serbian government also ordered nine H145M helicopters from Airbus, with the first delivered last June.
One month later, the Serbian government in Belgrade signed a deal to acquire 18 Mistral 3 short-range air defense systems fitted with 50 missiles from European missile-maker MBDA.
“With this first European missile order, Serbia becomes the 32nd customer country for the Mistral missile and the 10th country invited to join the Mistral user club,” MBDA said in a 16 July statement. “As the latest generation of Mistral family today in service, Mistral 3 features a very high resistance to infrared countermeasures and a capability to engage air targets presenting a low thermal signature, such as missiles and UAVs.” (Source: Defense News)
02 Aug 19. Adapting NATO missile defense to survive enemy contact. Tensions with Iran are once again high, making plain the risk of unexpected conflict between Iran and the United States. In the event of such a conflict, the United States would likely rely heavily on regional missile defense architectures like the European Phased Adaptive Approach, or EPAA, designed to protect NATO from ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East. Yet the EPAA is fragile, with a single point of failure that a sensible adversary like Iran could exploit. Fortunately, there are practical steps that NATO and the United States can take to make EPAA more durable.
Single point of failure
At the heart of the EPAA are two Aegis Ashore sites in Romania (operational) and Poland(under construction). These sites are supported by four Aegis BMD destroyers and a forward-based TPY-2 radar in Turkey. With its high resolution and forward position, the TPY-2 is particularly useful for tracking a missile’s trajectory early in its flight. In the case of EPAA, this data is relayed from the TPY-2 in Turkey to the Aegis Ashore sites, which use it to guide their interceptors.
This tactic is called “engage on remote,” or EOR, allowing Aegis Ashore sites to provide BMD coverage for nearly all of NATO Europe. EOR enables a vastly greater defended area by allowing a shooter to launch an interceptor much earlier than if it had to wait for its own collocated radar to pick up the target. To put it simply: The earlier you fire, the more turf you can protect.
If the forward-based TPY-2 radar failed for any reason, the defended area of the two Aegis Ashore sites would shrink dramatically. The SPY-1 radars installed at the Aegis Ashore sites are too limited in range to enable defensive coverage of Europe on their own. Most military bases and major cities across Europe would become undefended. This makes the EPAA’s TPY-2 a single point of failure, one that a determined and imaginative adversary like Iran might exploit. Current events suggest the Iranians are attuned to this vulnerability: Iran has aided Houthi fighters in Yemen to target Saudi Patriot radars with UAVs, and have used UAVs in concert with ballistic missile attacks.
Given these challenges, achieving an effective defense of NATO will likely require a more layered and resilient sensor network than the current EPAA plan articulates.
Shoring up the EPAA
The fragility of the EPAA’s sensor network is not from lack of foresight. Rather, it stems from a failure to implement the policy as originally planned. When first announced, the EPAA included two additional sensor systems: the space-based Precision Tracking and Surveillance System (PTSS), and the Airborne Infrared program (ABIR). Such systems would have made EPAA much more resilient. The U.S. government canceled PTSS in 2013. ABIR also lost funding in the 2013 defense budget. The United States has not totally lost sight of these technologies, and research on space and air-based sensors has continued. Following through on elevated sensors would not only benefit EPAA in powerful ways but would enhance U.S. missile defenses globally.
In the nearer term, there are several other options that could improve the EPAA’s sensor architecture. One such option is to further integrate allied ship-based radars into NATO’s BMD architecture. Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands together have 10 ships with radars that could be modified for long-range BMD tracking. While integrating these systems may not provide a direct replacement to the TPY-2’s high-resolution imagery or geographic advantages, they could nevertheless add redundancy and help shore up sensor gaps. A second option could be to construct additional long-range, ground-based radars in and around the Mediterranean for persistent, redundant sensor coverage.
Another approach would be to upgrade the Aegis Ashore sites themselves with more advanced, longer-range radars. The SPY-1, although much evolved, is still based on 1980s hardware. Integrating newer technologies, such as active electronically scanned arrays that use gallium nitride, could improve range and sensitivity. Next-generation digital radars capable of operating in different bandwidths may offer further capability. Equipping Aegis Ashore with better sensors could enable it to maintain coverage even in the event of EOR failure.
The enemy gets a vote
In 1958, Cold War strategist Albert Wohlstetter wrote that U.S. confidence in its nuclear deterrent was based on “ignoring the full range of sensible enemy plans.” This same critical judgment should be applied to confidence in the EPAA as currently configured. Adversaries which rely heavily upon missile forces — like Iran — are likely to target the EPAA’s vulnerabilities. A more robust sensor architecture is necessary to prepare NATO’s defenses for these contingencies, improving U.S. and NATO preparedness for an unexpected Middle East conflict. (Source: Defense News)
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