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08 Jul 22. France to request multibillion-dollar defense budget boost in 2023. The French government is proposing a €44bn ($45bn) budget for its military in 2023, including a €3bn ($3bn) increase over last year’s budget.
Newly appointed Minister of Defense Sébastien Lecornu revealed the proposed funding numbers during a July 7 hearing before the Defense Committee of France’s National Assembly. If enacted, the increase would be nearly twice as much as France had previously committed to boosting its year-over-year budget in the last two years.
In pitching the funding increase, Lecornu referenced President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the recent Eurosatory trade conference, in which the newly reelected president declared France had entered a “war economy.”
Lecornu noted that France is in “a delicate situation” when it comes to the ongoing war in Ukraine, and that the support Paris is providing to Kiev in its self-defense has prompted several updates to the budget. The military will need to replenish munitions and equipment that have been sent to Ukraine, along with fighter jets that have been exported to nations such as Greece.
The government is also looking to fund major modernization efforts such as the army’s Scorpion program, to support ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, and to boost its defense industrial base, he added.
With the hybrid war in Ukraine as a backdrop, France must also work to improve its capabilities in cyber offense, space, and unmanned systems, Lecornu said.
France’s parliament will have a say in the final budget amount, and the Assembly’s defense committee plans to interview additional government leaders as well as industry chiefs in the months to come, said Committee President Thomas Gassilloud. Joël Barre, chief of the military procurement office Direction Générale de L’Armement (DGA), will appear before the committee July 13 in a closed session.
Lawmakers grilled Lecornu on a matter of topics in his first hearing as defense minister. On many lawmakers’ minds was the future of the Future Combat Air System, or FCAS, known in France as the système combat aérien du futur, or SCAF.
The Franco-German-Spanish program has been at a standstill for months as two of the prime contractors, France’s Dassault and Germany’s Airbus, have reached an impasse on workshare agreements related to the keystone pillar of the program, the next-generation fighter. Indra leads the Spanish industry’s cooperation on FCAS.
Pressed for time, Lecornu commented only briefly on FCAS’ status, assuring lawmakers that the program was active, industry negotiations are ongoing, and that he continues to discuss the program with his German counterpart, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht. The Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), another major joint equipment program between France and Germany, is also ongoing, he added.
Lecornu told lawmakers that the ministry’s next five-year budget plan – known as the loi de programmation militaire (LPM) – will include a strong focus on France’s naval fleet, specifically on its aircraft carriers.
France currently operates one aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, and has launched a program to build a new ship beginning in 2025, which is due to enter service upon the retirement of Charles de Gaulle.
The ministry will be discussing the possibility of returning to a two-aircraft carrier model, and will include parliament in those discussions, Lecornu said.
Some lawmakers expressed concern about the proposed €3 billion budget increase, calling it obsolete and insufficient in the wake of rising inflation and the supplies to Ukraine.
Lecornu acknowledged their worries, but said that the real question should be regarding the rate of inflation in 2023.
“And about that, I’m not an economist, but there are some optimistic scenarios and some more pessimistic scenarios,” he said.
He pushed back on a lawmaker’s description that the nation’s defense industry was in tatters. “There is an incredible know-how in France. I believe many, many, many nations dream of having our defense base, our defense industrial and technological base,” he said.
“That we need to do better, that we can surely change some things, I’m not saying the contrary,” he continued. “But to say that our defense apparatus, or that our defense industrial apparatus is in tatters, is just not true.”
In 2022, the French ministry of defense allocated €40.9 billion (U.S. $47.9 billion) to its military budget, a €1.7 billion increase over the 2021 enacted budget. (Source: Defense News)
08 Jul 22. Ireland: Confidence Vote Elevates Risk Of Sectarian Violence.
Sinn Fein, the main opposition party, announced on 8 July that it will table a vote of confidence against the three-way coalition government after it lost its majority in the Irish parliament on 6 July. The vote of confidence will take place on 12 July.
- Ireland’s current coalition was formed on 27 June 2020. The centrist Fianna Fáil party won the election and formed a three-party coalition government with the centre-right Fine Gael and the left-wing Green Party. A Fine Gael party member resigned on 6 July as party whip, which led to the Fianna Fáil coalition losing its majority in the 160-seat parliament with only 79 seats.
- It is likely that the government will survive the vote of confidence; it has managed to retain a working majority with continued support from those who have left the party in recent years. Although the next election is scheduled for 2025, early elections will be held if the three-way government loses the vote of confidence.
- Should early elections take place in the coming months, Sinn Fein is in a good position to win the most seats; support for the party has increased significantly over recent years. Sinn Fein gained a historic number of seats in the 2020 elections and is currently leading in opinion polls.
- Unionist marches traditionally take place across Northern Ireland on 12 July. These celebrations often lead to increased sectarian tensions between unionists and republicans, exacerbating the risk of unrest.
The vote of confidence on 12 July will elevate the risk of unrest. While the government is likely to survive the vote of confidence, an elevated risk of political instability will continue due to significant policy differences between the three governing parties. If early elections are triggered, there will be an increased risk of demonstrations turning violent. Deteriorating socio-economic health will also contribute to increased political tensions in case of early elections.
Cross-border sectarian tensions are likely to follow if the government collapses. This risk will be compounded by the current political volatility in the UK and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Northern Ireland Protocol. It is possible that a land border being imposed between the Republic of Ireland and the UK if the protocol is abandoned. If the three-way government loses the vote of confidence on 12 July, it is highly likely that tensions related to unionist celebrations in Northern Ireland on this date will lead to an increased risk of violent clashes. (Source: Sibylline)
08 Jul 22. North Macedonia: Sustained protests over Bulgaria plan likely to elevate regional tensions, risk of unrest. Unrest in North Macedonia reached its sixth day on 6 July. Thousands of people are demonstrating their support for the main opposition party’s rejection of a French-backed deal with Bulgaria that would pave the way for North Macedonia’s EU membership. According to the plan, North Macedonia will address Bulgaria’s concerns about minority rights and disputes regarding language, history and cultural identity. Protesters believe that Bulgaria is attempting to erase North Macedonia’s ethnic identity. They have called for the government to refuse the deal. As the risk of unrest remains elevated, threats to staff and street level assets are also heightened. Protests have at times turned violent, with participants throwing rocks at government buildings and injuring police officers. Furthermore, Viola von Cramon, an EU spokesperson for Kosovo, has warned that Russia may take advantage of any unrest to assert its influence in the region. This comes amid current geopolitical tensions between Moscow and large swathes of Europe due to the war in Ukraine. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Jul 22. Germany approves 2023 defence budget. On 1 July Germany’s federal government approved the draft 2023 federal budget, as well as finance plan 2022−26 and the Bundeswehr special fund announced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Military spending for the next four years reflects the benchmarks decided by the federal cabinet in March, having been revised upwards by only a few m euros. Core defence spending in 2023 will amount to EUR50.1 bn (USD55.4 bn), a 0.6% nominal decrease from 2022 but a EUR2.76 bn increase compared with the estimate in the finance plan approved in June 2021. The core allocation to defence is set to remain flat in nominal terms until 2026. The biggest development concerns the expenditure plan for a EUR100 bn special fund to modernise the Bundeswehr announced in a landmark speech by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in February and approved by parliament in June. The fund is to be spent within five years and will count towards meeting Germany’s NATO commitment of spending 2% of GDP on defence. (Source: Janes)
05 Jul 22. Spain boosts military spending to close gap with NATO goal. Spain is increasing military spending as it works toward meeting a NATO commitment by dedicating 2% of gross domestic product to defense, the government said Tuesday. Cabinet members approved a one-off expenditure of almost 1bn euros (around $1.04bn) for Spain’s Defense Ministry that the government said was needed to cover unexpected expenses produced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Spain has sent military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and deployed more troops and aircraft to NATO missions in Eastern Europe.
NATO leaders agreed at a summit held in Madrid last week to expand their efforts to get all alliance members up to the 2% of GDP mark. Currently, only nine of the Western military alliance’s 30 members meet or surpass that goal.
Spain pledged at a NATO summit held in Madrid last week that it would reach the 2% of GDP goal by 2029. That would mean doubling its budget for military spending from the current 13bn euros ($13.4bn) to 26bn euros ($27bn) in seven years.
Spain currently spends 1% of its GDP on defense. Only Luxembourg spends a lower percentage of GDP on defense than Spain in the North Atlantic alliance, according to NATO. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/AP)
05 Jul 22. Sweden, Finland Move Closer to NATO Membership. During a ceremony in Brussels, NATO ambassadors today signed the accession protocols that will move Finland and Sweden a step closer to joining the alliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was a historic day “for Finland, for Sweden, for NATO and for Euro-Atlantic security.”
The accession protocols now move to the alliance’s 30 member nations for national ratification according to the procedures of the various nations. In the United States, this means the Senate will have to approve the addition of those countries to the Washington Treaty of 1949.
Finland and Sweden will make strong and important contributions to our alliance.”
For decades, Sweden and Finland were content to work with NATO, but not become members of the defensive alliance. But Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February shifted the ground in Europe, and those nations – both historically neutral – petitioned to join NATO. At last week’s NATO summit in Madrid, allied leaders agreed to invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.
“Finland and Sweden will make strong and important contributions to our alliance,” Stoltenberg said after the ceremony.
He noted that years of training and exercising together has increased the interoperability of Finnish and Swedish forces with NATO, and the nations share the same values as the other members of the alliance.
“I commend all allies for moving so quickly in accepting Finland and Sweden’s applications for membership, and I want to thank Turkey, Finland and Sweden for their constructive approach,” the secretary general said. “The trilateral agreement they signed at the Madrid summit made today possible.”
Finland shares a long border with Russia, and Sweden is just across the Baltic Sea from Russia. There are concerns about actions Russian President Vladimir Putin may take against the nations. “The security of Finland and Sweden is important for our alliance, including during the ratification process,” Stoltenberg said. “Many allies have already made clear commitments to Finland and Sweden’s security, and NATO has increased our presence in the region, including with more exercises.”
The signing of the document means Finland and Sweden will have the status as “invitees” and will participate in alliance discussions.
Sweden has a world-class military and will contribute to the security of all NATO allies. “We are convinced that our membership will strengthen NATO and add to the stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde. “We will do our part in contributing to NATO’s collective defense shoulder-to-shoulder with the other allies.”
Linde said the decision to join NATO has enormous support in her country, “and we believe that joining NATO is the best way for Sweden to ensure our national security and keep the Swedish people safe.”
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said his country looks forward to working closely with the other NATO allies. “The membership of both Finland and Sweden will not only contribute to their own security, but to the collective security of the alliance,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
05 Jul 22. Challenger 2 tanks stored at Sennelager to be sent to Poland.
The tanks will join a squadron of Queen’s Royal Hussars who will be part of a US-led NATO Battlegroup in Poland.
Challenger 2 tanks stored at the Army’s NATO Forward Holding Base in Sennelager are being sent to Poland.
The British tanks will join a squadron of Queen’s Royal Hussars who will be part of a US-led NATO Battlegroup in Poland.
‘A’ Squadron (Prince Philip’s Squadron) of the Queen’s Royal Hussars have travelled from their Tidworth Base in Wiltshire to Athlone Barracks which is part of the Army’s NATO Forward Holding Base in northern Germany.
For the Queen’s Royal Hussars, nicknamed ‘Churchill’s Own’, it marks a brief return to Athlone Barracks – the site on the outskirts of Paderborn is where, until 2019, the armoured regiment was stationed.
The barracks is now a storage facility from where the squadron has drawn pre-positioned Challenger 2 main battle tanks and other heavy armour.
The heavy equipment will be driven to Poland on Polish commercial specialised transporters.
On arrival, ‘A’ Squadron will be integrated into a Polish battlegroup for six months as part of Britain’s growing military presence in eastern Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
More about their role in Poland is expected to be revealed once they are in position.
The heavy equipment will be driven to Poland on board Polish commercial specialised transporters.
Each of the squadron’s tanks has a name beginning with the letter ‘A’ and represents some of the Queen’s Royal Hussars’ 172 battle honours.
The tanks also have ‘A’ Squadron’s ‘Devil’s Children’ crest stamped on them.
The Duke of Edinburgh was Colonel-in-Chief of the Queen’s Royal Hussars until his death in 2021 and the position remains vacant. (Source: Forces.net)
04 Jul 22. RAF’s flagship drone squadron has no drones. The RAF’s flagship drone trials squadron owns no drones and has carried out no in-house trials with the uncrewed craft in the two years of its existence.
Hailed by the Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston as delivering the service’s “futuristic and ambitious” plans to harness drone swarms, The Telegraph can reveal 216 Squadron RAF also has just four full-time personnel.
The figures were disclosed in Freedom of Information requests made by Drone Wars UK, a campaign group calling for greater public accountability over military drone usage.
Director Chris Cole said: “Defence companies often over-promise and politicians can be dazzled by new military technologies so it’s crucial that there is proper transparency around these programmes.”
The RAF said 216 Squadron had invited industry to stage demonstrations of “swarming” drones. These are similar to the craft used for the airborne light display during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in June. Fitted with bright coloured lights, the drones flew in various formations to depict the royal crown, a cup of tea and a corgi.
It is understood 216 Squadron personnel have viewed five types of drone being demonstrated during the past year. RAF sources said 216 Squadron has observed 13 trials carried out by drone manufacturers since its formation in 2020, while in 2021 a successful exercise saw 20 of the craft flying in a swarm at RAF Spadeadam, the Cumbrian air weapons training range.
Speaking at the Global Air Chiefs conference last year, the head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, said 216 Squadron had “proved beyond doubt the disruptive and innovative utility of swarming drones”.
“We have been focused on confusing and overwhelming adversary air defences but we are already contemplating new disruptive missions that I will leave to your imagination,” said the air marshal.
Inexpensive consumer-sized drones have already seen battlefield use in Ukraine, where soldiers strap bombs and grenades to them and use the remote-controlled craft to unexpectedly strike their enemies.
Several reports have linked pre-eminent Chinese drone maker DJI to the war, with Ukrainians reportedly finding the company’s Mavic quadcopter especially useful for battlefield reconnaissance.
DJI spokesman Adam Lisberg said in April that the company “abhors any use of our drones to cause harm” and was suspending sales of its products in Ukraine and Russia alike.
Drone swarms are large groups of drones operated together for a common purpose, flying in a similar way to flocks of starlings. Their main benefit is swamping enemy air defence systems by giving them too many targets to shoot down. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
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