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30 Apr 20. Spain amends legislation on foreign military deals. Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a new royal decree on 28 April which changes the country’s arms export control regulations with the aim of ensuring the end-user meets the agreements made before delivery.
Changes will be made to Royal Decree 679/2014 to allow for the establishment of new follow-up and verification mechanisms which will be overseen by the Interministerial Regulatory Board for Foreign Trade in Defence and Dual-Use Material (Jimduu).
Destination verification will be strengthened by a new control document aimed at offering greater legal protection to the manufacturer.
These measures were first announced in September 2018 after the Spanish government prevented a company from selling 400 precision bombs to Saudi Arabia which were to be used in Yemen.
Under Article 4 of Law 53/2007, the transfer of defence products (including dual-use) are subject to prior administrative authorisation and must be accompanied by the relevant control documents. (Source: Shephard)
30 Apr 20. Royal Navy shadows Russian warship through the English Channel. The Royal Navy has tracked a Russian warship off the coast of France and monitored her movement through the English Channel.
HMS Mersey, an Offshore Patrol Vessel, was on routine security patrols in home waters when she was called on to locate and monitor the Russian Navy vessel – plus its support ship.
Portsmouth-based Mersey tracked the Russian vessel, Steregushchiy-class corvette RFS Boiky, closely as she sailed into the Channel after taking over from the French Navy.
Mersey watched every movement as the corvette linked up with RFS Akademik Pashin, an auxiliary vessel, to refuel and transfer stores, before getting underway again.
Commanding Officer of Mersey, Lieutenant Commander Will Edwards-Bannon RN, said: “Working to preserve the maritime security of the UK has always been one of the Royal Navy’s very highest priority missions throughout our long history.
“The need to fulfil this mission hasn’t changed with the coming of the COVID-19 pandemic so, although we are living and working in slightly different ways on board to limit the risk from the virus, HMS Mersey’s fantastic ship’s company continues to work hard to protect our nation’s interests.
“This work includes the close monitoring of foreign warships operating near to our shores, which is what we – along with our sister ship HMS Tyne – have been doing so far on this patrol.”
Sub Lieutenant Zac Connor RN, Mersey’s new Gunnery Officer and one of the bridge team involved in this operation, said: “I have only recently joined the Mersey and I’m happy to be using the world–class training that I have received for real. I am proud of what we do, the important role that the Royal Navy has and the contribution that we make to the UK.”
Lt Cdr Edwards-Bannon, added: “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the friends and families of HMS Mersey for all of their support to us on board.
“Many of our friends and family members are now on the front-line themselves, helping the nation win the fight against COVID-19.
“All of us in Mersey are incredibly proud of their efforts and grateful for the sacrifices that everyone is making on the home-front while we are out here at sea, doing our own bit to protect our nation’s interests.” (Source: Royal Navy)
29 Apr 20. Russia flies nuclear-capable bombers over Baltic Sea in training exercise. Russia has flown two nuclear-capable Tu-160 strategic bombers over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea, the Russian Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday, a move that prompted Finland, Denmark, Poland and Sweden to scramble jets to escort them.
The ministry said the flight was routine in nature and strictly adhered to international airspace regulations.
Russia carries out similar training flights over the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as over the Black and Baltic Seas on a regular basis, a policy some NATO members regard as unhelpful sabre-rattling.
The two Tupolev T-160 aircraft, which can carry up to 12 short-range nuclear missiles, were in the air for eight hours, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
“At specific stages of the route, the aircraft were escorted by the Finnish Air Force’s F-18s, Royal Danish and Polish Air Force F-16s, as well as by the Swedish Air Force’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets,” it said.
Russia made a similar statement on Tuesday, saying two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers had flown a routine four-hour flight over the neutral waters of the Barents and Norwegian seas, prompting Norway to scramble its jets to escort them. Also on Tuesday, it said advanced jets belonging to its Baltic Fleet had rehearsed striking naval targets in the Baltic Sea. (Source: Reuters)
27 Apr 20. Back hard-hit businesses? Experts press EU to instead boost defense spending. Defense experts are concerned that Europe’s newfound commitment to joint defense spending may be cast aside as the European Union diverts cash into economies hammered by the coronavirus lockdown.
The scenario was discussed in a webinar hosted by Italy’s IAI think tank on April 8. And last week, Polish and German experts wrote of the risk that the fledgling European Defence Fund will be savagely cut.
Then on April 27, eight experts issued an appeal to EU policymakers, arguing that rather than cutting defense funds to free up money to support hard-hit businesses, they should do the opposite and beef up defense spending.
With so many high-tech jobs in the defense industry, “specific support for this sector will be needed to mitigate the economic crisis’ effects and preserve the long-term future of Europe,” wrote the experts, who hail from Spain, Italy, the U.K., France and Lithuania.
According to the letter, the EU plans to pack its 2021-2027 budget with measures to limit a recession some economists believe will follow the pandemic. Economists have also warned such a recession would dwarf the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.
“Undoubtedly it will focus on critical sectors such as health or energy. We believe that the defence sector should be included in such critical sectors and that a revised version of the [budget] should be the opportunity to reassert a truly ambitious budget for the European Defence Fund,” the experts wrote.
Apart from shoring up defense jobs, feeding the European Defence Fund would help defend the EU as threats grow, they wrote.
“Indeed, COVID-19 will not stop or mitigate the ongoing worsening of the international security environment threatening European security and interests. On the contrary, it is likely to make the world more unstable and more insecure,” they added.
Defense spending had been slashed after 2008, the experts said, and faces a similar fate now, just as “Europe is trying to develop next-generation fighter aircraft, main battle tanks, frigates and other capabilities such as unmanned systems crucial for its military and technological edge.”
Cutting budgets would not only increase Europe’s dependency on “third states” but would “significantly hinder the credibility of European nations as military partners, notably within NATO,” they added.
Prior to the spread of coronavirus, pressure had grown inside the EU to halve the €13bn (U.S. $14bn) planned for the European Defence Fund during 2021-2027.
Now, the EU should halt any plans to cut the fund and instead increase it, the experts wrote. “As Europe gradually emerges from the pandemic, there [cannot be a] secure ‘new normal’ without a solid European defence,” they concluded.
The letter’s release coincided with a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute that found total global military spending rose 3.6 percent in 2019 to $1.917trn — marking the largest annual growth in spending since 2010. The think tank report also found that U.S. spending grew by 5.3 percent to a total of $732bn in 2019, at 38 percent of the global total. The increase alone in U.S. spending was roughly equal to the entire budget of Germany. The European country’s military spending rose by 10 percent last year to $49.3bn, which the think tank said was the largest increase in spending among the top 15 military spenders in 2019. (Source: Defense News)
27 Apr 20. Austrian court ends fraud probe of 2003 Eurofighter deal, bribery case continues. A Vienna court has stopped an Austrian investigation into alleged fraud by Airbus (AIR.PA) and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH in connection with a $2bn (£1.61bn) Eurofighter jet purchase in 2003, it said on Monday.
The investigation was linked to accusations brought by Austria’s defence ministry in 2017, and its closure does not affect a broader criminal investigation of suspected bribery in the same deal that has been going on since 2011, a court spokeswoman said.
The ministry triggered a new probe into Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium – which also includes Britain’s BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Italy’s Leonardo (LDOF.MI) – in February 2017, alleging that they had misled the state about the price, deliverability and equipment of the planes.
Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, headquartered in Munich, coordinates the production of the aircraft.
Among other things, the ministry accused Airbus and the consortium of illegally charging nearly 10% of the purchase price for so-called offset deals, which involve work being given to local companies.
Airbus and the consortium had denied the accusations.
The court dismissed the ministry’s accusations, the spokeswoman said.
“The fraud investigation based on the defence ministry’s statement of facts has been ended following requests by Airbus, Eurofighter and a former Airbus managing director,” she said.
The Austrian government’s chief lawyer, Wolfgang Peschorn, said Austria would appeal. Airbus declined to comment. (Source: Reuters)
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