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13 Sep 19. Turkey’s Erdogan says to discuss with Trump buying U.S. Patriot missiles. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he will discuss buying U.S. Patriot missiles with President Donald Trump this month, saying his personal bond with the U.S. leader could overcome a crisis caused by Ankara buying Russian air defence systems.
Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system in July raised the prospect of U.S. sanctions, and the State Department has said an offer to sell Raytheon Co’s (RTN.N) Patriot missile defence system to Ankara has expired.
However Erdogan told Reuters he had discussed buying Patriots in a phone call with Trump two weeks ago and would follow up when they meet at the U.N. General Assembly, which opens next week.
“I said no matter what package of … S-400s we get, we can buy from you a certain amount of Patriots,” Erdogan told Reuters on Friday.
“But I said we have to see conditions that at least match up to the S-400s,” Erdogan said, adding that he was referring to the possibility of joint production and favourable lending terms.
“He (Trump) said: ‘Are you serious?’ I said: ‘Yes’,” Erdogan said, adding that he told Trump they would discuss it in greater detail when they meet.
Asked whether he would also ask Trump to prevent the U.S. Treasury imposing a heavy fine on Turkey’s mainly state-owned Halkbank for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, Erdogan said he was confident they could avoid such a “mistake”, citing what he said was “a different kind of trust” between the two men.
“In my opinion a country like the USA will not want to hurt its ally Turkey any more. This is not a rational behaviour,” he said in an interview at the Ottoman Dolmabahce palace complex on the Bosphorus in Istanbul.
Erdogan and Trump will also discuss plans to establish what Turkey describes as a safe zone along 450 km (280 miles) of Syrian border stretching from the Euphrates river to the Iraq border, a region controlled mainly by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters.
On Sunday the two countries launched joint military patrols in the area, but Erdogan says that Washington has dragged its feet in an operation Turkey sees as crucial to driving the YPG, which it designates a terrorist group, away from its border.
Turkey has warned it will act alone if the safe zone is not established this month, raising the prospect of a third Turkish military incursion into northern Syria in three years.
“The peace corridor is the essential thing. We will not allow a terror corridor on our borders and we will take whatever steps are necessary on this subject,” he said.
The U.S. alliance with the YPG in Syria has angered NATO member Turkey, which has faced a decades-long insurgency in its mainly Kurdish southeast and fears growing Kurdish military power on its southern border.
“It is Turkey which is fighting with these terror groups… We are your partner in NATO. You give them the weapons for free that you will not sell for money to your NATO ally,” he said, referring to U.S. arms supplies to the YPG.
“We are fed up with explaining this… I think Trump must understand us,” Erdogan said.
Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against rebels who sought his overthrow. The United States, European and Arab allies as well as Turkey have supported different rebel factions.
Assad has regained control of most territory lost in the early stages of the eight-year conflict and has vowed to retake every inch of Syria including the northwestern province of Idlib, where Syrian and foreign radical fighters hold sway alongside other more moderate factions.
Erdogan reiterated a warning that Turkey would be forced to let Syrian refugees on its soil leave for Europe if Western nations did not provide greater support to Turkey and support its plans for a safe zone where Syrians could be settled.
“If you can’t accept this business, we will open the gates. Let them go from there wherever they want,” he said.
Establishing the zone 20 miles (32 km) inside northeast Syria would allow refugees in Turkey “to return to their lands, and allow for all their needs – from education, health, shelter – to be met. It will allow them to live on their own lands and break away from the tent life and container cities,” he said.
Erdogan said the financial aid Turkey was receiving from the European Union was not sufficient to ease the burden of 3.6 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey since the civil war erupted in 2011.
Turkey says it has spent $40bn (£32.1bn) hosting the Syrians, and a deal with the EU to give 6bn euros to support those efforts was not enough and too slow, a message he would repeat to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the United Nations.
Erdogan will host the presidents of Russia and Iran on Monday for talks that would focus on securing a lasting truce in Idlib, preventing a fresh refugee wave into Turkey, and asserting control over jihadist fighters there, he said. (Source: Reuters)
11 Sep 19. Poland – F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft. The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Poland of thirty-two (32) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with support for an estimated cost of $6.5bn. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on September 10, 2019.
Poland has requested to buy thirty-two (32) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) Aircraft and thirty-three (33) Pratt & Whitney F-135 Engines.
Also included are:
— Electronic Warfare Systems;
— Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence/Communications, Navigational, and Identification (C4I/CNI);
— Autonomic Logistics Global Support System (ALGS);
— Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS);
— Full Mission Trainer;
— Weapons Employment Capability, and other Subsystems, Features, and Capabilities;
— F-35 unique infrared flares;
— reprogramming center;
— F-35 Performance Based Logistics;
— software development/integration;
— aircraft ferry and tanker support;
— support equipment; tools and test equipment; communications equipment; spares and repair parts; personnel training and training equipment; publications and technical documents; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, logistics, and personnel services; and other related elements of logistics and program support.
The estimated cost is $6.5bn.
This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a NATO ally, which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe. This sale is consistent with U.S. initiatives to provide key allies in the region with modern systems that will enhance interoperability with U.S. forces and increase security.
This proposed sale of F-35s will provide Poland with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces. The proposed sale will augment Poland’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability. The Polish Air Force’s legacy MiG-29 and Su-22 fleet will be replaced with F-35s. Poland will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this aircraft, systems and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The prime contractors will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, Texas; and Pratt &Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, Connecticut. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. However, the purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreements will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor(s).
Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Poland involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management and training over the life of the program. U.S. contractor representatives will be required in Poland to conduct Contractor Engineering Technical Services (CETS) and Autonomic Logistics and Global Support (ALGS) for after aircraft delivery. There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Defense Security Cooperation Agency)
12 Sep 19. Chief of the Air Staff Announcements at DSEI. The Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston was at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) yesterday and spoke about the future capabilities of the Royal Air Force.
He spoke highly of Royal Air Force Personnel and what they do but also highlighted that in order to keep achieving on Operations and Exercises around the world that the RAF needs to continue to modernise and transform its equipment, platforms, aircraft and systems.
So, for the Royal Air Force, our ability to attract and retain the quality of people we need is as critical as it has ever been. But of equal importance is that we continue to modernise and transform our equipment, platforms, aircraft and systems, to face these challenging times. He spoke of Team Tempest and Protector. The importance of these projects and what it means to work alongside industry partners to excel in these fields.
Protector exemplifies the benefits that military-industry partnering can bring. Through the embedding of experienced RAF operators in the programme, we are helping bring to life a world-leading capability. It will provide the RAF with a remotely-piloted air system that is equipped with British-designed and built weapons and that can operate worldwide for up to 40 hours.
The keynote speech covered a number of initiatives the RAF is doing to modernise its equipment and technology, and to reach new heights in the modern climate. Space capabilities were a big factor when it comes to the future and focusing on the importance Air and Space Operations for UK MOD. In space too, we have initiated ground-breaking programmes that underpin the Royal Air Force’s lead of the command and control of space operations for the UK MOD. Project Artemis paves the way for the creation of a constellation of small satellites with our key industry partners of Airbus, Raytheon and Surrey Satellites. Our launch partner will be Virgin Orbit, with whom we are working with to provide a Test Pilot. (Source: Warfare.Today)
13 Sep 19. DOD Official Meets With Nordic, Baltic Nations to Strengthen Defense Ties. Maritime security, threat identification and resource gap identification were on the agenda as representatives of eight Nordic and Baltic nations and the United States met this week for the annual Nordic-Baltic-U.S. Forum. The meeting kicked off Sept. 9 in Washington and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, Sept. 10, where representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the U.S. discussed their interests in commerce and security in the Arctic.
Officials talked about ”what we can do further together in support of our shared interests,” said John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy and the chief U.S. delegate.
The Arctic is changing and becoming more important for commerce. It’s more of a competition area for security interests.” said John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy
Rood said one of the great things about the nations participating in the forum was that it included NATO and non-NATO members — including Finland and Sweden, who are not part of NATO but who collaborate closely on shared objectives, such as issues in the Middle East and Asia, defending the rule of law, and the desired type of market operation in places such as Europe.
Meeting at U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk enabled the group to focus on one of the forum’s most important topics: maritime security. “Part of our focus this year, the main focus this year, is how we can do more on maritime security,” Rood said.
The group also discussed identifying threats in areas such as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the North Atlantic, and the capability and resource gaps for addressing those threats, Rood said, as well as roles in the Arctic.
“The Arctic is growing in importance substantially for all of our countries,” he said. ”The Arctic is changing and becoming more important for commerce. It’s more of a competition area for security interests. All of these countries and the United States have a lot in common in that area.”
Rood said standards for interoperability between NATO and non-NATO partners was also a topic of discussion at the forum and that there’s an interest in terms of burden-sharing.
He noted that participating nations already agreed on a set of shared values before coming into the forum.
”We have a foundation of shared values, shared orientation on the world. And when I look around the world — whether it’s the news from Hong Kong or some of our recent travels in the Middle East or elsewhere — freedom is always under pressure,” Rood said. Shared values of freedom, democracy, free markets, support of individual rights, and the rule of law are important, he said. (Source: US DoD)
12 Sep 19. Top British Army official demands ‘smart’ army acquisition. The British Army’s Chief of the General Staff (CGS) has called for a ‘more dynamic’ relationship with industry to support the concept of ‘Prototype Warfare’, delegates at DSEI heard today. Highlighting a ‘permanent and escaping technological revolution’, dominated by quantum computing, data clouds, artificial intelligence, 5G connectivity, robotics and autonomy, Gen Sir Mark Carleton-Smith suggested the British Army must rethink how future warfare, confrontation and conflict is managed in the land environment.
Addressing delegates on 12 September, Carleton-Smith explained how the army can become a ‘smart’ customer, employing ‘emerging technology in line with high intensity training and operations as part of a systematic programme of experimentation, aided by industry deployed partners, giving live feedback to inform rapid capability development’.
‘Today in the British Army we are calling that “prototype warfare”, encouraging and empowering local commanders to take calculated risks with a higher than normal tolerance of failure, enabling them to learn and change and fundamentally to exploit catalytic ideas that will outpace our adversaries. It’s an opportunity led approach to secure competitive advantage by trial and error and adaptation,’ he added.
Dismissing claims from some ‘commentators’ regarding dis-investment in ‘hard fighting power’ such as armoured platforms and artillery systems, Carleton-Smith also reiterated the importance of such capabilities which must be maintained in order to suppress any aggressive behaviours of near peer and high capability adversaries.
Highlighting a series of examples, Carleton-Smith described how Exercise Autonomous Warrior continued to provide a ‘new way of collaborating’ with industry with the provision of ‘cutting edge’ robotics and autonomous technologies to soldiers exercising on Salisbury Plain Training Area.
‘[Adversaries] are deterred from operating above us and we must on all accounts, maintain that pressure,’ he added while also promoting the Challenger II Life Extension Programme and Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme.
‘We are upgrading our capabilities and platforms approaching their operational life and recasting them into world beaters of the future. We are introducing new capabilities and vehicles to help the army fight and win in the information age,’ he added while highlighting how Ajax and MIV programmes will provide the army with extended reach, enhanced situation awareness and speed as part of the ‘Strike Concept’.
Only through this next-generation technology investment, Carleton-Smith concluded, will the Future Land Close Combat Programme be able to harness emerging technology to explore how land manoeuvre forces are going to transform from the mid-2020s and beyond. (Source: Shephard)
12 Sep 19. Doubts over Type 31 frigate work for struggling yards. H&W and Ferguson can bid on new contracts but without guarantees, warns Babcock. Babcock International has warned there is no guarantee that the two struggling shipyards in Northern Ireland and Scotland that were part of the winning team to build warships for the Royal Navy will secure any work. The warning by the defence contractor, named preferred bidder for the £1.25bn Type 31 frigate contract on Thursday, will come as a blow to the 473 workers at Belfast’s Harland & Wolff and Scotland’s Ferguson Marine Engineering on the Clyde that both collapsed into administration in August. Archie Bethel, chief executive of Babcock, which led the bid team, told the FT both yards would “get a chance to bid” but the company “would not risk the programme”. “We never guaranteed they would get any work, they are not expecting that,” he said. Both yards, Mr Bethel added, would have to “pass the same hurdles that any suppliers have to pass in terms of financial security and security of supply. Assuming that [any] new owners can do that, they will be included in the process”. Workers at the two yards are hoping the contract will throw them a lifeline, especially the 123 employed at H&W, which has no work. Administrators to the yard remain in talks with two potential buyers but declined to comment on Thursday.
Denise Walker, senior organiser for the GMB, one of H&W’s two unions, said the contract to build five frigates offered the prospect of new work for the yard but conceded its future remained in doubt until a new owner was found. H&W has not built a ship since 2003 but Ms Walker insisted it had the right skills to complete steel fabrication, adding that the workforce was still employed and “good to go”. The 350 workers at Ferguson Marine, which was rescued by the Scottish government last month are still completing a ferry contract but were also expecting a boost from the award of the Type 31 build programme. Derek Mackay, the Scottish government’s economy secretary, said Babcock had the “full support” of Holyrood, and would be pushing for work for Ferguson Marine. “
Once the final details of the contract are announced, we look forward to discussions on the role that Ferguson Marine could play alongside other suppliers in Scotland,” he said. The Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast © Liam McBurney/PA But Mr Bethel insisted Babcock had won the bid on the basis of the work being done “100 per cent at Rosyth”, adding that with the exception of France’s Thales, “none of our members were risk-sharing” and the competition for work was open all UK yards. Mr Bethel said he would not rule out Cammell Laird securing a role on the programme — the shipyard in Birkenhead was part of the one of the two losing bids. The five frigates will be assembled at Babcock’s Rosyth yard in Fife and the company will subcontract the fabrication of parts of the hulls. The aim is to mirror the approach taken for the navy’s two new aircraft carriers which were built in blocks at different yards and then assembled at Rosyth, where the second ship is nearing completion.
The contract will secure some 450 jobs at Rosyth as the work on the carrier programme tails off, according to unions. First steel is expected to be cut in the middle of 2021, with the aim of getting the first frigate into the water in 2023. The Type 31 programme is a key element of a national naval shipbuilding strategy launched in 2017, itself a response to an independent review in 2016 by industrialist John Parker. It recommended that future warships should be designed to increase the prospect of exports and to increase collaboration between shipbuilders by using the broader supply chain, reversing a previous policy that had left BAE Systems, one of the losing bidders on Type 31, as the main supplier of naval vessels. Ministers have sought to cast the award as part of a wider push to reinvigorate shipbuilding in the UK — which has suffered a sharp decline in recent years — as well as the Royal Navy’s capabilities, which have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the seizure of a UK-flagged tanker by Iran. But Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, is a vocal critic of the strategy and said the UK simply did not have the money to sustain more than one naval shipyard capable of building complex warships.
Richard Scott, naval consultant at Jane’s Defence, said the shipbuilding strategy was “more about sustaining a level of capacity and capability than to drive an expansion”, noting that the Type 31 frigates were designed to replace some of the ageing Type 23s. After sustained cuts to the number of ships over recent decades, the navy has just 13 frigates and six destroyers. Unions on Thursday stepped up pressure on the government to back the prime minister’s pledge to “bring shipbuilding home” by ensuring a contract to build three support ships for the navy did not go abroad. The government was required to put it out to international tender, under EU law, because it did not designate them warships, which are exempted. It has stoked fears that government-backed foreign bidders will be able to undercut UK yards. One UK consortium, comprising BAE, Babcock, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce, is bidding to win the work. Mike Clancy, general secretary at Prospect, said: “These [Type 31] frigates were always going to be built in the UK, but workers need a cast-iron guarantee from the prime minister that new naval support ships will also be built in our yards and UK workers will not be left high and dry while vital work and taxpayers’ money is sent abroad.” (Source: FT.com)
11 Sep 19. Poland cleared to buy F-35 fleet. The U.S. State Department has OK’d Poland to buy the F-35, America’s most advanced fighter, setting up the country as the newest customer for the fifth-generation jet.
The proposed order covers 32 of the conventional-takeoff-and-landing F-35A variants, with an estimated price tag of $6.5bn, according to a Wednesday announcement on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. As with all DSCA notifications, quantities and dollar figures can change during negotiations.
While Congress can still act to block the sale, it’s expected to run smoothly through Capitol Hill.
“This proposed sale of F-35s will provide Poland with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces,” the DSCA announcement reads. “The proposed sale will augment Poland’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability.”
Poland formally sent its request for the F-35 in May with the goal of replacing its legacy MiG-29 and Su-22 fleets. Procuring the F-35 is part of a broader defense modernization effort from Warsaw, which will see the country spend $47bn by 2026 on new equipment.
Along with the fighters, the proposed package includes 33 F135 engines, electronic warfare and C4 systems, access to the fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System, a full mission trainer, and other support capabilities.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the plane, and Pratt & Whitney is the engine manufacturer. The deal will include some form of industrial offset, to be negotiated between the companies and Warsaw at a later date.
Lockheed executives said Poland will get planes with the Block 4 package installed. Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager for the program, has expressed an interest in having Poland take part in the industrial base for the planes.
“Once Polish companies are approved as our supplier partners, they could make parts not only for the Polish aircraft but also for those supplied to other countries, such as the U.S. or Japan,” Ulmer said.
However, Poland shouldn’t get its hopes up about becoming a full-on partner with the F-35 Joint Strike Figher program, as the Pentagon has been adamant that the broad industrial participation program is locked in place. (Source: Defense News)
11 Sep 19. GMB calls for government pledge to keep future shipbuilding contracts in UK. Ministers should go beyond long-expected announcement and make commitment to keeping £1bn Fleet Solid Support ship programme in UK. GMB, the union for shipbuilding and ship repair workers, has called on the Government to guarantee that in future all Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships will be built in UK yards. The union’s call comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to unveil the preferred bidder to build new Type 31 frigates – an order that was always reserved for yards in the UK. GMB has long campaigned for the pending £1.5bn Fleet Solid Support (FSS) shipbuilding contract to be given to UK shipyards.
The new Fleet Solid Support ships are needed to service the UK’s £6.3bn Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and their strikeforce of new F-35 fighter planes.
Despite the fact the ships are exempt from EU procurement rules – and the French Government recently awarded a similar order to French shipyards without a bidding process – the Ministry of Defence has up until now insisted on running a full international competition
GMB analysis of Ministry of Defence documents, suggests that the FSS order could support up to 16,000 jobs in the UK.
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said: “All work for our struggling yards is welcome but this particular order was always reserved for the UK. If Ministers are serious about saving jobs and skills in this country then they must also keep the £1.5bn Fleet Solid Support contract with our yards, instead of punting that vital work overseas.”
10 Sep 19. EU creates defence and space branch ‘to complement NATO.’ The European Union will create a new defence and space arm to help fund, develop and deploy armed forces, the bloc’s incoming chief executive said on Tuesday, naming an ally of French President Emmanuel Macron for the role.
The creation of a defence branch in the European Commission, long resisted by Britain, is an attempt by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen to stem a decline in EU influence, as it faces heavy U.S. pressure to do more for its own security.
“The European Union will never be a military alliance,” von der Leyen said. “But the European Union member states have been told many times … that common procurement for their armed forces is of utmost importance,” she told a news conference.
Von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, said the plans would benefit the U.S.-led NATO alliance to which many EU states belong, adding: “NATO will always be (our) collective defence.”
Sylvie Goulard, a former long-time EU lawmaker currently at France’s central bank, will be responsible for the new directorate general, as commissioner for industrial policy. Although von der Leyen gave few details, the defence arm will build on an EU military pact signed in late 2017 to integrate defence forces by working on new weapons and contributing to rapid deployments.
Washington supports the initiative, but has also warned against shutting U.S. companies out of defence contracts.
With Britain, Europe’s other main military power apart from France, set to leave the EU, Germany has backed the French-led effort to identify weak spots in European armies with the goal of filling those gaps together as a bloc.
Space is also becoming an area where the EU wants to develop technology jointly, particularly as China, Russia and the United States develop space weapons that can shut down enemy missiles and air defences or destroy satellites.
The plans will rely on a proposed 13bn-euro defence fund for developing and buying weapons together, with money from the EU’s common budget for defence research. EU governments are expected to add to the fund to swell its size.
Many governments say Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 was a turning point, after years of defence spending cuts that left EU militaries without vital capabilities and heavily reliant on the United States.
Von der Leyen named Goulard on Tuesday along with 26 other commissioners – one from each member state – to her new team which will take office on Nov. 1. (Source: Reuters)
09 Sep 19. US Army’s multidomain force emerges in Europe. Though the Multi-Domain Task Force in Europe is only beginning to take form, it’s already expected to help the U.S. Army shape its doctrine relevant to possible ground campaigns against near-peer competitor Russia.
So far the Army has largely focused on how the Multi-Domain Operations, or MDO, concept might look in the Indo-Pacific theater. Over the past couple of years, the service brought back lessons learned from its pilot Multi-Domain Task Force in the region and applied them to the MDO concept that will ultimately serve as the Army’s primary war-fighting doctrine.
The National Defense Strategy, released last year, focuses on great power competition with Russia and China, and the MDO concept is designed to enable the U.S. Army to operate against those near-peer competitors across air, land, sea, space and cyber domains.
The doctrine is intended to lay out how Army capability and strategy will prevent conflict, shape the security environment, win in large-scale ground combat operations and consolidate gains.
The task force will provide U.S. forces and allies in the theater with multiple options to deal with great power competition, Army Chief Gen. James McConville told Defense News in an exclusive interview.
“We’re building capabilities of the multidomain task forces,” he said, “around information intelligence, cyber, electronic warfare and space capability. And then based on that, they’ll be integrated into long-range precision fires and effects capability and then supported by the other types of enablers that the force needs to do their mission.”
The Army sees the Multi-Domain Task Force as different in each theater where those types of units are deployed, McConville said. “We will augment them based on what they need to conduct the mission,” he explained. The Europe-based task force will have fundamental differences to the task force in the Indo-Pacific theater, said o Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, the Futures and Concepts Center deputy commanding general. For example, the European area of operation is much smaller than that of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, he told Defense News, and the terrain is largely land based.
“So what we have to do is optimize the capabilities in Europe,” Wesley said, “so you have a lot more agility in moving the Multi-Domain Task Force, as an example, because of the ground-based platforms.”
The task force in Europe will particularly shape doctrine relevant to a large ground campaign, he added. (Source: Defense News)
09 Sep 19. As Britain lurches toward Brexit, how will European security fare? At the beginning of 2016, everything seemed so simple for the West.
NATO saw renewed interest from member states; the European Union was discussing new levels of defense cooperation; and the United States was moving toward increasing its European commitments — all in response to what the alliance perceived as a resurgent Russian threat along the eastern flank. But by the close of that year, Europe’s slow return to great power competition was thrown into chaos.
In the U.K., a referendum called by then-Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a shocking upset when the country voted to leave the European Union; the country is now on its third prime minister since the June 23 vote. And in November, Donald Trump, a confirmed Euroskeptic whose foreign policy trademark was brow-beating European allies for decades of declining defense spending, was elected president.
Now, on the eve of Brexit and with Trump’s reelection a real possibility, the future of European collective security is anyone’s guess. Will NATO maintain its relevance, or will hard feelings drive a wedge in the alliance? If a new framework for European security is forged, will it exist under an EU without Britain, and will the the former member have any say in the framework’s direction?
On the maritime front, if existing frameworks come under pressure, Brexit means Europe could stand lose some protection provided by the region’s most capable navy. And while the position of Britain’s government has been that its commitment to European security remains unchanged, what form that takes is unclear.
“What this raises is the question of the European Union versus NATO,” said Jerry Hendrix, an analyst with the Virginia-based Telemus Group. “And what is the difference of commitment to those two entities? Everyone says that they are firmly committed to NATO, but Brexit has raised a question about the future of Europe as a political entity.
“Everyone has relaxed on the idea that they are all together politically, which had contributed to the decline of spending on military forces,” Hendrix added. “And for years, Britain has been the preeminent naval power, but maybe Brexit forces France and Italy and Norway to step up their own naval spending?
“We’ve entered a period of questions about Europe’s future.”
Brexit, which new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised will be delivered “do or die” on Oct. 31, threatens to upend what has been an expanding role by the EU in security matters, something that has been a growing part of the organization’s mission in recent years.
“The interesting dynamic in European foreign policy is the introduction of the EU into it,” said Bryan Clark, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. “It was never one of the original objectives of the EU common market; it [the original objective] was economic in nature. The foreign policy element has really emerged in the past five to 10 years as the EU’s expansion has become a tool of foreign policy, especially for countries in Eastern Europe, such as Ukraine.”
As the EU became more of an instrument of foreign policy than an economic approach, it undertook more military-style operations, such as a counter-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia and a refugee rescue-and-support mission off the coast of Italy. Those operations have drawn in countries, such as Sweden and Finland, that were hesitant to participate in NATO operations so as not to antagonize Russia.
“The EU gives countries this kind of fig leaf that they are participating in a military operation without being openly hostile to Russia, and to some degree Belarus as well,” Clark said. “And these operations show this kind of expanding role of the EU.
“Especially if you are a NATO country, the EU gives you a chance to do security operations that’s not tied to a war-fighting framework that a lot of people feel like is a holdover from the Cold War.”
And while those kinds of low-end missions can continue without Britain, when it comes to the higher-end war-fighting missions, there may be complications.
In the U.K., there’s now talk of a “Global Britain,” a term that not so subtly harkens back to a time when the Kingdom was the preeminent global power. But those grand strategic ambitions may not sync with available funding, and it leaves unanswered questions about how the country will work with its neighbors after Brexit.
In recent years, the EU took steps to deepen security partnerships through both joint missions and the development of common security goals under a framework known as the Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative, or PESCO. But how the U.K. will fit into those schemes is unclear, according to a recent paper from the The Dahrendorf Forum, a policy shop based in Germany and London.
“On the one hand, these developments potentially increase the cost to the U.K. of participating in EU structures and the risk to the EU that British involvement will scupper new initiatives. On the other hand, these projects may be made credible only through British participation and the involvement of the sizable U.K. defence industry,” the paper said.
The future of European defense and foreign policy integration has generated suggestions such as a European army or common aircraft carrier to defend shared interests. But such grand ambitions come at a time when basic readiness has been a problem for most European militaries.
“The ‘European aircraft carrier’ is such a ridiculous and meaningless proposal (don’t get me wrong, I can imagine some French politicians having the same ‘idea’) that it does not even deserve a rebuke,” Bruno Tertrais, deputy director at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, wrote in an email to Defense News in March.
But that such proposals exist in the first place highlights the glaring questions about the existing NATO framework and its viability after Brexit.
“I think the question for Britons is: Will it have an impact on NATO operations?” said Clark, the CSBA analyst. “Will other NATO allies be reluctant to participate in exercises led by the U.K. and the Americans in a significant way? There is going to be friction there. Neither of those countries will be in the EU, they won’t be viewed as economic partners in the same way.”
One of the areas where the EU is trying to expand its role in defense is the European Defence Fund, which seeks to pool money from members nations to fund defense research and the development of high-end capabilities. But without Britain’s industrial base, it could be difficult to make such projects viable.
“The EU has set forth some quite ambitious objectives in terms of industrial cooperation, defense research and so on, and the U.K. in practice will find it difficult to have a role there, and it will be a problem for both the U.K. and the EU,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
“It’s hard for European counties to get the economies of scale they need to produce efficiently. And the U.K. is one of the largest markets for defense equipment along with France in Europe,” he added. “So having the U.K. out, that’s going to be hard. So I think part of what might happen is that companies may simply not take part in the European Defence Fund in order to maintain cooperation with the U.K. in some cases.”
Another potential consequence of Brexit involves the development of a future combat air system. The U.K. as well as France and Germany are developing their own next-generation fighter jets. But without the U.K. in the market, both efforts could face headwinds.
“Both of those programs will find it difficult to get to the necessary economies of scale,” Chalmers said. “The U.K. is talking about cooperation with a whole range of countries outside of Europe — Australia, Japan — but the most obvious partners for the U.K. are its European neighbors. Without France or Germany as a partner, that’s going to make it harder, but that’s also the case for the European effort. So in that and a number of other areas, Brexit will complicate opportunities for cooperation across Europe.”
NATO on the rocks?
Without Britain’s highly capable military, it’s unclear if a European force would have much credibility as a deterrent.
“The Royal Navy is designed as really a smaller version of the American Navy,” Clark said. “It can kind of plug in and do more or less all the things the U.S. Navy can do on a smaller scale. They’ve often thought of this as ‘east of Suez’ — they could help with something the U.S. Navy doesn’t have the capacity to extend its reach to. But the other European navies don’t have that force structure. They’re really not designed for full-spectrum military operations at the level of capability of the Americans, and in theory the Brits.”
France, with its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and associated air wing, comes closest, Clark said. But even with the carrier, France doesn’t have the same capabilities for a full spectrum of operations as Britain.
“The other European navies have bought into the NATO strategic concept of specialization: They contribute their specialized capabilities that they are really good in and probably better than anyone else in Europe,” Clark said. “Sweden and Finland focus on amphibious operations, Norway is really good at C4ISR stuff and surface warfare, and the other forces focus on maritime security or anti-submarine warfare.
“Outside of France you really start to get to a tailored set of capabilities that are supposed to work together as part of a NATO or EU mission. They are not designed to go execute something on their own, other than maybe coastal security.”
Ideally, allies would maintain their commitment to NATO and everything would go on as normal, but that’s not the most likely scenario, Clark said.
“All the major powers in Europe are part of NATO still. So in theory, NATO would continue as before without any kind of abatement,” he said. “As the U.K. comes out of this extended recapitalization of the Royal Navy, they are going to be the newest force with the best stuff in all of Europe. And the question then will be are they going to be treated as a full partner in all European security operations, and I’m thinking they maybe won’t be.”
That may leave the U.K. in a position where it will want to forge even closer ties with the U.S. — a likely scenario, according to Hendrix, the Telemus analyst.
“One prediction I will make is that the United Kingdom is going to reach out to the United States to strengthen economic and military ties going forward,” Hendrix said. “If there is a hard Brexit [where Britain leaves the EU without a trade deal] and a lot of hurt feelings between the U.K. and Europe, you’ll see the U.K. pivot to Trump, and I think Trump will welcome them. I think he views the EU with skepticism, so I think there will be a move to strengthen economic, military and intelligence ties.”
In the meantime, countries on the continent will have to grapple with what Brexit means for the idea of a collective foreign policy, said Chalmers, the RUSI analyst.
“The EU as an institution is looking for EU strategic autonomy rather than European strategic autonomy, and those two things will be different from each other in a way they haven’t been when the U.K. was a member of the EU,” Chalmers said. “For most Europeans, Europe and the EU have been synonymous. Now, one of the major European powers will be outside that structure. We haven’t yet worked out what that will be. The U.K. could maintain a very close, special relationship with the EU; or we could see a more profound break where the U.K. sets its foreign policy against the EU. I don’t think that’s very likely, but we can’t rule anything out.” (Source: Defense News)
09 Sep 19. UK Army sticks to armor-upgrade plan despite new pivot toward hybrid warfare. Britain’s newly declared focus on combating hybrid threats will have no bearing on the Army’s priority to invest in armored vehicle programs, according to officials. The creation of a new formation, known as the 6th Division, to counter Russia, among others, in cyberspace, information operations and other non-kinetic tactics is a sign of the changing nature of warfare.
“The priorities at the moment are absolutely about delivering the modernization of our armored fighting vehicle fleet: Warrior, Challenger 2 and Mechanised Infantry Vehicle,” according to a senior service official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “These remain our priorities for the foreseeable future until those vehicles are delivered.”
Rebalancing the Army to combat hybrid warfare will not be at the expense of capabilities needed on conventional battlefields, said the official. Put another way: The utility of the tank and other armored fighting vehicles remains uncontested for now.
As one Australian general at a recent land warfare conference in London noted: “You can cyber all you like, but there comes a time when only a tank will do.”
The problem for the British forces, however, is that much of their armored fighting vehicle capability is found wanting, which is partly why modernization remains a priority.
The land forces have a quality deficit that is only now being fixed after years of development delays in the Warrior program, budget issues and requirement uncertainty that stalled the Challenger 2 update and new requirements for the eight-wheel drive Mechanised Infantry Vehicle, or MIV.
Penny Mordaunt, the then-defense secretary, highlighted the problem in a June 4 speech at a conference, warning Britain had fallen behind its allies and potential adversaries in key armored combat vehicle capabilities.
Labeling Challenger 2 and Warrior as “obsolete,” she said that while the battlefield may look very different in the future, armored vehicles “must be capable, and we must be competitive. We have not been.”
It now looks as though some of the issues that have dogged armored fighting vehicle procurement in Britain for more than a decade will be resolved.
Questions remain around actual numbers, timing and capabilities of vehicles to be purchased or updated by a perennially cash-strapped Defence Ministry, but the three key programs appear to be moving in the right direction, albeit not as quickly as some would hope.
For example, General Dynamics UK is delivering variants of the Ajax tracked scout vehicle family to the Army under a $4.3bn production order for 589 machines. The Ajax, along with the MIVs, are the key components of the two new strike brigades with the British Army.
Britain selected, without competition, the Boxer wheeled personnel carrier by Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann to meet a requirement of some 500 vehicles. The recently formed joint venture, known as Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land, will be the key player in the program, with the vehicles built at what was previously BAE Systems’ Telford facility.
“The assessment phase [on MIV], concluding later this year, will consider the benefits of manufacturing locations and different supply chains for Boxer, as well as value for money,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement. “The aim is to have the first vehicles in service in 2023.”
The MoD declined to discuss the Challenger 2 life-extension program beyond saying: “Approval has been given for the Challenger 2 LEP to undertake additional assessment phase work.”
Previously, BAE Systems and Rheinmetall conducted rival assessment phase studies on Challenger 2. That was brought to a halt July 1 when the two companies announced their German majority-owned partnership.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin UK has struggled to complete development of a substantially updated Warrior since receiving a contract in 2011. The program has been dogged by delay and overspending; for the moment it remains in the development phase. But the MoD said in a program assessment this year there was “evidence the issues were beginning to be overcome.”
“Two significant milestones have recently been achieved on time: live crew clearance, which allows MoD turret crews to conduct live firing [of the CTAI 40mm cannon], and the successful completion of the first 20 battlefield missions,” the ministry told Defense News on July 19.
Testing will continue into 2020. The MoD assessment said it expects to commit to a manufacturing contract during that year.
Armored fighting vehicles may be the top priority, but they are far from the only weapons on Britain’s shopping list. Among the other programs is a multirole protected logistics vehicle, with part of the requirement expected to be filled by the U.S. Joint Light Tactical Vehicle in a much-delayed Foreign Military Sale deal now likely next year.
New GPS-guided rocket systems, land precision strike missiles and 155mm mobile fires platforms are also among weapons on the British Army’s wish list. (Source: Defense News)
08 Sep 19. Is it too late to take back control of our national defence? Britain’s pursuit of ‘value for money’ has forced Whitehall into America’s arms and thrust a once-great industry into decline
Billboards at Westminster Tube station are a good indicator of when big defence contracts are up for grabs. In recent years, Boeing has plastered the station with posters hailing the American aerospace giant’s role in “building a stronger UK”.
Boeing has been a serial winner of contracts since 2016, selling to the MoD Apache helicopters, P-8 spy jets and E-7 sentry planes — all built in America. Its PR blitz reflects an eagerness to persuade the politicians who pour through the station of its contribution to the British economy. Last year, as if to underline the point, Boeing opened up in Sheffield — “our first manufacturing site in Europe”. Rivals were sceptical: the South Yorkshire plant employs just over 50.
The UK has provided rich pickings for US defence giants such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Civil servants and MPs, under pressure to cut defence costs and stung by procurement blow-ups, have prioritised “value for money”.
More often than not, that has resulted in buying “off-the-shelf” American kit. A country that was once a big exporter of combat aircraft and tanks has become increasingly reliant on overseas equipment, which some fear threatens the UK’s sovereignty.
“It’s easier to count what isn’t American than what is,” said David Lockwood, chief executive of the FTSE 250 aerospace company Cobham, which is being bought by US private equity fund Advent International.
“Almost all our major platforms are American. We don’t have a holistic view at a political level of what we mean by sovereignty.”
Buying American has also left Britain dependent on the US and at the whim of Washington’s geopolitical priorities. Lockheed Martin owns the source codes to the UK’s F-35 jets, giving the Pentagon access to the RAF’s mission data — and, some fear, ultimate control over the aircraft that could prevent the UK taking unilateral action. “We’ve lost freedom of action,” said a senior defence source.
That stance is belatedly coming under scrutiny. About 135,000 people work in what remains of Britain’s defence industry, generating about £23bn of turnover, according to trade body ADS. BAE Systems’ fighter jet business, based in Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire, employs about 5,000 making the Eurofighter Typhoon, but work is running out. Shipbuilding is shrinking — the Appledore yard in Devon closed in March and Belfast’s Harland and Wolff yard is in administration.
Politicians and communities have started to ask how to sustain these jobs — and whether more onus should be placed on buying British. The government announced a combat jet strategy last year, along with a commitment to build a new fighter, the Tempest.
Two years ago, the industrialist Sir John Parker launched a national shipbuilding strategy, designed to keep the remaining yards busy. Ministers are understood to be preparing to produce a new defence industrial strategy, with a post-Brexit boost to the prosperity of the UK’s regions a central theme.
Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, who sits on the defence committee, said: “We’ve gone America first, rather than Britain first. We do not put sovereign skills at the heart of our industrial strategy.”
Unlike other countries, which demand “offsets” from overseas defence bidders, such as payment or local jobs and factories, the UK operates a voluntary system, where companies are “encouraged” to invest in the UK , but are not obliged to. Boeing has grown its UK headcount to 2,500 in recent years, but that is a fraction of the size of rivals such as Airbus and BAE.
Mike Turner, former chief executive of BAE Systems, said: “The UK government is very light-touch. They miss some real opportunities.”
Turner was an advocate of the 2005 defence industrial strategy of Lord (Paul) Drayson, the then defence procurement minister. It proposed long-term planning and support to sustain the UK’s industrial capabilities. But without political support or funding, the strategy withered, and in 2012, it was replaced with a new mantra of value for money.
“If we’d stuck to [2005 policy] we’d still have air, land and sea prime contractors here and the supply chain that goes with them. We’ve lost it,” said Turner. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Sir Bernard Gray, the former head of defence procurement between 2011 and 2015, said it made sense to buy small quantities of kit off-the-shelf and “get the benefit of all the work they [America] have already done”, rather than make bespoke and more expensive machinery in the UK.
Britain’s 50 Apaches come off a production line in Mesa, Arizona, building hundreds of helicopters. “We have to pick where we can compete, add value and create products we can sell into third-party markets,” Gray said. Building Tempest makes sense, he added: “We still have game in fighter aircraft; we’ve got the skills. Tempest is our entry ticket. We can leapfrog the F-35.” Whether Britain can afford it is another matter. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Sunday Times)
09 Sep 19. F-35 and Dreadnought revealed as most expensive UK defence programmes. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) spent £8.4bn on procuring the Lockheed Martin advanced F-35 fighter jet as of 2018, more than any other programme and £309m more than forecast.
The MOD said that the increase in the cost of the F-35 programme was largely due to an increase in US foreign exchange rates. Since Brexit, the value of the pound against several currencies including the US dollar has fallen, meaning that the UK has less spending power for foreign military equipment than in the past.
The MOD told Air Force Technology that while the cost of the F-35 programme had been affected by currency fluctuations, the overall unit cost per aircraft had decreased by £50m. With long-running projects, the MOD said they try to factor in currency fluctuations in their budgeting.
Two economists from Capital Economics and York University confirmed to Air Force Technology that the depreciation of the pound would have made it more expensive for the UK to import foreign systems.
The next most expensive projects being undertaken by the MOD are the Dreadnought submarine programme, due to replace Trident, at £8bn, the Astute submarine programme at £6.9bn, the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier at £6.2bn and the Ajax armoured fighting vehicle from General Dynamics at £5.5bn.
Of the five most expensive programmes, all are set to cost more than forecast in 2017 by a total of £705m. The only programme costing less than forecast is the new Type 26 frigate programme.
The Type 26 is being developed to replace the UK Royal Navy’s fleet of Type 23 frigates which were commissioned in 1987. Three of the UK’s planned Type 26 frigates are under construction with the programme set to enter in 2027.
The UK is also spending £3.2bn on ongoing programmes to upgrade and develop the Warrior armoured fighting vehicle and Apache gunship. In total for the year 2018/19, the MOD paid out £25bn in direct expenditure on its contracts.
The figures were revealed by the MOD in an annual roundup of contracts and expenditure published yesterday (5 September). Of the 17 major equipment projects listed by the MOD, the total cost is set to be around £54.3bn.
The MOD spent 43%of MOD spending went to its ‘top 10 suppliers’, with the largest of that share being paid out to BAE Systems at almost 14% of the MOD’s spend on defence procurement in 2018/19.
The UK exported more defence equipment by value in 2018 than at any other point in the last decade, winning £14bn worth of export orders. This makes the UK responsible for nearly 20% of all defence exports globally. In terms of defence exporters over the past decade, the UK is second the US. The UK’s biggest market for defence projects is the Middle East, with exports to the region increasing by 11% on last year. In total 77% of the UK’s defence sales were to the Middle East, with the remaining 33% largely focused on North America and Europe. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
09 Sep 19. Turkey’s Baykar Makina Gets Government Support. Baykar Makina, the private Turkish drone maker with family ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will receive government support to expand output. The company plans to invest 600m liras ($106m) to increase its production of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to a presidential decree published Thursday in the nation’s official gazette.
The investment will double Bayraktar TB2 drone production to 92 units per year, while adding the capacity to manufacture 24 Akinci armed drones and 36 other combat drones, according to the decree. Government support includes tax breaks but not purchase guarantees.
Baykar’s chief technology officer is Erdogan’s son-in-law Selcuk Bayraktar, who is described on the company’s website as the “chief architect of Turkey’s first indigenous, operational UAV systems.” Erdogan’s other son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, is the nation’s treasury and finance minister. Turkish-made drones have ended the military’s dependence on UAVs leased from Israel and dramatically increased.
Turkish drones are also being used in Libya, according to Tripoli government officials who spoke to Bloomberg on condition of anonymity. The drones rival Chinese and United Arab Emirates-operated drones supporting warlord Khalifa Haftar. (Source: UAS VISION/Bloomberg)
06 Sep 19. Defense Department Statement on Denmark’s Deployment to Syria. Department of Defense Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan R. Hoffman provided the following statement:
The United States welcomes the announcement by the Danish Government to make a military deployment to Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and to continue to share the burden and responsibilities of this important mission. As a founding member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, this deployment demonstrates Denmark’s continued commitment to working with our partners, to include the SDF, to ensure ISIS cannot re-emerge. Our Danish partners will work with the residual U.S. military force in northeast Syria to support stability and security.
We look forward to working with our Danish ally to continue our shared mission of achieving ISIS’s enduring defeat-in Syria and wherever else the group may operate. (Source: US DoD)
08 Sep 19. Britain’s shipbuilding strategy has not gone according to plan — and industry is noticing. Confronted with the dilemma of maintaining a naval industrial base after the completion of two 65,000-ton aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, the British government two years ago launched a national shipbuilding strategy aimed at building an efficient sector, and thus keeping skills and capacity alive.
But the strategy has failed to work out exactly as planned. Two yards closed this year and a third was rescued by nationalization. Meanwhile in the supply chain, the Ministry of Defence had to act quickly on ordering the motor for the Type 26 frigate to prevent the contractor from moving its capabilities to France.
Former shipyard boss Peter Parker, who authored the original shipbuilding strategy, delivered a review of the strategy’s status to the MoD, but the update remains under wraps, with no firm timing announced for its publication.
One key element of the strategy included procurement of five general-purpose frigates for the Royal Navy to be competed for by local shipyards in an effort to end BAE Systems’ maritime monopoly in Britain. Another included an international competition for up to three 40,000-ton fleet solid support ships. Both programs have subsequently run into stormy waters.
Paul Everitt, the chief executive of ADS, the lobby group that represents British defense, aerospace and security companies, said it’s important to continue to support the strategy, even as some of the impetus has been lost.
“We need to stick with the national shipbuilding strategy. It marks a significant shift in the MoD’s approach to procurement. The area that has been challenging, though, is that progress has been hindered by the political uncertainty around Brexit and the future size of MoD budgets,” Everitt said, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
“Some of the decisions that would help to give industry the longer-term certainty they require to invest or hang in there aren’t being made,” he added. “Where do we go next ? It is really about the MoD creating certainty around a pipeline of work from all the key programs, all of which should offer significant amounts of work to U.K. industry over the next 15 years.”
Not everyone remains signed up to the shipbuilding strategy, however.
Defense commentator Howard Wheeldon, of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory, is unsure about the relevance of the strategy.
“It’s no longer fit for purpose. We have moved on. More shipyards have closed due to lack of work, and we should not kid ourselves that a commercial shipyard that has little or no expertise in building Navy ships can take on the responsibility and risk that the government requires,” Wheeldon said.
“If the government has any belief in the strategy, it will ensure that contracts for the fleet [solid] support ships will be placed in U.K. shipyards. If it fails, then we must conclude that it has neither belief in its own strategy or in ensuring that we retain the sovereign capability that a nation such as the U.K. needs,” he added.
An international competition to build two or three fleet solid support ships has been underway for months, with the bidders narrowed down to Navantia of Spain, Japan Marine United Corp., and a homemade consortium made up of BAE Systems, Babcock International, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce, known as Team UK.
The MoD opened the deal to foreign bidders, reasoning that the vessels were not warships and therefore, under European Union regulations, the competition must be open to all.
Now, though, the tide seems to be turning in favor of British yards taking a bigger share of the work than just the fitting of locally made sensitive kit.
One senior industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the “current fleet solid support [ship] procurement plan is not really tenable with the current government team and a shipbuilding strategy which is in danger of becoming unstitched.”
“The government will have come under huge pressure on this issue at every political level. You have a new procurement minister, [Marie-Anne Trevelyn], who only a couple of months ago put her name to a parliamentary report supporting building the ships in the U.K.; you have a Brexiter defense secretary in Ben Wallace; and [Prime Minister Boris] Johnson himself,” the industry executive said. “Is that trio likely to award a contract to a Spanish yard?”
Whatever the outcome, it’s too late for two of the yards. Babcock’s Appledore yard in southwest England closed in early 2019 after the completion of an offshore patrol boat for the Irish Naval Service. Additionally, Harland & Wolff recently went into insolvency proceedings with its Belfast, Northern Ireland, yard that famously built the Titanic — although there remains a chance a buyer could be found for the facility.
In Glasgow, shipbuilder Ferguson’s nationalization by the Scottish government was announced Aug. 16 after the yard went over time and over budget with a commercial ferry contract it won.
Harland & Wolff was the lead U.K. yard in a proposal by German-based Atlas Elektronik to build Type 31e frigates for the Royal Navy. The yard’s demise could scuttle the German company’s bid, although parent company Thyssenkrupp has a history of reviving cold yards.
Atlas isn’t the only company with Harland & Wolff on its team. Babcock also listed the Northern Ireland yard in its Type 31e proposal at one stage and also named Ferguson as a subcontractor.
Britain has shortlisted three contenders for the Type 31e requirement: Atlas, Babcock and BAE Systems. A decision on a winner is expected this year, although there has been speculation it could come during or soon after the DSEI trade show in September.
The supply chain has not been immune from difficulties either.
GE Power, which provides power-conversion systems for Royal Navy warships, announced it was closing its Rugby site in Central England and relocating the work to France. In response, the MoD ordered motors for a second batch of Type 26s to prevent the move, even though BAE does not yet have a deal to build the warships.
The industry executive said the GE Power episode highlighted a weakness in Britain’s shipbuilding strategy.
“GE proved the point: It [the strategy] didn’t really address the criticality of the supply chain. It assumed the criticality was all about shipyards,” he said. “The other fundamental flaw with it was you were never going to keep all the U.K. yards in business if you were going to put the fleet solid support ship deal offshore.”
The situation certainly isn’t improved by the political turmoil at the MoD and in wider government.
Defense and procurement leaders have been coming and going with alarming regularity for years, particularly since the government adopted the shipbuilding strategy in September 2017.
Penny Mordaunt, the pro-Navy, pro-buy-British defense secretary, lasted just more than 60 days before she found herself backing the wrong candidate in a Conservative Party leadership contest, which resulted in Johnson becoming prime minister on July 24.
Given the current political uncertainties, there is no guarantee how long the new administration will last.
With the Brexit debate occupying the government nearly 24/7, defense has barely rated a mention by the Johnson government; that is, other than during the furor caused by the Royal Navy’s inability to stop the seizure of a British-registered tanker by Iran on July 19.
The uncertainties have come at a time of mixed fortunes for the British maritime sector.
Yards may be closing, but set against that is the Type 26 anti-submarine frigate design scoring major export successes in Australia and Canada — successes that could put Britain back on the maritime export map in a big way.
Neither of the export customers will have their frigates built in the U.K., but the deals open the door to potentially billions of pounds of orders for the British supply chain. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
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