31 Oct 19. The Dutch F-35 arrives. The time has come: the F-35 has arrived. The first operational F-35 stationed in the Netherlands landed at Leeuwarden Air Base today around 3:30 PM. The fighter arrived from Italy, where it was built. With the successor to the F-16, the Royal Netherlands Air Force finally has the so-called 5th-generation aircraft.
The Ministry of Defense already has 8 F-35s, but they are based in the United States and are used to train pilots. In total, the Netherlands are buying 46 F-35s. At around €5bn, it is the largest weapon purchase in Dutch history. The airplanes will be stationed at the Leeuwarden and Volkel air bases. It’s not the first time the new aircraft has landed on Dutch soil. On May 23, 2016, 2 F-35s landed at Leeuwarden Air Base. In the following three weeks, the Netherlands was introduced to the aircraft with experience flights. And also in May this year two other aircraft visited the Netherlands, to drop the first practice bomb and to be take part in the Air Force Days.
Although not really the first, today’s arrival is nevertheless historic. The aircraft has been controversial for a long time. The House of Representatives debated over a decade on the purchase. The development of the F-35 aircraft was faced with enormous cost overruns and major delays.
State Secretary Barbara Visser said “A little over 40 years ago, the first Dutch F-16 was welcomed here. It was called “the aircraft of the future”. While the F-16 used a computer-controlled operating system for the first time, computers and software play such a major role with the F-35 that it is sometimes called a flying laptop. That means a huge change in our work. ”
This was followed by testimonials: personal stories from people who for various reasons have to deal with “the game changer” who is the F-35. Like aviator Lieutenant Colonel Laurens-Jan “Sjoak” Vijge about his unforgettable “first flight”: “Holy cr*p! For a moment I feel that teenager on a very cool skateboard in Florida. This device goes like a rocket. ”
Or Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt: “Together we are stronger. A formation of F-35s at work with a frigate on the high seas. Or with a command or MARSOF person somewhere far away in a desert. The quarterback and playwright who enables the team to win with airpower. Our opponents beat on the basis of unparalleled overview. ”
Together with thousands of spotters and other interested parties, the entire Defense Summit was present in person. But thousands of people also watched digitally via a live stream on YouTube. They all saw an arrival in style. With an honorary fly-around accompanied by three predecessors: an F-16, a Hawker Hunter and a Spitfire.
The Netherlands is one of the international partners in the development of the F-35. Defense and the Dutch business community are therefore involved in the manufacture by the American company Lockheed Martin. In Woensdrecht, for example, there will be the central storage location for all spare parts of all European F-35s. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Dutch Ministry of Defence)
01 Nov 19. Revised Request for Quotation Sent for Finnish HX Fighter Programme. The Finnish Defence Forces’ Logistics Command sent a Revised Request for Quotation for the HX Programme on 31 October 2019. The revised call for tenders is regarding the following multi-role fighters and their related systems and weapons: Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet (United States), Dassault Rafale (France), Eurofighter Typhoon (United Kingdom), Lockheed Martin F-35 (United States) and Saab Gripen (Sweden). Responses to the revised call for tenders will be accepted until 31 January 2020.
This revised call for tenders is the next phase of the HX Programme, which is progressing according to plan. The tendering phase began in spring 2018, when the Defence Forces’ Logistics Command sent a preliminary invitation to negotiate on the HX Programme and a request for quotations (RFQ). The responses to the RFQ arrived in January 2019, after which the first phase of the HX Programme negotiations could begin.
This call for tenders is a continuation of the negotiations that have already taken place. With the more detailed call for tenders, each tenderer is requested to compile the information provided in its initial tender and negotiations into a clear, updated and improved package.
The most capable #HX solution will be chosen. The Finnish Air Force will evaluate the candidates’ capabilities in five categories of operations: counter-air, counter-land, counter-sea, long-range strike as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. #finaf
The revised call for tenders is tenderer-specific, meaning that the invitation sent to each tenderer is based on the package already offered and its needs for specification. All tenderers will continue to be treated equally. Only minor specifications were made to the requirements set out in the initial invitation to tender, and these were the same for each tenderer. The revised call for tenders marks the start of the second negotiation phase of the HX Programme.
The grounds and steering for the RFQ can be found in the Government Programme and the Government’s Defence Policy Report (2017). The Government’s Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy supported sending a more specified call for tenders at its meeting at the beginning of October.
The budget ceiling for the HX Programme was set at EUR 10 billion.
A high-performance procurement to last decades
The HX Programme is preparing to replace the capability of the Hornet aircraft in its entirety with manned multi-role fighters in accordance with the requirements of the security environment.
The desired capability will be achieved once a full procurement contract package has been built and negotiated around each multi-role fighter option. Within the budget set for the project, the tenderers must prepare a performance package that meets the set requirements and includes not only the aircraft but also other technical systems, training systems, necessary maintenance equipment, test equipment and spare parts, along with weapons, sensors and other required type-specific support functions. The package must also include the changes in management and information systems required for its integration into the defence system, as well as the construction of security-critical infrastructure.
Requesting that the suppliers provide comprehensive solutions to meet the capability requirements helps to reduce the risks associated with ensuring the interoperability and effective cooperation of different systems.
Considerations in decision-making
The selection of a multi-role fighter is based on five considerations: the multi-role fighter’s military capability, security of supply, industrial cooperation, procurement and life cycle costs, and security and defence policy implications.
Since the procurement will have an impact on the Defence Forces’ operational capability and will define the Air Forces’ entire combat capability into the 2060s, it is important to select the system with the best possible capabilities, including supporting elements and development capacity over the entire life cycle.
The manufacturer must be able to provide industrial cooperation solutions and a maintenance system that meet the requirements while also ensuring operability in emergencies and sufficient capacity to operate independently in emergencies. It must be possible to cover the operating and maintenance costs of the selected system from the defence budget.
The tenders will be placed in an order of priority, based only on capabilities. As to the other considerations, the tenders shall meet the requirements laid down in the RFQ.
Phases of the procurement procedure moving forward
The Revised Request for Quotation now sent will launch the second phase of negotiations, in which the content of the procurement will be finalised with each tenderer. The request for the best and final offer will be sent in 2020 at the end of the second phase of negotiations. The Government will decide on the procurement in 2021. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Finnish Ministry of Defence)
31 Oct 19. US-Turkey alliance in downward spiral as Congress mulls sanctions. Frayed relations between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. were on full display Wednesday as Turkey condemned two resolutions passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, one which would bar most American weapons sales to Turkey.
U.S. lawmakers said Wednesday that U.S.-Turkey ties, strained over the Turkish attacks on America’s Kurdish allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, had been going downhill for months over Turkey’s growing relationship with Russia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s agreement to buy the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, which triggered Ankara’s suspension from the F-35 fighter jet program in July, was the tipping point.
U.S. President Donald Trump this week thanked Turkey for its role in the recent U.S. special forces operation that killed the head of ISIS, and has held open an invitation for Erdogan to visit Washington. But the goodwill in the White House has not translated to Capitol Hill.
In harsh remarks to reporters Wednesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said Erdogan is the biggest obstacle to positive U.S.-Turkish relations. “I think the minute Erdogan’s gone, I think this thing turns around,” Risch said.
“We would love to [improve relations], but our concern is Erdogan has shown absolutely no indication of any kind that that feeling is mutual,” Risch added. “Indeed, every move he makes, every sentence he utters, points us in a different direction. The Turkish people have been wonderful allies for decades with the United States, and it’s gone upside down because of one person in one administration.”
On Tuesday, the House passed a nonbinding resolution to recognize the century-old mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide. It passed another bill, 403-16, to sanction senior Turkish officials and its Army for Turkey’s military incursion into northeastern Syria.
Practically, the latter measure would bar most U.S. weapons sales to Turkey and slaps sanctions on foreigners attempting to send the Turks military equipment. It would also block high-ranking Turkish officials from their assets in the U.S. and restrict their travel.
In response, the Turkish parliament condemned the bills, and Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it summoned U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield on Wednesday. “Undoubtedly, this [Armenian genocide] resolution will negatively affect the image of the U.S. before the public opinion of Turkey,” the ministry said.
The House sanctions bill was seen not only as a rebuke to Turkey, but also of Trump, who suspended his own sanctions amid a Moscow-brokered cease-fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces. While Republicans have largely focused blame for the situation on Erdogan alone, Democrats have more openly criticized Trump for giving Erdogan the green light to invade Syria by withdrawing U.S. troops from the region.
In House floor remarks Tuesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Trump had failed to punish the “authoritarian thug” Erdogan.
“His rule has left a glaring black mark on Turkey’s historic secular, democratic traditions,” Engel said in a House floor speech. “We need to pressure him while ramping up diplomacy in the hopes of getting Turkey back on the right track as a NATO ally. That’s one of the goals of this measure.”
There have been several proposals in the House and Senate aimed at sending a message that Turkey’s incursion into Syria was wrong and that the American presence there was valid. With the House’s passage of its sanctions bill, the focus shifts to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has expressed a wariness of sanctions against Turkey and is the gatekeeper for what legislation receives a vote in the upper chamber.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the sponsor of one sanctions bill with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said he planned Wednesday to ask McConnell to take up the House bill, which can be expedited to the Senate floor. Graham is the Senate’s lead appropriator for the U.S. State Department.
“Awesome bipartisan takedown of Turkey’s invasion just occurred in the House with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans — 403-16,” Graham said Tuesday on Twitter. “I expect the Senate will take up this cause and let Turkey unequivocally know that the United States will not sit on the sidelines as they create problems for us and our allies.”
While relations could get worse, experts say Ankara and the West need each other too much to fully split.
For the U.S. and NATO, Turkey controls crucial international waterways that connect the Aegean and Mediterranean seas to the Black Sea. Turkey has the second-largest military in the NATO alliance and is home to U.S. nuclear warheads at its Incirlik Air Base.
For Erdogan, NATO is critical to his aspiration to make Turkey an important international player.
“If you’re not in NATO, your wings will have been clipped,” Henri Barkey, a Middle East scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, said at his think tank’s forum on Turkey last week. “He’s playing this game, he gets the S-400, but he’s never going to leave NATO. He keeps pushing the envelope.”
The partnership between Ankara and Washington has survived other crises, but it’s entering what some see as its most turbulent period yet, marked now by Turkey hedging on its NATO membership and some America lawmakers questioning whether that membership can be revoked.
That was a sign to Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 2007, that the relationship is in a crisis.
“There’s been comment in the American political system that we should be rethinking this,” he said. “But don’t get me wrong, the mainstream believes we want Turkey to remain in NATO — that’s in our national security interest. We have an incredible presence in Turkey today, so we don’t want to lose that. But it’s a pretty serious situation, the most serious I’ve seen.”
In Turkey, the alliance between the U.S. and Syrian Kurds has driven fears it will lead to an autonomous Kurdish region. Turkey views the forces allied with the U.S. as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is seeking Kurdish independence and which Turkey regards as a terrorist group.
Following a 2016 coup attempt, the Turkish government blamed a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, and Erdogan blasted the West for “supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups.” Erdogan has continued to operate under martial law ever since.
In the U.S., Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program came into question amid several tense episodes and what then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called Turkey’s “authoritarian drift.” Turkey held an American pastor, Andrew Craig Brunson, on terrorism charges from 2016 to 2018. In 2017, Turkish government employees beat protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.
In addition, Turkey rejected a U.S. offer of Raytheon’s Patriot surface-to-air missile system in favor of the S-400, which Washington said would expose important intelligence about the sophisticated and stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Russian government advisers.
“Those of us who deal with this sat down regularly with everyone from the top down in Turkey, and they all said: ‘Oh, we can’t do anything because you’ve refused to sell us Patriots,’ ” said Risch, the senator from Idaho. “I said: ‘That is a lie.’ And the reason I know that’s a lie is because I hand-delivered a letter in October 2012 to the foreign minister in Ankara that said: ‘Buy Patriots.’ It was a bipartisan letter.”
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord recently told reporters that Turkey’s suspension of the F-35 remained in effect and that she expects Turkey’s S-400 to be operational before the end of the year.
As of last week, Turkey was still making nearly 1,000 parts for the aircraft and is “an excellent supplier,” but it will transfer those responsibilities in March, she said.
For years, Congress had been willing to defer to the executive branch, which was wary of pushing Turkey further away, but no more, said Naz Durakoglu, staff director for Congress’ NATO Observer Group and an adviser to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
“There has been a tangible change,” Durakoglu said at last week’s forum at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I think what you will see is both Republicans and Democrats take a very stern turn and look at their own authorities to address some of the issues they feel are not being addressed by the administration.” (Source: Defense News)
30 Oct 19. German, US armies strive for ‘integrated’ operations by 2027. The chiefs of staff of the armies of the United States and Germany have signed an agreement targeting an unprecedented level of interoperability between their formations within seven years.
The strategic vision statement, as officials call the pact, sets out an ambitious agenda premised on the idea that the two ground forces will be instrumental in keeping the peace in Europe.
Gen. James McConville and Lt. Gen. Jörg Vollmer signed the document last week during the annual Conference of European Armies at the headquarters of U.S. Army Europe in Wiesbaden, Germany.
“The strength of our Cold War Army-to-Army relationship was the strength of the NATO alliance,” the statement reads. “Greater interoperability between the German and United States Armies is critical now as NATO faces multiple threats along its borders.”
By 2027, the two countries’ ground forces want to push interoperability — meaning both forces working seamlessly on the same tactical objective — to what the document calls an “integrated level” in both regional and global operations.
That means, for example, a German brigade would be able to work under the operational control of a U.S. Army division headquarters as a “peer formation” to American units, and vice versa. A similar type of integration is envisioned at the higher echelon, with divisions from one country operating at the direction of a corps headquarters of the other.
Additional objectives include aligning the information systems of both militaries so that there is a common procedure at the brigade and division levels for intelligence collection and sharing as well as and joint targeting.
Both armies also commit to pursuing initiatives in the area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that would “raise the interoperability level to ‘compatible’ to allow for sufficient access to intelligence for high-tempo operations,” the document states.
Improvements also are envisioned in the field of fires, such as “networked fires,” “interchangeable munitions” and sustainment.
The new pact suggests that the souring of political relations between Berlin and Washington has had little bearing on the armed forces. President Donald Trump has made it a pastime to regularly complain how Germany, in his view, is taking advantage of the United States when it comes to its security.
At the same time, officials in Germany are somewhere between waiting out America’s Trump years and readying for the more sinister possibility that the trans-Atlantic partner may truly turn its back on multilateralism as an organizing principle of its foreign policy.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, lauded the new agreement as a continuation of the decades-long relationship between soldiers from both countries.
“It addresses the reality of how Americans and our European allies might have to fight in future conflicts — in multinational formations that are task-organized down to and including the tactical level,” he told Defense News in an email.
He said the agreement serves as a starting point for adjusting weapons requirements and policies to drive interoperability to a level beyond the Five Eyes arrangement, an intelligence sharing pact between the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Hodges argued the level of integration envisioned by the new agreement is “definitely achievable.” The key, he said, lies in making the necessary policy and technology changes. For example, he said, both nations need secure, tactical, frequency-hopping radios, as well as digitized processes for employing artillery and rocket fires.
Finally, a common operating picture of the battlefield that is “truly common,” meaning information about all force locations would automatically appear on command screens of both nations, is needed, according to Hodges.
For Germany, the question of funding and an unclear policy on the country’s overall foreign policy ambitions may turn out to the biggest obstacles to seeing the new vision statement through, if recent debates in the country are any indication.
In short, there is a clear mismatch with the U.S. when it comes to military spending, and Germany has had trouble commanding an equipment structure that would be required to meet the operationally focused character of the bilateral pact. (Source: Defense News)
30 Oct 19. Turkey is a Partner of F-35 Program and Not Going to Buy Russian Su-35, Minister Said. Turkey’s National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Tuesday refuted media reports about Ankara’s plans to buy Russian Su-35 fighter jets, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
“Reports that Turkey will buy Su-35 fighter jets are not true. We are partners on the F-35 project [US fifth-generation fighter jets]. We want our rights to be granted,” the Haberler news portal quoted him as saying.
Read more: Su-35 Might Be the Turkish Fighter Jet – Ankara and Moscow Are Close to Reaching Agreement
Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper reported on October 25 that Ankara and Moscow were close to a deal on Turkey’s purchase of 36 Russian Su-35 fighter jets. Apart from that, the newspaper claimed, that the sides were looking at possible production of certain components for the Russian planes in Turkey.
Meanwhile, director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev said on October 22 that it was too early to speak about contract negotiations on Russian Su-35 and Su-57 deliveries to Turkey. However, in his words, consultations were underway.
The topic of Turkey’s possible purchase of Russian fighter jets surfaced after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Moscow on August 27. He demonstrated interest in Sukhoi combat aircraft when together with Russian President Vladimir Putin they were visiting the MAKS-2019 aerospace show outside Moscow. He said he did not rule out that Turkey could buy Russian Su-35 and Su-57 jets instead of F-35. “Why not,” he noted. The White House said in mid-July that “Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible.” Ankara planned to buy 100 such aircraft and manufactured some of equipment, avionics and hull elements under the F-35 program. (Source: News Now/https://bulgarianmilitary.com/)
28 Sep 19. Baltic states sign new airspace surveillance agreement. The defence ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have signed an agreement in Brussels to enhance joint airspace surveillance.
The agreement relates to the new configuration of the Baltic Air Surveillance Network and Control System (BALTNET). Under the agreement, three control and reporting centres will secure the Baltic airspace from next year. BALTNET is responsible for the security of the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian airspace. It is fully integrated into the Nato Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) and is required to meet the needs of the Nato Baltic air Policing Mission.
The existing system consists of a combined control and reporting centre, located in Karmėlava, and national airspace control and reporting posts. In addition, it includes radar posts in the three Baltic states.
The new agreement calls for three separate control and reporting centres in each of the three states.
BALTNET will also feature radiolocation posts, radars, communication lines and radio equipment.
The control and reporting centres will be tasked with conducting air surveillance in their respective territories and exchanging data.
They will also control the aircraft deployed on the Nato Air Policing Mission.
Lithuania National Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said: “BALTNET is ensuring sovereignty of the national airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and is that way contributing to the preservation of integrity of Nato airspace.
“The agreement on the future configuration of the Baltic Air Surveillance Network and Control System will strengthen successful Nato’s ability to ensure air surveillance and control in peace time or crisis.”
The system is intended to control all air operations in the Baltic airspace. The Karmėlava centre jointly provides control of the air policing mission fighter aircraft in the Baltic States to enable the scrambling of Nato aircraft in the event of any airspace violation.(Source: airforce-technology.com)
26 Sep 19. Cooperative Financial Mechanism (CFM) ready for signing. The Cooperative Financial Mechanism (CFM), an innovative programme initiated by EDA with a view to facilitating the financing of collaborative defence capability and research projects – for instance if unsynchronised defence budgets in participating Member States hinder or impede the launch of such projects – is now in the starting blocks. The final version of the CFM’s Programme Arrangement (PA), negotiated over the past two years, has been sent out this week to Member States for signing.
Eleven Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain) have already declared their firm willingness to sign and to join the CFM in the near future. More countries might join the programme in the coming weeks. The CFM will enter into force when the last country having declared its intention to join will have signed the PA.
Developed as a so-called ‘Category A’ programme of the Agency, the CFM is entirely voluntary. Member States can freely decide if they wish to participate, contribute and support projects.
The CFM will be structured in two pillars:
- the first pillar foresees the European Investment Bank (EIB) as the sole lender through the conclusion of bilateral framework loan agreements between EIB and the interested Member State. To obtain the EIB’s financial support, projects submitted must respect the eligibility requirements set by the Bank lending policy, while the volume of the lending facility and the interest rate applied are negotiated on a case-by-case basis by the EIB and the interested MS and set out under each individual Framework Loan Agreement. The EIB involvement is supported and facilitated by the EDA which will act as the ‘Facility Agent’ on behalf of EIB under its instructions and responsibility, serving as a primary point of contact between the EIB and the beneficiary country in the technical assessment of the feasibility of each project;
- the second pillar provides for a State-to-State support facility, structured as a system of reimbursable advances and deferred payments. It can be used to support any defence related project, in full compliance with national and European law. The facility is structured as a set of individual bank accounts which are opened and managed by the EDA under the control of the CFM participating Member States. Within that pillar, any CFM Member can submit a request for financial support to the CFM programme. While the Programme Arrangement provides the overarching legal framework setting the general requirements and conditions for State-to-State support, the specific conditions of each advance will be set out in separate agreements to be concluded between the supporting CFM Member State, the beneficiary country and the EDA, as facilitator.
The administrative and operational costs of the CFM will be covered by existing EDA resources meaning CFM members will not have to bear additional costs for the management of the mechanism. Notwithstanding any financial support granted under the CFM, projects or programmes subject to such financial support will remain at all times governed and managed according to their own rules. (Source: EDA)
28 Oct 19. Does major joint military procurement really work in the Baltics? On paper, the Baltic nations appear to have closely aligned defense modernization needs that make the joint procurement of advanced military equipment a no-brainer. After all, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have historically shared national interests, are currently facing a similar threat from Russia and each have relatively small defense budgets. Joint procurement would drive down costs for large defense articles by allowing the smaller Baltic nations to buy in greater numbers. It would also allow the countries to share maintenance responsibilities, which would save money. And it would drive greater interoperability in countering an adversary’s simultaneous attack all three nations.
But then there’s the reality of the situation.
“I think there are many misperceptions on Baltic integration,” Janis Garisons, state secretary for the Latvian Ministry of Defence, told Defense News during a September visit to Washington. “I think this is a little bit of a wrong perception that there is a lot of added value in those common procurements.”
Garisons, the No. 2 civilian at the ministry, said he is not against joint procurement efforts, but believes such initiatives work best when purchase ammunition, small arms, or chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense equipment — purchases already in the works among the European neighbors.
But for major defense articles, the legal and logsitical challenges of coordinating a trilateral contract, combined with a lack of major savings, means it might not be worth it.
“We do common procurements when it’s possible, but I have to say, I haven’t seen much savings on those because even if you combine all three numbers, it’s not like the U.S. buying together with the U.K. — thousands and thousands. It is still numbers that are very small,” Garisons said.
Lithuania’s vice minister for defense, Giedrimas Jeglinskas, agrees that joint procurement of major defense articles may never be feasible among the three Baltic nations.
“Joint procurement, multinational procurement — I don’t think it exists that much in the world,” Jeglinskas told Defense News during a visit to Washington in October. “Most of the programs out there are joint development. But when you talk about something like three-country procurement, it has been really hard for us to achieve.”
Like Garisons, Jeglinskas said smaller transactions have proven successful, specifically the joint procurement of mines with Estonia and gas masks with Latvia. But even then, “the syncing of the budgets and the procurement plans for each country [is difficult]. Say we are ready to buy gas masks this year, but the Estonians may buy them two years ahead. And that’s just the small things.”
Kusti Salm, the director of the Estonian government’s Centre for Defence Investment, told Defense News that joint procurement among the Baltic states is challenging given the need to sync up defense budget cycles, noting that “the amounts we procure are small and do not always bring us the economies of scale.”
While the idea of joint procurement is popular, there is a “genuine disconnect” between the idea and the reality, according to Chris Skaluba, a former Pentagon official who is now the director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative.
Skaluba points to two reasons for this: The first is that while the Baltic states are concerned about Russia, both Latvia and Estonia are more directly concerned with the threat of “little green men” — a reference to masked soldiers in green uniforms who led Russia-backed separatists in the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine. The concern steps from the high populations of ethnic Russians in Latvia and Estonia. In response, those two countries are focuses on homeland defense, whereas Lithuania is focused on resisting a direct Russian invasion — an approach that requires a different set of equipment.
Secondly, America’s famously convoluted security cooperation process makes trilateral procurement from the Western ally tricky. Small purchases of ammunition or night vision goggles are doable, but the more advanced the gear, the higher the costs and the stricter the regulations. Throw in three separate national budget cycles and the process “can be daunting and just not worth the squeeze when you’re through with all that work,” Skaluba said.
“Do I think all sides could be more determined and find creative ways to do this? I do. I think maybe something that is technically difficult but not super expensive, like unmanned aerial vehicles, would be a good test case,” Skaluba said. “But I’m also sympathetic that because of how regulations work, the congressional requirements, having to work through [the U.S. Department of] State and the Pentagon, any major purchase is difficult. Trying to do that times three is three times as hard.”
The question of maintenance is another issue for joint procurement in Garisons’ eyes. The idea of having shared maintenance facilities spread across the area — for example, one tank depot in Lithuania and one helicopter depot in Estonia to service all three Baltic nations — creates vulnerabilities during an invasion, he said.
“I would be very cautious assuming that we will be able to freely import, to bring everything, all supplies needed. Our goal is to ensure that all the basic things, like small arms, ammunition, the maintenance of vehicles, the maintenance of major equipment — that can be done locally,” he said. “For operational reasons we can’t have shared maintenance because during wartime we will not be able to bring vehicles, for example, to any other state.
“It complicates common procurements because it is not so easy to agree on joint procurements, where the maintenance base will be held and other issues. For us, I think of paramount importance to have a maintenance base.”
Ultimately, Latvian officials and their regional counterparts are making informed decisions about their respective country’s security, Skaluba said.
“These are all really serious governments. They really feel a threat. They know precisely how they think this would work in a crisis situation and what they need to have available to them,” he said. “At a strategic level, of course it [joint procurement] makes sense, but if you’re a politician or defense planner or minister of defense, your first responsibility is to defend your country. And of course you want to make sure you have resources available to you.”
While skeptical of joint procurement efforts, Garisons was supportive of joint education and training across the region, calling Baltic military cooperation “as strong as any you can find.” He noted that the three nations share a high-level military education center, the Baltic Defence College in Tartu, Estonia.
Estonia’s Salm considers interoperability among the Baltic states critical to successful joint procurement efforts. “Defense in Estonia cannot be separated from defense in Latvia and Lithuania, as we form a single region from the military point of view,” he said.
One example of that raised by both Salm and Garisons is the creation of NATO’s Multinational Division North, a headquarters operation organized by Latvia, Estonia and Denmark. Garisons called it “the first attempt when we will have joint command structure, which will be able also to feed into the NATO command structure.” The command-and-control aspect of joint operations is vital, he added.
A pair of major exercises in Latvia toward the end of the year will serve as test beds for the NATO division, which is expected to reach initial operational capability in early 2020. (Source: Defense News)
28 Oct 19. Europe’s fighter jets of the future on collision course?The European defence market is looking towards two sixth-generation aircraft programmes – the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Aircraft System (FCAS) and the British-led Tempest fighter project. While pressure is mounting on EU member states to pick sides, the question of whether both projects can ultimately coexist remains.
In May, spectators at the Paris Air Show watched Germany, France and Spain ink a framework agreement for the joint construction of Europe’s largest arms project to date, the so-called Future Air Combat System (FCAS).
Germany, France and Spain inked on Monday (17 June) a framework agreement for the joint construction of Europe’s largest arms project to date, the so-called Future Air Combat System (FCAS).
Dassault Aviation and Airbus are set to build the new fighter jet, while France’s Safran and Germany’s MTU Aero Engines will jointly develop the new warplane’s engine.
While Paris and Berlin want the first flight of the prototype in around 2026, the new fighter jet is only expected to take to the skies from 2040, with a view to replacing the French Rafale and Germany’s Eurofighter Typhoon.
The UK, meanwhile, is developing the Tempest stealth fighter project, in which Sweden and, recently, Italy joined forces, while the Dutch have also expressed considerable interest.
Britain unveiled a model of a sleek proposed fighter jet named Tempest yesterday (16 July), raising questions about the future of European defence cooperation, given that Germany and France launched their own fighter jet programme a year ago.
BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, UK engine maker Rolls-Royce, and the UK arms of Italian defence firm Leonardo and European missile maker MBDA have been working on the development of Tempest.
Although France reportedly had explored the prospect of working with Britain on the project, Brexit and strategic acquisition decisions in the past months have laid bare European divisions and deepening scepticism about the future of European defence cooperation.
In March, a paper published by the Italian think tank Instituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) argued that the Tempest project “should in the midterm merge with the Franco-German project for the benefit of European defence and strategic autonomy.”
European companies face much bigger American rivals, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, underscored by the mega-merger of Raytheon and United Technologies (UTC) announced earlier this year.
While there is high interest in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet among European NATO partners such as Poland and Belgium, critics called it “very bad news” for efforts to reduce Europe’s reliance on US equipment and develop a more autonomous EU defence strategy, which got a boost after Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as US president.
Belgium said Thursday (25 October) it had chosen to buy US-made F-35 stealth warplanes over the Eurofighter Typhoon, which critics call a blow to the EU’s bid to build its own defences.
Fragmentation vs common approach
For a fragmented European defence market, having only two competing projects still represents an improvement on the 1990s, when France opted for a national solution with Raphale, Sweden with Gripen, and Germany decided not to invest in this field at all, said Alessandro Marrone, head of the defence programme at IAI in Rome.
“It is because of this negative fragmentation among Europeans, countries like UK, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Denmark joined the US-led programme to develop the F-35 as 5th generation fighter,” he told EURACTIV.
Although they have so far not been considered under an either-or-scenario, the expert believes it would be hard for Europe to afford more than one programme for a sixth-generation aircraft in the current industry environment and a potential convergence between the two programmes would benefit the European defence industry.
“It requires France to abandon the idea of a purely bilateral direction of this cooperative effort with Germany, and open a strategic negotiation with UK, Italy and Sweden, so that the six European countries with the greatest military and industrial resources can pool efforts on a fair basis,” he said, adding that something similar had been already done in the 1980s by Berlin, London, Rome and Madrid with the Eurofighter project.
“From an economic perspective, having two competing projects in Europe is not rational. In fact, most of the different partners involved in both projects are trying to secure a piece of the pie for their national industrial champions,” agreed Victor Mahieu, a defence analyst at Beyond the Horizon think tank in Brussels.
Despite French President Emmanuel Macron’s announcements to pursue the idea of a common approach to the bloc’s security and defence policy, at the moment, he is not really walking the talk.
“The current split among member states tells us that Paris thinks that strategic defence industrial cooperation can be led bilaterally with Berlin, but this does not turn into a really European cooperation because other important countries like Italy and Sweden can find better alternatives,” Marrone told EURACTIV.
Asked earlier last month by DefenseNews whether a future with two such programmes is sustainable, the chief executive of the European Defence Agency, Jorge Domecq, said: “Europe would probably have to see convergence toward having a single system of systems.”
“Is the next generation of combat aircraft sustainable with several systems of systems in Europe? I have my doubts,” he added. (Source: News Now/https://www.euractiv.com)
28 Oct 19. Turkey, Russia in negotiations for potential Su-35 jet deal. Turkish and Russian government officials are in an “advanced stage of negotiations” to finalize a potential deal on Russian-made Su-35 fighter aircraft, Turkish officials said.
“The talks have quite matured,” a senior Turkish procurement official told Defense News on the condition of anonymity. “A deal does not appear to be too distant.”
If penned, an Su-35 deal will be Turkey’s second major purchase of weapons systems from Russia. Unnerving its NATO allies, Turkey acquired the Russian-made S-400 long-range air defense system. The S-400s were delivered to the Turkish military in August.
The Turkish official said that although the final numbers may change during the negotiating process, Turkey could buy two squadrons (a batch of 48) Su-35s.
An aerospace industry specialist in Ankara said Moscow would probably price the fighter aircraft between $50m and $70m. “The potential Su-35 deal has strategic value for the Russians,” he said.
“Moscow may thus agree to give Ankara a favorable price reminiscent of the S-400 deal,” he added. Turkey agreed to pay $2.5bn for two S-400 systems. The contract came with an international loan.
After Turkey finalized its S-400 deal with Russia, the U.S. suspended Turkey’s partnership in the American-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter consortium that builds the F-35 Lightening II fighter jet.
Meanwhile, Turkey is struggling to design and develop its first indigenous fighter jet. Turkish officials originally hoped to fly the “national fighter jet” in 2023, but industry sources say this is an unrealistic target.
A government official said any Su-35 deal would be an off-the-shelf purchase. “All the same, we would expect our Russian partners to assist our fighter jet program with some technology transfer,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
25 Oct 19. U.S. still pressing Turkey to ‘walk away’ from Russian missile purchase, official says. The United States is still in talks with Turkey to get Ankara to ‘walk away’ from the Russian missile defence system it bought, a senior State Department official said on Friday, but warned Turkey that the risk of sanctions over the issue persisted.
“There’s still work to get the Turks to walk away from the S400s: be it turn it off, send it back, destroy it, what have you,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That is still an ongoing issue. We’re talking about re-mediating, re-addressing, reconciling. That’s not off the table.”
Batteries of the S-400 began arriving in Turkey in July but have not yet been switched on, which the U.S. official acknowledged.
NATO allies Turkey and the United States have been at loggerheads over the purchase of the S-400 system, which the United States says is not compatible with NATO defences and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 ‘stealth’ fighter jet.
Washington has previously warned Ankara that it will face sanctions over the purchase and it has removed Turkey from the F-35 programme. The United States has fallen short of slapping penalties on Turkey.
The S-400 issue was part of a broader conversation, the official said, that involved Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria against U.S.-allied Kurdish YPG fighters more than two weeks ago. Turkey halted the incursion this week after the Kurds withdrew from a border region under a U.S.- brokered truce. Ankara also struck a separate deal with Russia to create a ‘safe zone’ in northeastern Syria it has long sought.
“As the President said, you cease fire, we’ll cease sanctions but you’re not out of the woods yet,” the State Department official said.
Washington had slapped economic sanctions on Turkey over its incursion into Syria but President Donald Trump on Thursday said they had been lifted because Ankara halted the offensive.
“We are still working all these other issues that are not yet resolved with Turkey and the risk of CAATSA sanctions is part of that broader set of issues we have with the Turks,” he said, referring to penalties under the U.S. law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
U.S. Patriot missiles could still be made available to the Turkish government, he said. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Wednesday told Reuters that Ankara could buy the U.S. missiles and the issue could come up during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s planned visit to Washington on Nov. 13.
In the Turkish government, “not everybody is President Erdogan,” the U.S. official said. He said there were Turks years ago or months ago saying “we’d rather not put ourselves at risk of Russian influence, we’d rather not put ourselves at risk of isolating ourselves from NATO partners, we’d rather not put ourselves isolating from Washington.”
Ideally, Turkey should never have acquired or received any component of the S-400 system, he said, “but now that line has been crossed, it’s a matter of how to isolate and compartmentalize that, neutralize it and move forward … but it’s much more difficult than it was before.” (Source: Reuters)
Pentagon news conference today. “Saturday’s operation is just one example of the determination and great skill of the U.S. military.”