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25 Nov 22. French PM says fighter jet project on track but Dassault denies deal.
Companies involved in jointly developing a next-generation European fighter jet named FCAS agree on how to move forward, the French prime minister said on Friday at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“An agreement has been reached between our industrial companies, this requires approval by the states and I think the process is ongoing,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said.
Dassault Aviation (AM.PA), which is spearheading the project which also includes Thales (TCFP.PA) and Airbus (AIR.PA), immediately denied a deal had been reached.
“It is not done yet,” a spokesperson told Reuters.
It is the second time this month that conflicting political and industrial signals have emerged over the talks on the next phase of the project. Dassault Chief Executive Eric Trappier last week denied a German government declaration which had also suggested a deal had been reached.
Speaking at the same event on Friday, Olaf Scholz took a more cautious stance, saying political leaders had been able to speed up talks on the project.
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.
24 Nov 22. Weapons industry booms as Eastern Europe arms Ukraine.
- E.Europe arms companies step up production for Ukraine
- Hope to find new markets as defence spends rise
- Can produce and service Soviet-era and NATO-standard weaponry Poland, Czechs among big suppliers of military aid to Kyiv
- Industry’s history stretches from 1800s and through Cold War
Eastern Europe’s arms industry is churning out guns, artillery shells and other military supplies at a pace not seen since the Cold War as governments in the region lead efforts to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Allies have been supplying Kyiv with weapons and military equipment since Russia invaded its neighbour on Feb. 24, depleting their own inventories along the way.
The United States and Britain committed the most direct military aid to Ukraine between Jan. 24 and Oct. 3, a Kiel Institute for the World Economy tracker shows, with Poland in third place and the Czech Republic ninth.
Still wary of Russia, their Soviet-era master, some former Warsaw Pact countries see helping Ukraine as a matter of regional security.
But nearly a dozen government and company officials and analysts who spoke to Reuters said the conflict also presented new opportunities for the region’s arms industry.
“Taking into account the realities of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the visible attitude of many countries aimed at increased spending in the field of defence budgets, there is a real chance to enter new markets and increase export revenues in the coming years,” said Sebastian Chwalek, CEO of Poland’s PGZ.
State-owned PGZ controls more than 50 companies making weapons and ammunition – from armoured transporters to unmanned air systems – and holds stakes in dozens more.
It now plans to invest up to 8 billion zlotys ($1.8 billion)over the next decade, more than double its pre-war target, Chwalek told Reuters. That includes new facilities located further from the border with Russia’s ally Belarus for security reasons, he said.
Other manufacturers too are increasing production capacity and racing to hire workers, companies and government officials from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said.
Immediately after Russia’s attack some eastern European militaries and manufacturers began emptying their warehouses of Soviet-era weapons and ammunition that Ukrainians were familiar with, as Kyiv waited for NATO-standard equipment from the West.
As those stocks have dwindled, arms makers have cranked up production of both older and modern equipment to keep supplies flowing. The stream of weapons has helped Ukraine push back Russian forces and reclaim swathes of territory.
Chwalek said PGZ would now produce 1,000 portable Piorun manpad air-defence systems in 2023 – not all for Ukraine -compared to 600 in 2022 and 300 to 350 in previous years.
The company, which he said has also delivered artillery and mortar systems, howitzers, bulletproof vests, small arms and ammunition to Ukraine, is likely to surpass a pre-war 2022 revenue target of 6.74 billion zlotys.
Companies and officials who spoke to Reuters declined to give specific details of military supplies to Ukraine, and some did not want to be identified, citing security and commercial sensitivities.
Eastern Europe’s arms industry dates back to the 19th Century, when Czech Emil Skoda began manufacturing weapons for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Under Communism, huge factories in Czechoslovakia, the Warsaw Pact’s second-largest weapons producer, Poland and elsewhere in the region kept people employed, turning out weapons for Cold War conflicts Moscow stoked around the world.
“The Czech Republic was one of the powerhouses of weapons exporters and we have the personnel, material base and production lines needed to increase capacity,” its NATO Ambassador Jakub Landovsky told Reuters.
“This is a great chance for the Czechs to increase what we need after giving the Ukrainians the old Soviet-era stocks. This can show other countries we can be a reliable partner in the arms industry.”
The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and NATO’s expansion into the region pushed companies to modernise, but “they can still quickly produce things like ammunition that fits the Soviet systems”, said Siemon Wezeman, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Deliveries to Ukraine have included artillery rounds of “Eastern” calibres, such as 152mm howitzer rounds and 122mm rockets not produced by Western companies, officials and companies said.
They said Ukraine had acquired weapons and equipment via donations from governments and direct commercial contracts between Kyiv and the manufacturers.
NOT JUST BUSINESS
“Eastern European countries support Ukraine substantially,” Christoph Trebesch, a professor at the Kiel Institute, said. “At the same time it’s an opportunity for them to build up their military production industry.”
Ukraine has received nearly 50 billion crowns ($2.1 billion) of weapons and equipment from Czech companies, about 95% of which were commercial deliveries, Czech Deputy Defence Minister Tomas Kopecny told Reuters. Czech arms exports this year will be the highest since 1989, he said, with many companies in the sector adding jobs and capacity.
“For the Czech defence industry, the conflict in Ukraine, and the assistance it provides is clearly a boost that we have not seen in the last 30 years,” Kopecny said.
David Hac, chief executive of Czech STV Group, outlined to Reuters plans to add new production lines for small-calibre ammunition and said it is considering expanding its large-calibre capability. In a tight labour market, the company is trying to poach workers from a slowing car industry, he said.
Defence sales helped the Czechoslovak Group, which owns companies including Excalibur Army, Tatra Trucks and Tatra Defence, nearly double its first-half revenues from a year earlier, to 13.8 billion crowns.
The company is increasing production of both 155mm NATO and 152mm Eastern calibre rounds and refurbishing infantry fighting vehicles and Soviet-era T-72 tanks, spokesman Andrej Cirtek told Reuters.
He said supplying Ukraine was more than just good business.
“After the Russian aggression started, our deliveries for Ukrainian army multiplied,” Cirtek said.
“The majority of the Czech population still remember times of a Russian occupation of our country before 1990 and we don´t want to have Russian troops closer to our borders.” ($1 = 4.5165 zlotys)
($1 = 23.3850 Czech crowns) (Source: Reuters)
24 Nov 22. Airbus says reached settlement with French prosecutor on Libya, Kazakhstan bribery probe.
Airbus has reached a settlement with the French financial prosecutor (PNF) concerning judicial investigations related to Libya and Kazakhstan, an Airbus spokesperson said on Thursday, confirming a report by news agency AFP.
It said the agreement is now subject to court approval.
Last month, Airbus confirmed it was negotiating a new bribery settlement with French authorities over past dealings in Libya and Kazakhstan as an extension to a settlement struck in 2020 which included record fines against the planemaker.
The initial agreement followed a four-year probe which originated in Britain and later expanded to France and the United States, shedding light on a network of middlemen and disguised payments. (Source: Reuters)
24 Nov 22. Kosovo-Serbia: New agreement reduces regional and ethno-religious tensions. On 23 November, Kosovo and Serbia reached an agreement on the controversial licence plate requirements. According to the agreement, Serbia will stop issuing new licence plates for cars registered in Kosovo while Pristina will no longer demand the re-registration of licence plates issued by Serbia in the past. The same deal was previously rejected by Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti who demanded that Serbia takes steps towards recognising Kosovo as an independent state which Belgrade refused. It is likely that PM Kurti changed his stance on the agreement due to international pressure. While tensions between Serbia and Kosovo will remain, the agreement reduces the risk of violence and domestic unrest in the near term, mitigating ethno-religious tensions in northern Kosovo. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Nov 22. NATO allies test air defence system in Romania with simulated attack. NATO allies on Wednesday conducted a military exercise to test air and missile defences in Romania, about a week after a stray missile crashed in Poland and cast a spotlight on gaps in the alliance’s shield for the skies.
A French air defence system deployed to Romania repelled a simulated attack by allied fighter jets, NATO’s Allied Air Command in Ramstein in western Germany said.
Turkish F-16 fighter jets, Spanish Eurofighters, U.S. growler aircraft designed for electronic warfare and French Rafale jets flying from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle participated in the exercise, it added.
“In response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, we continue strengthening our deterrence and defences in the eastern part of the alliance,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said.
She said the alliance had added more fighter jets and surveillance aircraft on patrol, along with more ground-based air defences and air-defence-capable ships at sea.
“Exercises such as this one ensure that NATO forces are able to operate together and remain ready to respond to any threat from any direction,” she noted.
France has deployed its SAMP/T air defence system to Romania since May. It is designed to protect battlefields and sensitive sites such as airports and harbours against cruise missiles, aircraft, drones and tactical ballistic missiles.
Several other allies have also moved such weapons to NATO’s eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: German Patriot fire units are deployed to Slovakia, the United States is operating Patriots in Poland, and Spain sent NASAMS systems to Latvia.
However, the crash of what appears to have been a stray Ukrainian air defence missile in Poland Tuesday last week cast a spotlight on the need for NATO to plug more gaps in its air shield.
After the Cold War, many NATO allies scaled down the number of units focussed on threats from the sky, reflecting the assessment that going forward they would only have to deal with a limited missile threat coming from countries such as Iran.
This perception changed drastically with the Russian invasion, which sent NATO allies scrambling to increase stocks of ammunition and tackle air defence shortfalls. (Source: Reuters)
23 Nov 22. French minister says new Franco-German fighter top priority.
A senior French minister reaffirmed backing for a new Franco-German-led fighter jet project on Wednesday after conflicting comments over the next stage of the $100bn venture.
“FCAS remains an absolutely top-level Franco-German ambition,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Reuters on the sidelines of a European space meeting.
He was responding when asked about comments by the head of France’s Dassault Aviation (AM.PA), who last week played down a Berlin government announcement that France, Germany and Spain had agreed the next phase. Dassault has been at odds with Airbus (AIR.PA), which represents Germany and Spain in the project. (Source: Reuters)
24 Nov 22. Poorly equipped German army awaits financial reinforcement from Berlin. Nine months ago, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Olaf Scholz declared a Zeitenwende — a turning point — for Germany’s military and its place in the world. But since then, barely any of the €100bn in extra funding the German chancellor pledged has made its way to the armed forces. The parliamentary body set up in the spring to allocate money to modernisation and reform programmes has met once. The defence ministry had no procurement proposals to submit to it. Its next sitting will not be until February. Now opposition lawmakers, and some of the country’s leading security experts, are beginning to ask whether Germany’s commitment to a leading role in European defence is anything more than rhetoric. “Mr Chancellor — I can’t call it anything else, you are breaking your promise to the parliament and especially to the Bundeswehr [federal army],” opposition leader Friedrich Merz said in an attack on Scholz in the Bundestag on Wednesday morning. Far from rising, the 2023 defence budget, Merz noted, was in fact set to shrink by €300mn based on current government plans. The lack of German action was “[giving] rise to considerable distrust” at Nato and in allied capitals, he claimed. Germany has long fallen short of its Nato-set obligation of spending the equivalent of 2 per cent of GDP on defence. “It’s a long-term plan, not fast, hectic PR statements,” Scholz retorted. “We want to ensure . . . that we order the right things and that the Bundeswehr is equipped in such a way that it works for decades to come.” Recommended The Big Read How war in Ukraine convinced Germany to rebuild its army Though few in Berlin doubt the chancellor’s sincerity, some believe he has only just come to grips with the scale of the challenge he has set the country — and has underestimated the political capital needed to meet it. In 2021, Germany’s military and its 183,000 active personnel received €46.9bn in funding, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. To hit its Nato target this year, spending would have had to have soared to €75.5bn — catapulting Germany into third place behind the US and China in terms of absolute figures spent on defence — and to €85.6bn by 2026. The €100bn special investment fund, if used at once, would thus run out within half a decade. The government will therefore need to make the political case for further sums beyond that timeframe to a country that has made pacifism a defining feature of its post-cold war foreign policy. The €100bn fund is “a good start, and the right signal”, according to Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the German parliament’s defence committee. “[We have to] create this mindset — to make clear to the people in Germany that something is changing.” That will not happen overnight, she said: “[Some people] are getting impatient about where the money is going and what is to be spent. But you don’t go to the supermarket and spend €100bn just like that. You need a certain amount of preparation.” Military experts agree that Germany’s military planners have a lot of work to do. (Source: FT.com)
23 Nov 22. Czech army leader calls for ‘biggest rearmament of the army in the country’s history.’ In a remarkable speech in Prague today, the Czech Republic’s most senior army leader demanded, as an “absolute necessity.” that the service embarks on its “biggest rearmament” ever.
Major General Karel Řehka, chief of the General Staff of the Czech Republic Army, told delegates at the Command Assembly convened to announce the army’s strategic and procurement plans for 2023 that “serious challenges await us,” as he reflected on the “crisis” in Ukraine.
“The biggest rearmament of the army in the country’s history is no longer just a wish, but an absolute necessity,” Řehka said.
Russia’s actions have left the Czech Army with many urgent tasks that can no longer be postponed, he said, before unveiling a five point plan covering long-term priorities.
The plan involves a defense review, which Řehka confirmed is already underway; a vision for army future warfare; equipment modernization projects being accelerated (notably command and control, intelligence, fires and force protection); changes to the army’s current personnel plan described as “unsustainable” and a debate about the future security priorities of the Czech Republic more generally.
“If we are already deciding today on the acquisition of weapons platforms for the next 40 years, it is absolutely necessary to have a good idea of how we will fight,” Řehka said, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the army’s website. “That’s why I set up my Future Warfare Council with a number of task forces. We are working on it intensively and I expect the final output by the middle of next year.”
Remarking on the state of procurement, he said that the country too often plays “catch up” on acquiring equipment that was needed much sooner — including tanks, helicopters, logistics vehicles and guns.
In July, Prague announced it had started negotiations for CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicles and F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets with the Swedish and United States governments respectively. The CV90 partnership with Sweden follows a prolonged effort to acquire over 200 new IFVs which saw Prague cancel a prior tender after two of three industry bidders removed their proposals. Up to 24 F-35s are due to be ordered as a replacement for Saab JAS 39 Gripens.
“We soldiers must do everything we can to take advantage of the current societal will to invest in defense. But at the same time, we must strictly prioritize and be brutally efficient,” he added. “The truth is that even now, despite the huge increase in the budget, we will not have enough resources for an ideal solution to all problems.”
Prague’s defense budget is set to increase “by a quarter” over the 2022 figure next year, with plans to move to a target of 2 percent GDP thereafter, said Jana Černochová, Czech Republic Minister of Defense, also during the Command Assembly. She vowed that her department will better support the Czech Republic’s domestic defense industry and commended the efforts of the Czech armed forces in leading NATO’s Battle Group in Slovakia. The alliance established four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a way to strengthen Eastern flank deterrence. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense.com)
23 Nov 22. UK: Supreme Court ruling against Scottish referendum elevates domestic unrest risks. On 22 November, the Supreme Court ruled that Scotland does not have the legislative power to hold a second referendum regarding Scotland’s independence next year. President of the Supreme Court Lord Reed stated that the Court concluded that the Scottish parliament does not have the power to legislate in matters relating to the union, noting that that power is reserved for Westminster. Scotland could, however, organise a referendum if it receives a so-called “section 30 order” from Westminster that temporarily delegates legislative power to Holyrood in reserved matters. Following the ruling, it is highly likely that we will see increased levels of protest activity across Scotland and in London in the short term. (Source: Sibylline)
21 Nov 22. NATO allies may lift target to spend 2% of output on defence – Stoltenberg.
- 2% target a floor rather than a ceiling, Stoltenberg says
- NATO chief warns against creating new dependencies on China
NATO allies may decide to aim to spend more on defence than their current target of 2% of national output when they meet for their next summit in Vilnius in July 2023, the chief of the alliance said on Monday.
“I expect that, in one way or another, even though perhaps the 2% will be kept, it will be kept more as a kind of floor than a ceiling for defence spending,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Spain.
“These are negotiations that will go on, but I’m absolutely confident that the ambitions will be increased in one way or another – because everyone now sees the need for investing more,” he added.
In response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, NATO leaders pledged to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets, with allies agreeing to spend at least 2% of economic output on defence from 2024.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year, many allies have increased their military spending.
“I cannot tell you exactly what our allies will agree when it comes to formulating the pledge for defence spending for the next decade or so… but I expect that it’ll be an even stronger commitment to increasing defence spending,” Stoltenberg said. (Source: Reuters)
22 Nov 22. Sweden boosts defense spending, NATO goal in mind. Sweden’s newly elected center-right government has prioritized spending on defense-strengthening measures in its draft budget bill for 2023, eying to edge the country closer to NATO’s target quota.
Sweden, along with fellow unaligned Nordic nation Finland, is currently awaiting unanimous consent from NATO members to join the alliance, a process that could reach its conclusion in 2023 despite reservations about their applications being expressed by Hungary and Turkey.
The “Total Defense” focus in the Swedish government’s defense budgetary plan aims to raise military spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2026. The defense budget is on course to grow by $800 m in 2023, backed by higher capital investments to strengthen cyber-defense, signals intelligence, defense preparedness and the expanded intake of military personnel.
“The government’s plan is that Sweden’s defense capability will be gradually expanded year-on-year going forward,” said Pål Jonson (Moderates), Sweden’s newly appointed defense minister.
The 2023 budget will give the Swedish Defense Forces’ (SDF) cyber-defense unit (CDU) a significant lift in capital spending to reinforce its capability to defend against hybrid warfare threats. These include cyber attacks and the targeting of critical infrastructure and IT-networks, both public and private, that are deemed essential to the functioning of Sweden’s economy.
Significantly, Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson’s conservative-leaning coalition government is proposing the establishment of a new ministry that would have joint responsibility for Total Defense’s two main components of military and civil defense.
The Total Defense format for Sweden’s national security is primed to be modified to conform with the country’s future membership of NATO.
The template for the proposed joint ministry means it will liaise closely with a new National Security Council (NSC) to be instituted in 2023. The NSC is intended to serve as a dedicated agency to analyze, review and coordinate Sweden’s security policy actions.
Sweden’s draft budget proposal for 2023 includes a provision to increase spending on defense and national security preparedness by $1.23bn (SEK 13bn) in 2022-2023. The SDF’s military equipment and facilities budget, according to the bill, will increase from $7.1bn to $8.3bn.
The scope and level of spending ambition in the 2023 defense budget is currently the subject of ongoing discussions between Jonson’s Ministry of Defense and the Parliamentary Defense Committee (PDC).
A major component in the talks will be how to effectively bolster the SDF’s procurement capacity to finance and purchase new weapons systems, a consequential issue given the rising costs associated with weapons procurement against the backdrop of a falling krona, Sweden’s national currency.
The government is concerned that a weakening krona could impair Sweden’s defense buildup and the ability to achieve the envisioned NATO spending ratio by 2026.
Defense Committee members are supporting a government policy initiative to bolster defense measures by increasing the SDF’s order authorization on new weapons systems by over $2.9bn beyond 2030.
Based on its present trajectory, Sweden is proposing to scale up its spending on defense and security preparedness to $12bn in 2028. Sweden allocated $7.3bn to that budget line in 2022, equivalent to around 1.45 per cent of GDP, the highest level since 2005. (Source: Defense News)
22 Nov 22. Poland: Deployment of Patriot missile system is expected to reduce risk of military escalation. On 21 November, the Polish and the German defence ministers agreed to place German surface-to-air Patriot missile systems along Poland’s borders with Ukraine in order to prevent any future miscalculation. Germany also offered additional fighter jets to Poland to secure Polish airspace. Earlier this year, Poland invested in buying six Patriot systems from the US in order to strengthen its air defences, and Germany also offered to provide Patriots for Slovakia and potentially for Baltic states in an effort to boost NATO’s air defences along its eastern flank. The newly announced deployment of German Patriot missiles in Poland is expected to reduce the risk of miscalculation and accidental cross-border attacks, moderately mitigating the risk of inadvertent escalation with Moscow. (Source: Sibylline)
21 Nov 22. UK: IED attack in Northern Ireland underscores sustained threat from dissident republican groups. On 17 November, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated next to a police vehicle at approximately 2300 hrs (local time) in Strabane (Country Tyrone, Northern Ireland). No injuries were reported, while four suspects were detained on 18-19 November. Although investigations are ongoing, the police have indicated that the New IRA, a dissident republican group, is suspected of perpetrating the attack. Although the New IRA’s leadership was arrested and charged in 2020 – a significant setback for the group – it is still considered dangerous. The threat posed by dissident republican groups is likely to persist in the medium term. Additionally, the current political impasse in Northern Ireland will likely drive the risk of unionist and dissident terrorist activity in the short term. (Source: Sibylline)
21 Nov 22. UK Government commits nearly half a billion pounds for UK research to cover EU shortfall. The package will provide much needed immediate investment to researchers, universities and research organisations, and be delivered across the UK.
- The Business Secretary has announced £484m in targeted investment to support UK research due to the EU’s refusal to finalise UK access to EU programmes Horizon Europe, Euratom and Fusion for Energy
- the package will provide much needed immediate investment to researchers, universities and research organisations
- the funds will be delivered across the UK, boosting research and innovation across the breadth of the country
The Business Secretary has today (Monday 21 November) announced up to £484 m in research funding to support the R&D sector, in response to the EU’s refusal to finalise the UK’s association to Horizon Europe and other related EU science programmes as agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) in 2020.
These investments will provide targeted support for staff retention and local talent strategies at eligible universities and research organisations, as well as making sure the UK labs remain world class and at the cutting edge of R&D.
The funds will also provide a catalyst for the growth in the UK’s burgeoning fusion industry, ensuring the UK can retain and build on its position as a global leader in fusion science.
Today’s support builds on the Horizon Europe guarantee scheme, extended in September, which continues to provide funding for eligible, successful UK winners of Horizon Europe calls to ensure UK researchers and businesses can continue to collaborate internationally.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This immediate investment will help our excellent research sector to shore up their talent pools, invest confidently in infrastructure and protect the UK’s reputation as a science superpower. The UK cannot wait indefinitely for the EU to meet its commitments which is why this funding is so important to boost research and innovation across the breadth of our country. The government is disappointed that the EU is still linking UK association with wider issues, and the UK remains open to association, but cannot wait indefinitely.”
The package includes:
- £30m Talent and Research Stabilisation Fund. This will provide targeted support to eligible universities and research organisations who have a track record in attracting direct talent-based funding from the EU, to help them retain talent and address vulnerabilities at a local level
- £100m Quality-Related (QR) funding for English universities with additional funding for the Devolved Administrations. This will complement the Talent and Research Stabilisation Fund to deliver a one-off boost to enable universities to strengthen research capabilities – for example employing research staff, technicians or sustaining new areas of research – which are vital to the UK’s reputation for excellent research
- £200m for UK Research Infrastructures including additional funding for the Devolved Administrations. A one-off boost to the UK’s research infrastructure base. This includes the UKRI World Class Labs fund, enabling institutes and universities across the United Kingdom to invest in essential research equipment and sustain their excellent research base, as well as making funding available to the UK’s Public Sector Research Establishments (such as the National Physical Laboratory and the Met Office) to maintain their status as international centres of excellence
- £42.1m for the Fusion Industry Programme. This will galvanise the UK fusion sector through a challenge fund, designed to engage and support UK businesses in important technical challenges of fusion, helping to build capabilities and spur commercial innovation
- £84m for JET Operations. This will support JET (Joint European Torus), as the world’s largest and most powerful fusion experimentation, to continue operations which will provide valuable new insights and support other UK fusion programmes such as STEP (Spherical Tokomak for Energy Production)
The UK and the EU agreed the terms for the UK’s association to programmes (Horizon Europe, Euratom, Fusion for Energy, Copernicus) and access to programmes services under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
UK association could not be finalised at the time as the underpinning EU legislation was not in place. That EU legislation has now been in place for 19 months. It remains the UK’s preference to associate to these science programmes, but the European Commission is refusing to implement the agreement reached under the TCA.
To support UK researchers and innovators and to provide certainty, we launched the Horizon Europe guarantee in November 2021. The guarantee ensures that eligible UK applicants who have been successfully evaluated by the European Commission (EC) have access to funding while the EU continues to delay finalising our association to Horizon Europe. It covers all calls that have an application deadline on or before 31 December 2022.
The Horizon Europe guarantee is working and is providing eligible, successful UK winners of Horizon Europe calls with funds to continue their work in the UK and their international partners; this additional package of spending sits alongside the guarantee to offer additional support to the R&D sector. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 Nov 22. Serbia may become biggest operator of military drones in Balkans. Amid rising tensions with Kosovo, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s recent order to shoot down all UAVs found in no-fly zones and near military facilities, Iranian officials suggested that Serbia made a formal bid to purchase that country’s drones.
If true, the purchase could make Belgrade the largest military drone operator in the Balkans.
Over the past few years, Serbia’s UAV procurement strategy sought to strike a balance between increased diversification of foreign suppliers and further expanding its own domestic industry.
Since becoming the biggest military spender in the Balkans in 2019, the country’s drone fleet has welcomed new arrivals including Chinese-made CH-92As, delivered in June 2020. This greatly increased Serbian air-policing capabilities thanks to its 250 kilometer (155 mile) combat range.
Meanwhile Serbian-made Gavran loitering munition and an armed version of its Vrabac small drone shown last August and said to be able to carry up to six grenades are being developed.
Displayed at Eurosatory 2022, the Gavran is the first system of its kind to be developed locally. The Serbian technology has a maximum take-off weight of 50 kilograms, can carry payloads up to 15 kilograms while flying at a maximum speed of 120km/h for 30 minutes out to a range approximating 100 kilometers.
As first reported by Janes, it was further conceived to operate in a multiple-drone swarm controlled from a sole command station. The system is said to have substitutable explosive payloads, capable of carrying a 12 kg warhead and is launched from ground-based canisters mounted on either trucks or trailers.
Based on the standard ISR model, the first prototype of a weaponized version of the Vrabac drone was displayed in Belgrade earlier this year. More compact than its predecessor, it can be equipped with six 40mm M22 munitions with a 5 meter range capability.
The original Vrabac was developed with an electro-optical turret located under its nose to carry out reconnaissance operations. While it is currently in the service of the Serbian military, it remains unclear when its armed variant will become operational. These newcomers will join Israel’s Orbiter 1 and the domestic Silac 750C already flown by Serbia (its Pegaz 011 UAV is still undergoing development).
While the country has openly stated its interest in acquiring Turkish TB2 drones multiple times in the past, these plans might be halted after unconfirmed claims were made by Iranian Major General Yahia Rahim Safavi stating that Belgrade is one of 22 countries to have filed a formal bid to buy Iranian UAVs.
On this, Peter Voinovich, editor-in-chief of Serbian aviation news portal TangoSix is not convinced, stating that the country “has significant capabilities both in engineering and manufacturing (as it produces a lot of composite aircraft in the civilian aviation sector) to cater to its own needs that there is really little Iran could possibly provide it with in terms of either finished UAV products or in know-how.” (Source: Defense News)
21 Nov 22. Commenting on the Autumn Statement today, Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of Make UK, said: “The Government is having to respond to a potent cocktail of factors, both domestic and global. Economic and political stability is the spine of our economy. The Chancellor has recognised this and taken action which is welcome. In particular, substantial help with business rates, protection of infrastructure and science spending, the extension of Made Smarter, together with the timely unlocking of significant scale up funding from Solvency II reform are very welcome. However, energy costs and access to labour remain manufacturers’ biggest problems. We currently face a labour crisis and today’s statement did little to address this. Without a fast improvement, Government will need to urgently consider options such as radical changes to the shortage occupations migration list or access to labour from our closest neighbours, if we are to deliver growth. Furthermore, energy support for business has been very welcome and helped many firms survive. However, the apparent decision to end support next April when prices are likely to remain high for much longer is troubling. The certainty and lower costs enjoyed by our near neighbours gives them a large competitive advantage which puts UK jobs at risk. Beyond this, we still need a visionary approach to policy and growth which matches the multiple challenges we face. While a focus on growth sectors is welcome, there remains an absence of an overarching plan for how the big drivers of growth such as skills, innovation and science are brought together. This is essential if we are to improve productivity, take advantage of the UK’s undoubted strengths in its academic base and boost growth across all areas of the UK.”
On Solvency II reform, Fhaheen Khan, Senior Economist, said:
“While there were lots of extra costs for business announced today, the Chancellor has also taken steps to protect growth and investment. The overhaul of Solvency II regulations is a clear signal to channel some of the UK’s pension savings into productive investments in the British economy.
“Combined with the package to support business rates payers, these measures are an important incentive to invest more in UK manufacturing, growth and innovation, including in critical areas such as battery technologies, digital adoption, and green energy systems. The pandemic seriously hurt investment and these steps will hopefully provide the kick-start our economy needs to boost productivity and earnings.”
On the National Living Wage, Senior Policy Manager, Jamie Cater said: “The increase in the National Living Wage and other rates of the National Minimum Wage reflects the action that many manufacturers are already taking to address the cost-of-living concerns of their staff and continue to attract and retain talent. While the Government should be cautious about further large, rapid increases in the NLW which could risk fuelling inflationary pressures and disrupting pay differentials at a time of rising business costs, manufacturers continue to prioritise increasing pay as they seek to invest in and support their employees.”
On the appointment of a Skills Adviser, Verity Davidge, Director of Policy, said: “This is an important recognition of the challenges that employers face in accessing the right skills, but further action is required beyond the implementation of current reforms – some of which will not come into effect for another three years. As manufacturers wrestle with labour and skills shortages, Sir Michael Barber should be working with the Department for Education and Treasury to consider reviewing and reforming the apprenticeship levy, providing greater support for employers to offer T Level placements, and improving options for retraining and upskilling before the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.” (Source: Make UK)
21 Nov 22. Dassault Aviation head cautions that FCAS warplane deal is not done yet. Eric Trappier, the head of French company Dassault Aviation (AM.PA), cautioned on Monday that a deal over developing the new FCAS fighter jet was not formally completed yet.
The German government said last Friday that France, Germany and Spain had reached agreement on starting the next phase of development of the new fighter jet dubbed FCAS, Europe’s largest defence project which has an estimated cost of more than 100 bn euros ($102.32 bn).
“There was a sort of pseudo-political announcement that was made. I think that the German approvals – which were hard to get – had come out and that in turn led to some leaks. But it is not yet done,” Trappier told RTL Radio.
France’s Dassault Aviation, 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. ($1 = 0.9773 euros) (Source: Reuters)
21 Nov 22. German defence ministry: working at full speed on procurement proposals. There will be many more defence procurement proposals heading to the German parliament for approval this year, said a defence ministry spokesperson on Monday, as the war in Ukraine has put renewed focus on bringing the country’s military up to speed.
“The procurement section in particular is working at full speed,” said the spokesperson, who added that “a very large number” of 25m-euro ($25.59m) proposals will be arriving in the Bundestag lower house of parliament for approval this year.
Germany is struggling to ramp up defence procurement or even just replace arms and munitions it has supplied to Kyiv, several sources told Reuters, after Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged 100bn euros to bring the military up to speed in February.
The spokesperson added that after a stray missile crashed in Poland last week, Germany had discussed offering its neighbour help with air policing as well as the Patriot missile defence system to help it defend its airspace. ($1 = 0.9768 euros) (Source: Reuters)
21 Nov 22. UK looks for cuts in defence. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the government is looking for 10% cuts across the board for defence spending. This will include fewer Ajax and Boxer vehicles and cuts for other Programmes. One benefit is believed to be a commitment from GDUK for further investment in its South Wales facility.
21 Nov 22. Cyber as important as missile defences – ex-NATO general.
A cyber attack on the German ports of Bremerhaven or Hamburg would severely impede NATO efforts to send military reinforcements to allies, retired U.S. General Ben Hodges told Reuters.
The European Commission proposed an action plan to bolster cyber defence earlier this month; Hodges, who commanded U.S. Army forces in Europe from 2014 until 2017 and has long argued that civilian infrastructure is an essential pillar of military strategy, said cyber protection is just as important as missile defence systems to guard the German North Sea ports.
Russia has recently increasingly targeted communications and electricity infrastructure in Ukraine, and in October warned “quasi-civilian infrastructure” may be a legitimate target for a retaliatory strike against countries aiding the eastern European country which it invaded in February.
“Bremerhaven and Hamburg are actually the most important seaports on which the alliance depends, for the military equipment, not just commercial cargo,” Hodges said.
He recalled a 2017 cyberattack, dubbed NotPetya and attributed to Russia, that first targeted Ukraine but spread rapidly through corporate networks of multinationals with operations or suppliers in eastern Europe. The Danish shipping giant Maersk said the attack caused outages at its computer systems across the world, so the company lost track of its freight.
“That was when I realised how vulnerable we are,” Hodges said. “If we can’t use Bremerhaven, it will be very difficult for the United States to reinforce and to fulfil its part of operation plans.”
In light of that, Hodges said, Berlin’s decision to allow Chinese group COSCO Shipping Holdings Co. Ltd to buy a stake in a terminal in Hamburg, the country’s largest port, caused “a lot of anxiety … because once they’re there, they’re inside the ecosystem of the harbour.”
Hodges said the ports would be essential for bringing in allies, “and so knowing that the Chinese may be able to influence or disrupt activities at critical transportation infrastructure, that’s a problem.”
The defence ministry in Berlin declined to comment on Hodges’ security concerns. Hamburg port operator HHLA said it constantly examines software, guidelines and methods to identify and eliminate weaknesses as quickly as possible. The Chinese foreign ministry said cooperation between China and Germany is a matter for the two countries and third-parties “have no right to meddle and intervene.” (Source: Reuters)
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