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17 Nov 22. UK refuses to make defense spending commitments amid strategy review. Britain will not commit to future defense spending levels until it completes a review of a strategy released last year, the government’s top finance official told lawmakers Thursday.
Jeremy Hunt told parliamentarians that he and new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recognize the need to increase spending, but that they first want to complete a review of the 2021 integrated defense and security strategy, introduced by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Before we make that commitment, it is necessary to revise and update the integrated review, written as it was before the Ukraine invasion,” Hunt said while delivering what is locally known as the Autumn Statement. “I have asked for that vital work to be completed ahead of the next budget [in the spring], and today confirm we will continue to maintain the defense budget at least 2% of GDP to be consistent with our NATO commitment.”
Hunt instead offered Parliament budget plans focused more on health and education. The Conservative government is trying to repair its battered finances with tax rises and spending cuts. Still, the Treasury has said the government remains committed to defense spending not falling below 2% of gross domestic product.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the parliamentary Defence Committee earlier this month that he hoped the review, which has been underway for several months, would be completed by the end of the year. It now appears the government will not meet that timeline as it grapples with matching limited financial resources with military requirements.
Along with most other government departments, the Defence Ministry will not experience a budget cut, but it will have to absorb the impact of an inflation rate now running at 11%.
Commitments made by the two previous prime ministers, Johnson and Liz Truss, to raise defense spending to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade are now termed “aspirational” by ministers like Wallace.
Dan Darling, a European military markets analyst at Forecast International, said the new prime minister appears hesitant to make a larger financial commitment toward defense.
“The 3% of GDP target trotted out by Liz Truss is already as cold in the ground as her premiership. Boris Johnson’s pledge to bring the defense budget up to 2.5% [and then 3%] is but a waning reminder of his last months as prime minister. And a Labour Party victory in 2025 might render any such commitment dead upon arrival,” he told Defense News.
Howard Wheeldon, a defense consultant in the U.K., does not expect the review will lead to specific cuts to military capabilities.
“Wording is everything, and while a real rise in defense spend[ing] has been effectively ruled out for now, given that U.K. GDP is itself likely to fall, there is tacit suggestion in the Autumn Statement that we will not see specific cuts,” Wheeldon said. “I’m not suggesting, though, that we won’t see delays to signing off on projects through pushing back in order to manage defense inflation and minimize cash outlay.”
But, he warned, ”take care not to read too much positivity in the chancellor’s remarks today. Wording is always important, however guarded it may be, but decisive actions in relation to acceptance of the need to raise spending on defense were clearly missing in the statement today.”
“I suspect that the bottom line of all this is that while it could have been worse, there are sadly few reasons for the military or industry to be more than just relieved, short term, but increasingly concerned for the longer term,” he added.
Conventional warfare lives on
Much of the original integrated review was about junking old capabilities for a high-tech military that fights in space and cyberspace while using advanced technology like artificial intelligence.
Darling said that has left the Defence Ministry in a bit of a conundrum.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown that conventional warfare in the European theater is not dead, that peer-on-peer, high-intensity conflict is not fading away, and that firepower and a strong logistics tail remain paramount to achieving victory on the battlefield,” he explained.
Reexamination of the integrated review and the associated MoD command over the next six to eight weeks will pose some difficult questions for the government, said Darling, including:
• Do key programs get pushed back with the risk that they become more expensive in the future?
• Do some programs get stripped down in scope, or scrapped altogether?
• Do program cuts or delays hinder government efforts to reshore and bolster the local defense industry?
Darling expects naval capabilities will likely remain safe given the major orders for Type 26 frigates and fleet solid support ships announced this week. Similarly, he said, air defense, long-range precision strike capabilities, cyber technology and the Skynet 6 satellite program will likely avoid cuts.
“One big piece of the acquisition pie that would seem likely to shrink is the F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft,” he said. “The original British goal of acquiring 138 F-35s is no longer tenable considering the emphasis and financial commitment being placed on the Tempest future combat air system. … By what scale the procurement should shrink is a fair question, but a total order of 70 to 74 F-35s may be the logical endpoint.”
Wallace told the parliamentary Defence Committee that the MoD has 48 F-35 fighters on order and expects to have a fleet of 74 by the end of the decade.
“On the Army side, the requirements for standing up and equipping a Ranger regiment, acquiring improved long-range precision fires, new air defenses, tactical surveillance drones, and new electronic warfare and cyber capabilities should all remain in place, as the price tag for these goals pales in comparison to capitalization projects for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy,” he prognosticated.
The Army is in the midst of a 10-year, £23bn (U.S. $27bn) modernization effort, which has run into trouble amid attempts to field the Ajax armored reconnaissance vehicle family.
“One obvious problematic program that would appear a possibility for the chopping block is the Ajax armored reconnaissance vehicle and its complement of variants. But that would still leave a key capability requirement to be filled in the future,” Darling said.
Wallace and his generals have been reluctant to throw in the towel on the delayed Ajax program. For its part, contractor General Dynamics UK has recently made progress in solving vibration and noise issues with the platform.
Wallace told the committee the Ajax delivery “is really important,” noting that the Army is as much as 15 years behind its peer group in several areas.
“It is disturbing that our land [force] is so far behind,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
18 Nov 22. Finland refutes nuclear weapons ‘siting’ and reinforces border. Finland has refuted any possibility that the currently unaligned Nordic state will consider hosting nuclear weapons on its territory once a member nation of NATO.
The rebuttal comes as Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government presented new proposals to reinforce the country’s 830 mile (1,340 km) border with Russia.
Underlining the need to retain “good neighbor relations” with Russia, Sauli Niinistö, Finland’s president and commander-in-chief of the Finnish Armed Forces (FAF), said that siting nuclear weapons on its territory was never intimated or discussed as a pre-condition for Finnish membership in the alliance.
“Finland has no intention of allowing nuclear weapons to be located on its territory. There are no indicators that any NATO-nation is offering nuclear arms to Finland,” Niinistö said.
Some 28 member states have so far issued individual declarations that they believe Finland and Sweden qualify for membership of the alliance and have a right to NATO support under Article 5.
The prospect of nuclear weapons being located in Finland post NATO membership is “nonsensical”, said Mika Aaltola, Director of the Helsinki-based Finnish Institute of International Affairs (Ulkopoliittinen Instituutti).
“No nuclear weapons will be brought to Finland. Neither NATO nor Finland have such aspirations. The doctrines of the United States and other member countries do not include any offer of nuclear weapons to Finland. Moreover Finland has no desire to place nuclear weapons on its soil,” said Aaltola.
Like Finland, Sweden has equally made it clear it is not prepared to enter in to preconditions on nuclear weapons ahead of NATO membership.
“We won’t be making any preconditions. Sweden has the exact same approach as Finland as regards the issue of siting nuclear weapons in our countries. Naturally we embrace all of NATO’s capabilities on nuclear weapons, but on positioning Sweden and Finland share the same conclusions and are on the same page,” said Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s Prime Minister.
Finland, in advance of its pending membership of NATO, has mapped out plans to spend around $2bn by 2025 to reinforce security along its extensive border with Russia. The defense budget will be expanded to include new border-security strengthening projects, the acquisition of new surveillance aircraft, the expansion of the Border Guard and the wider use of drones, security surveillance robots and electronic sensor technologies.
In the first stage, $150m in funding has been earmarked to build sensor-supported fencing along parts of Finland’s Eastern border with Russia in 2023. The spending, which forms part of a range of new measures by Finland to fend off hybrid threats emanating from Russia, has been incorporated in to the Border Guard’s budget for 2023.
The Border Guard is currently building a two-mile “test fence,” costing $6.2m, along a section of its eastern border with Russia. Ultimately, the border security enhancement plan is expected to result in the construction of up to 200 miles of new sensor-supported fencing along Finland’s border with Russia.
The Border Guard’s elevated budget for 2023 includes plans to upgrade its Air-Patrol Squadron (APS). One area of investment is to replace the Border Guard’s two Dornier 228 German-manufactured turboprop surveillance aircraft, introduced in 1995, with two new manned multipurpose aircraft.
The government has allocated the Border Guard a $170m budget to procure two new surveillance aircraft. A procurement contract is expected to be concluded in 2023, and deployment of the aircraft is envisioned for 2026. The switch to jet propulsion will enable the Border Guard’s APS to operate the aircraft for longer periods and patrol larger areas.
The new multirole aircraft will be equipped with advanced radar and camera systems, radio interceptors and jammers rendering the planes capable of engaging in signals intelligence, said Maj. Kenneth Rosenqvist, the surveillance aircraft project’s procurement director.
“The security environment has changed rapidly due to the current war situation in Ukraine. We have a much higher need to improve our capabilities,” said Rosenqvist.
The Finnish government has allocated $1.7bn to the military for defense materiel procurements in 2023. This represents a $800m increase compared to the defense equipment procurement budget for 2022. (Source: Defense News)
18 Nov 22. German govt: fighter jet talks on right path, does not confirm agreement. The German government on Friday said talks over the next phase of the joint development of a Franco-German fighter jet are on the right path but did not confirm an agreement.
“We have nothing new to report but we are on the right path,” a defence ministry spokesperson in Berlin said.
When pushed on whether it was correct that there was no agreement yet, he added: “In principle, you are right. We are on a good path and as soon as there is agreement, we will communicate it.”
Asked whether there will be an announcement at a meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne next Friday, Scholz’s spokesman said: “We are very confident that we will be able to answer your question on Friday.” (Source: Reuters)
18 Nov 22. France, Germany, Spain agree on moving on with FCAS warplane development. France, Germany and Spain have reached agreement on starting the next phase of development of a new fighter jet dubbed FCAS, Europe’s largest defence project at an estimated cost of more than 100bn euros($103.4bn), the German government said on Friday. The Defence Ministry said in a statement that an industrial agreement was achieved after intense negotiations, confirming an earlier Reuters story saying the three countries and their respective industries had struck a deal.
The ministry said it was agreed at the highest government level that a cooperative approach on an equal footing would be pursued in the project, which is under overall French responsibility.
The Spanish Defence Ministry said Madrid would spend 2.5bn euros ($2.58bn) on the project, of which 525m euros ($542m) would be paid in 2023. The ministry said that the cabinet agreed to this expenditure but did not give other details.
“The political agreement on FCAS is a great step and – especially in these times – an important sign of the excellent Franco-German-Spanish cooperation,” German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said.
“It strengthens Europe’s military capabilities and secures important know-how not only for our, but also for the European industry.”
Previously, sources had said that the next development phase for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) was expected to cost about 3.5bn euros, to be shared equally by the three countries.
France’s Dassault (AM.PA), Airbus (AIR.PA) and Indra (IDR.MC) – the latter two representing Germany and Spain, respectively – are involved in the scheme to start replacing French Rafale and German and Spanish Eurofighters from 2040.
“Now, a number of formal steps in the respective countries have to be taken in order to allow a speedy contract signature which we will have to adhere to,” Airbus said in e-mailed comments.
French President Emmanuel Macron and then German Chancellor Angela Merkel first announced plans in July 2017 for FCAS, which will include a fighter jet and a range of associated weapons, including drones.
Lately, the project – originally meant to unify Europeans after the migration crisis and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union – has been a source of tension between the two countries.
Last month, Macron cancelled a joint Franco-German ministerial meeting over disagreements with Berlin on a wide range of issues including defence and energy projects.
Both sides had been struggling for more than a year to agree the next stage of FCAS’s development, although the French and German government broadly agreed on the project.
Some sources saw the blame lying with Dassault, as the company had refused to budge in a long-running row over intellectual property rights.
Other sources blamed Airbus for pushing for a bigger workshare of the Dassault-led project, insisting it should be given “equal footing” with the French company. ($1 = 0.9675 euros) (Source: Reuters)
18 Nov 22. Dassault, Airbus reach deal to move to next phase of FCAS warplane project – French govt source. Airbus and Dassault have found a deal to move to the next phase of the FCAS Franco-German warplane project, a French government source said on Friday.
“That’s what the companies say, indeed,” a French government source said in response to a Reuters query after a separate defence source said France, Germany and Spain had reached an agreement. (Source: Reuters)
17 Nov 22. UKEF upgrades support for SMEs to boost global exporting ambitions. New Bills and Notes Guarantee product offers SMEs a simpler process to access export finance.
• Announced at UKEF’s annual Finance Forum, the new Bills and Notes Guarantee product is part of its wider package to support SMEs in securing exporting contracts.
• The Bills and Notes Guarantee enables overseas buyers of UK goods to benefit from extended payment terms.
• Andrew Bowie, Minister for Exports, highlights the vital role UKEF can play in supporting SMEs in the challenging global economy.
UK Export Finance has launched a new product to help support SMEs through challenging market conditions. Announced by Minister for Exports Andrew Bowie, at UKEF’s annual Finance Forum, the new Bills and Notes product is now open to guarantee payments by overseas buyers. The product will be available to more financial institutions with a simpler, more streamlined process.
The announcement came almost a year to the day of the Government’s launch of its export strategy and the concrete target of getting UK PLC to 1trn pounds of export sales.
Andrew Bowie, Minister for Exports, said:
To deliver growth, level up the country, and future proof our economy, we need to export more.
That’s why UKEF helps businesses of all sizes to expand and start their exporting journeys. The support that UKEF provides is crucial for firms, especially for small businesses in particular while they grapple with the current economic headwinds. That’s why our new Bills and Notes Guarantee is so welcome. It’s the latest in our support for SMEs and provides a faster and more streamlined process to get money in businesses accounts.
In the last year UKEF has provided record support for small and medium businesses across the UK and I am committed to building on this momentum.
Bills and Notes are a standard method of payment where money is due under bills of exchange or promissory notes. UKEF has now improved its offer to enable overseas buyers of UK goods to benefit from extended payment terms structured using these methods. Simply put it means small UK businesses can get paid more quickly and easily for their exports. This helps with crucial cash flow and liquidity.
As part of its wider package of support for SMEs, it is the latest announcement by UKEF in its mission to remove barriers to trade. Through partnerships with specialist lenders, UKEF can now support a greater range of UK exporters – including those with smaller transactions – by arranging tailored, deferred payment facilities for companies worldwide.
In 2021-22, 81% of companies supported by UKEF were SMEs, a new record for UKEF. This is underpinned by the ‘gamechanging’ General Export Facility (GEF) designed to give SME exporters more flexibility in accessing trade finance.
Moreover, UKEF provided £27m of support to ensure UK SMEs got paid up front to fulfil export contracts, using its Standard Buyer Loan Guarantee scheme, while overseas buyers benefit from flexible repayment terms. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
15 Nov 22. A new budget for a new era: EU Defence Ministers approve EDA budget increase. European Union Ministers of Defence approved on Tuesday a significant European Defence Agency (EDA) budget increase for 2023, reflecting the Union’s higher level of ambition and a tangible reinforcement of the Agency in support of growing national defence efforts. The decision was taken at the EDA ministerial Steering Board in Brussels, under the chairmanship of the Head of the Agency Josep Borrell. Ministers also considered the main findings of the EU’s defence review, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). In the margins of the meeting, Defence Ministers signed a new EDA programme, the Military Computer Emergency Response Team Operational Network (MICNET).
The EDA budget for 2023 will rise 15% to € 43.5m, compared to 2022, following approval by Defence Ministers at the Steering Board. After several years of zero net growth budget, the increase will help enhancing domain expertise on land, in the air, at sea, in space, and in cyber.
Crucially, the operational budget from which EDA directly finances cooperative defence projects will rise 47% next year. An important part of the increased budget is set to be invested by EDA in innovation through the Agency’s Hub for Defence Innovation (HEDI). This rise also cements EDA’s role as the EU’s main forum for defence cooperation, in full support of national strategies
At the Steering Board, Defence Ministers also adopted EDA’s planning framework for 2023-2025, which provides an overview of the nature, scope and expected impact of EDA’s activities in support of Member States in the years to come.
‘OPPORTUNITY AND CHALLENGE’
Ministers focused on the findings and recommendations of the 2022 CARD report, the EU’s defence biannual review that aims to better align Member States’ defence efforts and identify areas where they can cooperate. Together with the EU Military Staff, EDA has provided a picture of the existing defence capability landscape.
As defence spending rises again across the EU, CARD has a central role to play by pointing the way towards projects in the Permanent Enhanced Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund or other frameworks.
EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý said the rise in national expenditure was both an opportunity and challenge for European defence. He urged Member States to work together.
“Without having a robust portfolio of high-end military capabilities for a wide spectrum of operations, the EU will not become a credible security provider. Spending in isolation and leaning towards non-EU suppliers risk increasing fragmentation and undermine broader efforts to deliver capable and coherent European armed forces,” Chief Executive Šedivý said.
The goal, he said, is to prepare today by planning for 2040. Once the investment shortfalls of the past have been compensated for, Member States should work on a common, long-term capability outlook for the EU defence landscape with a greater emphasis on an EU approach for cooperative capability planning.
In the margins of the Steering Board, Defence Ministers signed the new EDA programme for the Military Computer Emergency Response Team Operational Network (MICNET). The establishment of this operational network of national response teams, known as milCERTs, is a substantial step towards enhancing the level of cooperation in the cyber domain at EU level.
Eighteen countries will join this new EDA programme, which aims to foster the exchange of information at a time when computer networks are increasingly contested and the number of cyber-attacks against the EU and its Member States continues to grow. MICNET will be managed by EDA and will also be the first outcome of the new Joint Communication on the EU Policy on Cyber Defence from head of Agency Borrell in his role as High Representative/Commission Vice-President, presented earlier in November. (Source: EDA)
15 Nov 22. EU Defence Review Calls for Greater European Cooperation to Match Defence Spending Increases. Today, Defence Ministers were presented with the results and recommendations of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the EU defence review. It finds that increases in defence spending following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine represent both an opportunity and challenge for European defence. Today’s CARD Report also shows that the announced additional funds may fill long-standing capability gaps. CARD has identified a likely recovery point in 2023, when Member States can move past the underinvestment in defence following the 2008 financial crisis. However, spending in isolation and leaning towards non-EU suppliers risk increasing fragmentation and undermine broader efforts to deliver capable and coherent European armed forces. It also finds that defence planning continues to be done mostly in isolation and that Member States remain unconvinced by European cooperation projects.
Today, during the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board, Ministers of Defence were presented with the 2022 CARD Report developed in close coordination with the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the EU Military Staff (EUMS) over the past year.
Head of the Agency, High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell said: “The message from CARD is clear. We cannot just spend our way out of the mistakes made following the financial crisis. Defence cooperation coupled with increased spending is the only way to ensure Europe has capable and ready armed forces, able to respond to any crisis. With CARD, we have a unique overview of all 26 EDA Member States’ national defence planning and capability development efforts. Member States now know where and with whom they can invest and develop military capabilities together. We must move past recovery and, with war back in Europe, move towards winning the future by building a true European defence.”
SPENDING, PLANNING, COOPERATING: CARD’s RECOMMENDATIONS
The CARD report offers Ministers of Defence key strategic and political messages, actionable recommendations and options to generate collaborative projects.
• Repairing the past through increased defence expenditure: CARD recommends that the increase in defence spending is used to meet urgent defence needs and close identified capability gaps.
• Prepare today by planning for 2040: CARD recommends that, in accordance with the Strategic Compass’ vision, Member States elaborate a common long-term capability outlook for the EU defence landscape – envisaging how it shall be shaped by 2040 – with greater support for adopting an EU approach for cooperative capability planning.
• Win the future with a capable and coherent European defence: CARD recommends taking forward CARD collaborative opportunities through projects in PESCO, the European Defence Fund or other frameworks. It also proposes concrete projects, e.g. for cyber operations or interoperable tactical command and information systems, and expresses the need to cover critical gaps including enablers, such as strategic air transport, maritime power projection and high-end air defence systems.
EDA Chief Executive, Jiří Šedivý said: “Without having a robust portfolio of high-end military capabilities for a wide spectrum of operations – including high intensity – the EU will not become a credible security provider. CARD has a crucial role to play by informing national policy makers, planners, and armament staff of concrete collaborative opportunities to that end. At EU level we must now work to shift the balance and make cooperation the norm. The progress on cooperation projects since our 2020 report has been limited, renewed cooperation on next-generation capabilities is essential to meet future needs.”
DEFENCE SPENDING: RECOVERY POINT FROM 2023
Defence expenditure grew significantly to €214 bn in 2021 (up 6% compared to 2020) and is estimated to grow further by up to €70 bn by 2025. CARD finds that if announced defence spending increases are followed through, Member States will possibly have recovered in 2023 from the underspend of the financial crisis and can give greater focus to future defence needs.
CARD identifies a clear risk from isolated defence spending in the medium to long term. This risk seems further substantiated if Member States favour individual, non-EU off-the-shelf procurements over longer-term investments.
DEFENCE COOPERATION: EXCEPTION RATHER THAN THE NORM
The report finds that defence cooperation remains the exception rather than the norm. CARD finds that Member States implement their plans to a large extent at national level, with only 18% of all investment in defence programmes conducted in cooperation with other EU countries. However, some collaborative opportunities identified in the 2020 CARD cycle have led to PESCO projects. CARD concludes that Member States mainly seek cooperative solutions for projects when they coincide with national plans, benefit national industry, or consolidate a strategic partnership.
Many Member States regard European collaborative approaches as more time consuming and complex, and often opt for national solutions or non-EU suppliers. Cooperation primarily takes place among neighbouring states in existing cooperation frameworks, while broader European collaborative approaches are usually not the preferred choice. CARD finds that the main impediments to cooperation stem from the complexity of legislation, pressing timelines and budget availability as well as the allocation and retention of the right experts, making full engagement with the EU defence initiatives difficult for many Member States.
DEFENCE PLANNING: LACK OF FOCUS
To overcome the lack of coherence in the EU defence landscape, CARD finds the need for a common long-term capability outlook, built upon the common strategic vision provided by the Strategic Compass. EU defence initiatives must be further embedded into national defence planning and policy documents. Based on the most promising of the identified collaborative opportunities, six ‘focus areas’ were selected for their high potential to boost the EU’s and its Member States’ operational performance. The six areas should be further developed to better reflect high intensity requirements and preserve industrial know-how. (Source: EDA)
16 Nov 22. The Department for International Trade last week released its latest quarterly data for military and dual-use export licences issued between April-June 2022. CAAT has now completed its analysis of the data, made available on CAAT’s online data browser.
The largest recipients, in terms of the value of single licences for military exports were:
• Qatar – £2.6 bn
• Saudi Arabia – £746m
• United States – £406m
CAAT’s analysis shows that the great majority of the value of licences to Saudi Arabia were for “components for bombs”, worth £698 m, as part of a licence issued on 20th June. These are most likely for Paveway IV precision-guided bombs, produced by Raytheon Systems UK, which have been extensively used by Saudi Arabia in their devastating bombing campaign in Yemen.
A shaky truce prevailed in Yemen from April to September this year, though with little movement towards a peace agreement. The truce was not renewed in October, and there has been an upsurge in fighting in some areas. Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have not resumed, but the risk of a return to full-scale conflict remains.
The biggest recipient of UK arms during the period was Qatar, currently hosting the World Cup, amidst outcry over the appalling death toll among migrant workers building the stadiums for the event, as well as Qatar’s criminalisation of LGBTQ people. A £2.4 bn licence was issued in May for combat aircraft and their components. The first three of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft ordered by Qatar were delivered by BAE Systems in August.
The largest share of the value of single licences issued for the US were for small arms, including 28,150 sniper rifles, 6,000 rifles, and over 16,000 sporting guns.
On the export of bomb components to Saudi Arabia, Sam Perlo-Freeman of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:
These weapons have one overriding purpose: to enable Saudi Arabia to resume its horrific bombing of Yemen should the worst happen and the country return to full-scale war. Beyond this, they strengthen and uphold a brutal regime that executes minors on trumped-up charges, routinely tortures prisoners to obtain confessions, and sends women to prison for decades for Tweets critical of the government. We are taking the UK government to court in January to prove – again – that these sales are illegal. (Source: News Now/https://caat.org.uk/)
15 Nov 22. UK set to join EU project helping swift military movements across Europe. European Union defence ministers paved the way on Tuesday for Britain to join an EU project aimed at facilitating the swift movement of troops and military equipment across Europe, as war rages in Ukraine for a ninth month.
Britain, which formally left the EU in 2020, four years after voting in a referendum to leave the bloc, has long been sceptical about moves towards greater European military integration, fearing this could undermine NATO.
But non-European NATO allies the United States and Canada have also signed up to the EU’s “Military Mobility” project, part of its enhanced defence cooperation (PESCO). It aims to simplify and standardise procedures for military personnel and equipment as they cross borders by road, rail, sea or air.
Military experts have long complained that red tape is hampering the swift movement of personnel and equipment that would be crucial if NATO allies had to send reinforcements to eastern Europe in the case of a conflict.
“Russia’s war against Ukraine has further demonstrated that being able to move troops and military equipment swiftly across Europe and beyond is essential for our security,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“After the U.S., Canada and Norway joined last year, the UK’s participation is yet another proof of the importance of this project,” he said.
“Ensuring fast movement and secure transport of armed forces is crucial to improve the EU and NATO’s ability to respond to crises, in particular now as we provide urgent military support to Ukraine.”
Britain is one of the most vocal critics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has so far committed 3.8bn pounds ($4.5bn) in military and economic aid to Ukraine since the war began in February. ($1 = 0.8404 pounds) ($1 = 0.9611 euros)(Source: Reuters)
15 Nov 22. British shipyard awarded £4.2bn to build Royal Navy ships. 4,000 UK jobs will be supported by the new contract, awarded to BAE Systems, to build the second batch of Type 26 frigates. A British shipyard has been awarded a £4.2bn contract to build the second batch of Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy.
Delivering on ambitions laid out in the National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh earlier this year, the contract awarded to BAE Systems will support 1,700 British jobs over the next decade at BAE Systems sites in Govan and Scotstoun, Glasgow.
As part of the contract, BAE Systems has committed to invest £1.2bn in the UK supply chain, supporting a further 2,300 jobs with more than 120 suppliers all over the UK.
Leading the Royal Navy’s anti-submarine warfare surface fleet, the five new City-class ships – HMS Birmingham, HMS Sheffield, HMS Newcastle, HMS Edinburgh and HMS London – will join the first three T26s already in build at Govan – HMS Glasgow, HMS Cardiff and HMS Belfast.
Construction of all eight frigates is expected to be completed by the mid-2030s, with the first, HMS Glasgow, entering service by the end of 2028.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “We are investing in our fleet to ensure our Royal Navy maintains its world-leading capability to protect and defend our nation at sea. This design has already been successfully exported to Australia and Canada, its already proved itself as a world-class maritime capability, securing thousands of UK jobs and strengthening alliances with our allies. Supporting thousands of high-skilled jobs in Scotland, and more across the wider UK supply chain, this contract will continue to boost our British shipbuilding industry, galvanising the very best of British engineering, manufacturing and design.”
Replacing the bulk of the retiring Type 23 fleet, the Type 26 frigates will be flexible and advanced warships with the primary purpose of anti-submarine warfare, protecting the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and Maritime Strike Group.
At just under 150m long – around the length of three Olympic swimming pools – and with a top speed of more than 26 knots and a range of more than 7,000 nautical miles, the vessels will be capable of countering piracy and delivering humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Carrying the Sea Ceptor missile defence system – able to destroy airborne and sea surface targets – the vessels will also carry a five-inch medium calibre gun, an embarked helicopter for specific operations, radar and sonar for expert navigation and tracking adversaries.
A flexible mission bay means the vessels could also be adapted to carry specific Armed Forces and equipment tailored for operations. The Mk.41 vertical launch silo will be fitted to enable rapid-fire missile launches.
BAE Systems Chief Executive Officer, Charles Woodburn, said: “This contract secures a critical UK industry and allows us to build on our long history of shipbuilding on the Clyde as we continue to deliver cutting-edge equipment to the Royal Navy into the next decade. It underpins the ongoing investments we’re making in the skills, infrastructure and technologies needed to stay at the forefront of the maritime sector and to support the UK Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.”
Improving build efficiency, BAE Systems has submitted a planning application for a new 175 metre long, 85 metre wide Shipbuilding Hall at Govan, which will allow two frigates to be built simultaneously under cover. This investment will be a major factor in the final five City-class ships costing less and being delivered faster than previous vessels.
In the manufacturing supply chain, £248m worth of work has been committed to Scotland, with £16m to Wales and £749m to England.
Vice Admiral Paul Marshall, DE&S Director General Ships, said: “The award of the T26 Batch 2 manufacture contract is another key milestone in the United Kingdom’s shipbuilding programme, reaffirming our commitment, alongside our industrial partners, to deliver a highly effective anti-submarine frigate fleet for the Royal Navy.”
The vessels are designed to reduce environmental impacts, and are fitted with features – including a hydrodynamically designed hull – to optimise fuel efficiency and a diesel engine emissions abatement, which reduces nitrogen oxide exhaust. Steel will be cut on the first of the next five vessels, HMS Birmingham, this winter, marking the start of the Batch 2 build phase. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
GMB Comment: BAE Systems contract to build Type 26 frigates on the Clyde. Following the UK Government announcement that BAE Systems has been awarded a contract to build Type 26 frigates, Scottish Affairs Committee Chair Pete Wishart MP said: “It is positive news today that the UK Government has announced that BAE Systems is to build frigates on the Clyde for the Royal Navy. Scotland is the heart of the UK’s military shipbuilding. This contract continues the drumbeat of orders our Committee has been hearing that the Scottish defence sector needs to continue thriving. While the number of jobs being supported by this contract is very welcome for Scottish communities, it is important that Scottish defence SMEs are not overlooked in the supply chain. In our earlier report on the military landscape in Scotland, we were concerned that Scottish SMEs accounted for only 2.5% of the MoD’s total spending with SMEs.
“We look forward to discussing this – and many other defence issues – with the Defence Secretary when he appears before our Committee next month.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
14 Nov 22. Royal Navy continues long-term Gulf mission as warships trade places after four years. The Royal Navy will continue permanently operating a major warship in the Gulf and Middle East after swapping vessels patrolling the region.
After three and a half years in the Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea, frigate HMS Montrose has been relieved by HMS Lancaster, to continue a mission key to the UK’s – and international – prosperity and security, safeguarding merchant shipping, tackling criminal and terrorist activity including smuggling arms and drugs, and working with allies across the region.
HMS Montrose, which left the UK in October 2018 and has been operating from the Royal Navy’s Naval Support Facility in Bahrain since April 2019, soon found herself at the heart of global events when tensions in the region led to threats and attacks on merchant shipping.
They have passed through the Strait of Hormuz – the chokepoint which is the narrow gateway to the Gulf – on 111 occasions, accompanying 132 merchant vessels in the process: supporting the safe passage of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of shipping carrying oil, gas, cars, electronics and other goods.
When tensions subsided, Montrose spent the bulk of her time east of Suez working with regional and international allies and has frequently been assigned to Combined Maritime Forces; the world’s largest multi-national naval partnership, and specifically Combined Task Force 150, which conducts security patrols across vast swathes of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
Since 2020, Montrose has seized over 16 tonnes of illegal narcotics over 10 busts, denying criminal/terrorist groups of proceeds worth at least £80m on the UK wholesale market and making headlines for the ship around the globe.
And in a first for the Royal Navy, HMS Montrose twice intercepted boats trying to ship high-tech weaponry, contravening a UN Security Council Resolution, seizing surface-to-air missiles and engines for cruise missiles in the process.
“Drugs busts and interceptions really allow the ship to show what she is capable of – whether you are part of the boarding teams, an engineer, a chef, it almost doesn’t matter because everyone plays their part and everyone is filled with pride,” said Commanding Officer Commander Claire Thompson.
“Thanks to media coverage these busts receive, it means family and friends are also aware of what we’ve been doing – and that’s really important.”
To sustain Montrose in the harsh Gulf environment, maintenance work has been carried out at local shipyards – including the new port of Duqm, Oman, where Montrose and Lancaster traded places – while every four months the entire crew of sailors, Royal Marines and aviators are swapped like-for-like with a second crew from the UK. Many of the crew of HMS Lancaster have previously served in the Gulf aboard Montrose.
The rotation of crew has spared the ship the month-long voyage to and from the Middle East at the beginning/end of a regular six or seven-month deployment, meant Montrose has been available for more operations, and allowed personnel to plan their lives with much greater certainty than other Royal Navy ships and operations.
“HMS Montrose is leaving the Gulf after four years away from home – I brought her out here as an able seaman,” said warfare specialist Lewis Turnbull, who’s since been promoted to the next rank, Leading Seaman.
“I am proud to now be part of her last ever crew, especially being the most operational Type 23 frigate for so long. But we are also all looking forward to seeing her back in the UK for Christmas.”
Lieutenant Joe Stutchbury, who commands the ship’s Royal Marines detachment, said the time aboard Montrose had been a “unique experience” for his commandos, who’d been at the forefront of a string of drugs busts.
“HMS Lancaster has some serious boots to fill as the next frigate
deployed to the region,” he added.
“As the national press have reported, HMS Montrose has made the biggest drugs busts in the history of Gulf operations – but I’m sure our colleagues will do their best to match our achievements and I hope they pull it off.”
Upon her return to Devonport next month, HMS Montrose will undergo maintenance before a final spell of operational duties around the UK early in 2023 and a ‘farewell tour’ – including a visit to her namesake Scottish town – before the ship is formally decommissioned in the spring after 29 years’ active service.
• Sailed 134,389 nautical miles (19.5 times around the globe or two thirds of the distance from the Earth to the Moon)
• Passed through the choke points of the Strait of Hormuz 111 and Bab al Mandeb 6 times, safely accompanying 132 merchant ships
• Destroyed 16 tonnes of illegal narcotics in more than 10 busts, denying criminal/terrorist groups of proceeds worth at least £80m
• Seized illegal shipments of surface-to-air missiles and cruise missile engines – a first for the Royal Navy
• Conducted 378 days of security patrols of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean – an area eight times the size of the North Sea – working with the international Combined Maritime Forces
• Changed all 200 crew 11 times
• Has been away from the UK 1,478 days (since October 29 2018), more than 1,350 of them in the Gulf region
• Endured temperatures as high as 55E Celsius
• Chefs have prepared 864,000 meals, using 216,000 eggs and 8,640 tins of bins
• Crew have downed 288,000 cups of tea. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
14 Nov 22. Spanish and Bulgarian fighter jets begin Nato’s eAP mission.
The Bulgarian Air Force ensures 24/7 Nato Air Policing with their
Personnel and fighter jets from Spain and Bulgaria have commenced the joint operation to support Nato’s enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission.
The two countries will undertake multiple joint operations between 14 November and 2 December to safeguard the skies above the eastern flank.
The Spanish Air Force has deployed a total of six Eurofighter F-2000 Typhoon aircraft along with nearly 150 personnel for this mission. The aircraft and personnel arrived in Bulgaria on 11 November.
Spanish detachment commander major Zarza said: “Joint deployments like this are a testament to interoperability of our air forces within the alliance and is a great success for Nato.”
During this three-week-long deployment, the Bulgarian and Spanish aircraft will conduct different missions to ensure the safety and security of Nato allies and partner nations.
Besides, the deployed forces will undertake several tasks associated with the Standing Air and Missile Defence Plan, under the Nato Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).
Since 2014, the Bulgarian Air Force’s MiG-29 fighter jets together with other nations’ Nato fighter detachments, including Italy, the US and Spain, have been conducting joint missions from Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to support Nato’s eAP arrangements.
Nato’s Air Policing mission is conducted to maintain the safety of alliances’ airspace by using the combined capabilities of several allied and partner countries’ forces.
Bulgarian Air Force commander major general Dimitar Petrov said: “The Bulgarian Air Force will continue to provide its national contribution to NATINAMDS.
“The combined employment of Bulgarian and Spanish Air Force equipment and personnel in Nato eAP proves the capability of Bulgaria’s combat aviation to act in an integrated manner with allies’ forces; collectively, to patrol and protect the airspace of the member states of alliance.”
11 Nov 22. Tories’ ‘tough on defence’ stance is about to get sorely tested – here’s how. Autumn Statement, Ukraine and the cost of living crisis could all determine if the 2019 pledge to boost defence spending will be met. When Boris Johnson was seeking to smash down the Red Wall, he put being tough on military matters – and a promise that defence spending would rise – front and centre of his pitch.
At the time, Labour’s traditional heartlands – constituencies in north-east England and the Midlands – were going cold on the party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
He was ruthlessly framed as a man who was weak on defence by the Tories, who dredged up and weaponised old comments about scrapping the Trident nuclear deterrent.
So in its manifesto that year, the Conservatives did not just promise to stick by the Nato target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence, one that David Cameron had wavered on for a period.
It went one further, promising that not just an increase, but an above-inflation rise would be seen every year across the five-year Parliament that would follow.
To quote the exact line: “We will continue to exceed the Nato target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence and increase the budget by at least 0.5 per cent above inflation every year of the new Parliament.”
The move made political sense then. It underscored Mr Johnson’s “tough on defence” positioning, convincing Labour waverers that he, not Mr Corbyn, was better suited for Number 10.
Scroll forward three years and the circumstances are much changed. On the one hand, the case for more military spending has hardened given the shocking developments in Ukraine.
Russia has invaded a European neighbour. Once again, a land war is raging on the Continent. Military might matters, as the world had been so cruelly reminded.
But then there is the financial backdrop. Liz Truss’s imploded mini-Budget escalated the cost of living crisis and left Rishi Sunak with little room to manoeuvre.
Which is why what is coming on defence spending is such a hot topic for the Tories – one which, if next Thursday’s Autumn Statement goes as expected, could be about to get even hotter.
The Telegraph understands that Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, will announce that the spending review budgets set in 2021 for each government department will remain.
That means, despite the clamour for more defence spending in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) budget will remain as agreed before the invasion.
We know what those figures are. The MoD budget was set at £47.9bn this year, £48bn in 2023 and £48.6bn in 2024.
The problem? Inflation is soaring, eating into that budget.
How much so? That is tricky to calculate. For one, it is worked out not using the Consumer Price Index – which includes lots of everyday goods such as food – but the GDP deflator, which looks at the prices of things more relevant to government budgets.
For another, we do not know what inflation will be next year or the year after.
To add another complication, more than £2bn of extra spending on defence to help with the Ukraine war has been announced this year. This has not come from the MoD budget, with splits in “wonkland” about whether it can or should be counted as department defence spending.
However, according to the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) – probably the most well-respected defence think tank in the UK – that will amount to a real term cut over that period.
Defence budget tussle set to hot up
So how does that square with the manifesto pledge? Well, the wording of that was “increase the budget by at least 0.5 per cent above inflation every year of the new Parliament”.
Downing Street will likely insist that remains true because when you look at the defence budget increases over the past five years and average it out per year, it will meet that requirement.
But is that the spirit of the manifesto? If, as Rusi said, defence spending is decreasing in real terms in the coming years, will voters accept this technical defence?
And then there are parliamentarians. Ms Truss promised to hit three per cent of GDP in defence spending in 2030. If Mr Sunak keeps that as a loose ambition, details on how to hit it are not expected to be revealed, raising questions about whether it really will be reached.
Mr Hunt called for similarly major defence spending increases, making it tricky political ground for him.
James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, indicated in a public interview earlier this year that he would resign if the three per cent target was abandoned. Reports that Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, had done likewise privately have been denied.
As the spending squeeze bites, it could be the tussle over defence budgets that becomes one of the new fronts of Tory pressure in the weeks and months ahead.(Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
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