Sponsored by Exensor
14 May 20. Viasat advocates for ‘hybrid procurement system’ to save billions in the UK. Adopting a new hybrid procurement system could save Britain’s Ministry of Defence billions of pounds and get cutting edge technology in the hands of troops faster, a top American satellite communications company argued to the parliamentary Defence Committee.
Written evidence from Viasat’s U.K. arm advocating a shake-up in British procurement processes was published by the committee May 13 as part of its inquiry into the procurement and prosperity aspects of the country’s defense industrial policy.
Top of the list of proposals submitted by the company is a hybrid approach to procurement that saves money and leads to experimentation to deliver missions faster, said Viasat UK Managing Director Steve Beeching in an interview with Defense News following publication of the evidence.
“We need a hyrid process with a platform-centric approach for very long lead, complex structural equipment elements,” said Beeching, adding that more agile,, adaptive procurement for technology is required to meet the mission threat.
“At the end of the day buying outdated technology doesn’t deliver the mission,” Beeching said.
The hybrid idea is among a raft of potential procurement changes proposed by Viasat. The company also advocated for ‘test before you buy’ solutions from industry to reduce MoD costs and risk; building trusted partnerships between government and the private sector to drive information advantage; sharing risk and design obligations, thereby alleviating the burden on existing program processes; and executing an outcomes-based assessment program.
The proposals come as the company is considering a potentially significant investment in the U.K.
From a U.K. base near Farnborough, southern England, Viasat has a growing presence in the defense and security sector providing UHF satellite communications, tactical data system, sovereign information assurance and other services.
It is currently considering investing about £300m, or $366m, in the U.K. and doubling its workforce of some 80 people with additional network and cyber personnel.
Viasat, which is headquartered in Carlsbad, California, said a change of direction on procurement in the upcoming integrated review of defense and security could bring big rewards for government, the military and the domestic defense industry.
“The 2020 strategic defense and security review will, if carried out correctly, give the MoD an opportunity to save billions of pounds, end complex procurement procedures and ensure that U.K. armed forces have available the most up-to-date equipment,” Viasat said in its evidence.
“This will help to meet the rapidly changing adversarial environment the U.K. is facing. The review must provide a process to deliver a stronger industrial base, with more UK jobs at higher skill levels, achieving greater foreign investment and opportunity for exports,” the company told the committee.
“To improve, the MoD needs to simplify the complexity of its huge defense organization into elements that can deliver change for the benefit of the nation, troops and way of life. Behavioral challenges occur where the MoD manages risk and outcomes as the primary objective [to keep the nation safe], but to move forward requires risk-taking,” said the evidence.
The MoD’s performance has been heavily criticized over many years for late delivery and cost overruns; although often the fault lays with government or the military rather than procurement officials.
Despite several efforts to reform procurement, most recently through the Levene and Gray reviews, the right remedy to the problem has been elusive, despite some performance gains.
Now, the new integrated defense review, virtually paused for the next few months as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, is likely to have another go at getting it right.
Beeching, said that the present procurement policy was failing to produce the required results.
“Current procurement procedures have yielded program delays, overspending and higher risks to the MoD. We feel very strongly that a more agile, fused-hybrid approach is needed to procure the appropriate systems and services required to keep pace with technology advancement. By modernizing the procurement process, MoD can work toward better processes to keep the nation safer,” said Beeching.
“Its about approach and behaviors. We are not advocating stripping everything apart,” he said.
With the COVID-19 crisis grabbing most of the government’s attention, a major overhaul of defense procurement may not be on the list of priorities.
Beeching, though, said if you wait for the perfect time it will never exist.
“The lessons we are learning through things like COVID-19, through other things that are happening in the world, make more imperative that an achievable plan like the one we are proposing moves forward. It will give us more options to get the required capabilities to our service men and women, the government and the cabinet office much quicker than we do today,” he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
15 May 20. Spain joins European Patrol Corvette program in which nations can customize ships. Spain has officially joined the European Patrol Corvette program to design and develop a prototype of a modular 3,300-ton ship responsible for a number of tasks and missions, including those performed by ocean patrol vessels and light frigates.
Spain announced Feb. 8 that it was interested in joining the EPC program, which was made up of France, Italy and Greece. Despite the strict lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic in all four countries, the Spanish shipyard Navantia managed to push its application through.
Official confirmation came April 2, according to official sources quoted by Infodefensa.com, a Spanish media outlet covering defense issues.
The objective of the four-nation EPC program is to develop a modular design that each country can personalize to meet its own specific requirements.
The suggested configurations of the EPC are:
- A limited warship optimized for surface warfare and able to counter airborne attacks as well as undertake anti-submarine missions.
- A limited warship for lengthy missions (10,000 nautical miles at 14 knots) that can conduct surface warfare missions.
- An offshore patrol vessel in various configurations.
The EPC project was officially approved in the framework of the European Union’s Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative on Nov. 12, 2019. PESCO is a framework and process to deepen defense cooperation between EU member states “who are capable and willing to do so,” according to the bloc. Commitments made through PESCO are legally binding.
The prototype will be the first project undertaken by Naviris, the joint venture launched by France’s Naval Group and Italy’s Fincantieri, which has been operational since Jan. 14, 2020.
The EPC is an essential requirement for both the French and Italian navies. The former needs to replace its six Floreal-class ships while the latter must replace four Cassiopea- and Minerva-class vessels as well as four Comandante-class ships.
It is expected that each country’s shipyards will build their own EPCs, with France building 9-11 vessels and Italy building eight.
The first-in-class would be Italian and operational in 2027, while the first French one would be delivered in 2030.
Portugal and Bulgaria have also expressed interest in joining the effort. (Source: Defense News)
15 May 20. German shipyard shuffle clears path for MKS 180 warship program to proceed. An agreement by two German shipyards to merge has dislodged a major legal roadblock in the multibillion-dollar program to build the Navy’s MKS 180 large frigate-type warships.
The Defence Ministry’s confirmation on Friday that German Naval Yards Kiel had dropped its protest against Dutch shipbuilder Damen, who was announced as the winner of the contract in January, was the final building block in a turbulent week for the European naval industry.
Days prior, the German shipbuilder said it would merge with Bremen-based Lürssen, giving the latter company the lead in building surface combatants together. Lürssen, for its part, is already part of the MKS 180 team as a subcontractor to Damen, and the Dutch said they would lean heavily on their German partner in building four initial vessels under the program.
Earlier this year, German Naval Yards Kiel lamented an unfair evaluation of its MKS 180 bid by the Defence Ministry, announcing it was prepared for a potentially lengthy legal battle. But just as litigious as the company sounded in its public proclamations, industry insiders said there appeared to be a willingness early on by all companies to come to an agreement outside of duking it out in court.
Damen, meanwhile, is expected to rethink the distribution of its MKS 180 workshare plan now that the former competitor is also onboard, albeit only by extension. Considerations to that effect would be a “logical next step,” one company official said.
“We are pleased with the consolidation of the German shipping industry under the leadership of the Bremer Lürssen Group,” a Damen statement read. “We look forward to intensive cooperation in the future. As Damen, we see this conso
The company also believes the merger would “increase the chance of equal cooperation between Northern European countries in the field of naval construction — a development that we can only applaud in an otherwise unevenly distributed European playing field.”
That leaves the question of what will happen with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, another losing bidder in the MKS 180 race. The company previously reported to be part of the German consolidation talks, leading to reports that a single, national shipbuilding “champion” was in the works.
For now, however, TKMS is still weighing its options, as Reuters reported this week. In one scenario, the shipbuilder could merge with Italy’s Fincantieri, with talks ongoing to that effect, according to the news service. It is also possible TKMS could join the other two German yards at a later time.
Whatever happens next, it appears a broader move toward naval-industry consolidation may be gaining steam in the wake of the Lürssen-GNY Kiel deal, according to experts.
“The cards are reshuffled,” said Sebastian Bruns, a naval analyst with the University of Kiel in northern Germany. “The consolidation is a significant step forward — and potentially not the final evolution in the Central European warship sector yet.” (Source: Defense News)
15 May 20. NATO Nations Face Threats Together, Including Pandemic. While these are challenging times, NATO nations do not face these problems alone, the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee said today.
Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach held a virtual briefing for the news media on the results of the NATO Chiefs of Defense meeting. The meeting – also virtual – brought together the 30 military leaders of the alliance. They discussed the response to coronavirus and other threats to the NATO nations.
The recommendations that stem from the meeting will be used to inform next month’s defense ministerial, he said. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, participated in the NATO meeting from his Pentagon office.
”NATO allies and partners are standing together and acting together in solidarity,” Peach said. ”Together, we endure, persevere and overcome.”
NATO must be on guard to ensure that nations or groups do not try to exploit the pandemic for their own gains, he said.
”We have seen an increase in disinformation aimed at sowing division in the alliance and in Europe as well as undermining our democracies,” the air chief marshal said. ”We have seen a continued pace of Russian military activity. Over the last couple of weeks, the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission has been deployed numerous times to intercept Russian aircraft.”
The attacks in Kabul brought Afghanistan into focus, and the chiefs discussed the security situation in that troubled country. Peach said there has been some progress in inter-Afghan negotiations.
”In Iraq, the situation remains unstable,” he said. ”The fight against [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] is not over. Coalition forces are working hard to safeguard the progress and gains achieved.”
NATO forces remain in Iraq to ensure peace and stability. ”Our forces remain ready, and our work continues,” Peach said.
All the chiefs reiterated their commitment to the alliance. ”They assured that COVID-19 would not affect their contributions to collective defense, including our multinational battlegroups in the east of the alliance, NATO air policing, our maritime deployments and our missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo,” Peach said.
NATO personnel will adapt special measures to protect themselves from infection, but the missions are too important to let slide, he said. ”Our ability to deter and, if necessary, defend persists,” he said.
The peacekeeping mission in Kosovo continues with 19 NATO allies and eight partner nations contributing roughly 3,500 troops. ”KFOR provides a safe and secure environment for all people and communities and is an important contributor to the stability of the Western Balkans,” Peach said.
The Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan continues, and NATO personnel continue to train, assist and advise Afghan partners. ”We will continue to adapt our presence in Afghanistan through a conditions-based process, in close coordination with all allies and, importantly, our partners,” Peach said.
Following clear political direction from NATO ministers in April, the chiefs of defense discussed new ways to contribute more to the security in the Middle East and North Africa Region to complement existing efforts, the chairman said.
The chiefs also worked to make operational NATO’s military strategy, which was approved last year. ”This work is being refined and made operational through our work on the Concept for Deterrence and Defense of the Euro-Atlantic Area, supplemented and complemented by the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept, which looks forward 20 years and sets a vision to support allies’ efforts to develop military forces,” Peach said.
The results will also go before the Defense Ministerial next month. ”These concepts will improve the future alignment of existing mechanisms, processes and activities as well as the procurements requirements resulting from our continuous process of adaptation,” he said. ”It brings coherence to all our military activities.”
The chiefs, along with Italian army Gen. Claudio Graziano, chairman of the European Union Military Committee, also discussed NATO’s response to COVID-19.
NATO has launched more than 150 missions to support and transport medical personnel, supplies and treatment capabilities. The alliance has facilitated the construction of more than 50 field hospitals and alternate care facilities. There have been numerous international aero-medical evacuations with critical care teams; and more than 3,500 allied citizens from around the world have been repatriated, Peach said.
”We concluded the meeting after an in-depth discussion about the effects of this pandemic and a discussion on resilience and the importance to capture lessons that can be implemented to better prepare for any future health crisis,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
13 May 20. Defence Nuclear Infrastructure: Poor Contracting at MoD Leaves Taxpayer to Shoulder Ballooning Costs. In a report published today, Wednesday 13 May 2020, the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee says the Ministry of Defence has left the taxpayer to shoulder huge cost increases due to the MoD’s poor contract design and management. The MoD said it “immensely regretted” the huge waste of taxpayers’ money, which was caused by poor management of three nuclear infrastructure projects, resulting in a combined cost increase of £1.35bn and with delays of between 1.7 and 6.3 years.
The department also admits that costs could keep rising, as its poor contract design has left the taxpayer to assume financial risk, while doing little to incentivise contractors to improve their performance. The report finds, as the department itself admitted, that the risks associated with nuclear programmes, civil or military, are too large for private companies, and must be managed by the department, regardless of whether it owns the relevant sites or not.
Lessons to be learnt
The MoD was unable to explain why it has repeated past mistakes – many of which have been repeatedly commented on by the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee for more than 30 years – and has failed to learn lessons from comparable projects in the civil nuclear sector and in the United States. The MoD accepted that it must not operate in the same way in the future.
The Committee heard evidence on three of the most significant projects under construction:
— the AWE plc project MENSA at Burghfield (forecast cost £1.8bn, completion 2023), where the Department is building a new nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly facility
— the Rolls Royce owned and operated Core Production Capability facilities at Raynesway (forecast cost £474m, completion 2026), where the Department is replacing facilities so it can produce the latest nuclear reactor core designs
— the BAE Systems-owned Barrow shipyard facility (forecast cost £240m, completion 2022) to allow modular build of Dreadnought-class submarines
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “To utterly fail to learn from mistakes over decades, to spectacularly repeat the same mistakes at huge cost to the taxpayer – and at huge cost to confidence in our defence capabilities – is completely unacceptable. We see too often these same mistakes repeated.
“The Department knows it can’t go on like this, it knows it must change and operate differently. The test now is to see how it will do that, and soon.
“We expect the MoD to report to us later this year, in its 2020 update on the Dreadnought nuclear submarine programme, on how it is working with industry and other departments to develop and keep in place the skills it badly needs to take forward nuclear work. We also expect a detailed assessment, of whether the current ownership arrangements for nuclear regulated sites are in the best interests of the taxpayer, to be provided to us by the end of this year.”
The Ministry of Defence (the Department) maintains a submarine-based nuclear deterrent, which relies on a network of programmes, equipment and people, including specialised infrastructure.
Poor management of three on-going critical infrastructure projects on nuclear-regulated sites has contributed to a combined cost increase of £1.35bn and delays of between 1.7 and 6.3 years.
Each project suffered significant problems in its early stages and the Department said it immensely regretted the amount of taxpayers’ money lost. It accepts that poor contracting had made it difficult to incentivise better performance from contractors, and that it had not engaged effectively with the nuclear regulatory bodies. It also describes its arrangements for the Nuclear Enterprise in the past as ‘fragmented and balkanised’, with insufficient recognition of the interdependencies between projects.
Since 2016, the Department has negotiated some changes to the contract at one of the three programmes—MENSA—to reduce its financial risk exposure. It has also made some improvements to the oversight of the nuclear enterprise, including the infrastructure projects, through creation of the Defence Nuclear Organisation and the Submarine Delivery Agency.
As a result, the Department considers it now has a better understanding and control of the programmes. It has also worked to develop better relationships with the regulators to ensure there is a more effective discussion about the balance between risk and value for money, although it is too early to assess whether all these reforms have been effective. The Department acknowledges that it still has shortages of the specialist skills it needs. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/House of Commons Public Accounts Committee)
14 May 20. Northrop Grumman’s Long-Lasting Relationship with Norway. As the world enters an entirely new era of warfare, threats continue to proliferate – from undersea to outerspace, and all domains in between. To combat this, it remains essential for U.S. allies to have mature, reliable and proven systems to defend against evolving, sophisticated threats.
As a pioneer in active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Northrop Grumman has been at the forefront of radar innovations for more than 60 years. As existing radars continue to age and fall out of service and new threats develop, the need for longer range air surveillance radars to replace outdated radars is a necessity to ensure superior air defense of Norway.
Since Northrop Grumman’s first maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft – the N-3PB – was sold to Norway in 1940, Northrop Grumman has had a long and proud history with the country. On March 8 of this year, Northrop Grumman celebrated 80 years since the first sale and beginning of a long-lasting partnership that has continued ever since.
Today, Northrop Grumman’s expertise continues to define trends in technologies and to provide more proven and affordable AESA solutions with established production lines for a family of AESA radars (AN/TPS-80 for the USMC, APG-83/SABR for F-16, and APG-81 for F-35).
With more than three decades of mobile air defense radar experience, Northrop Grumman has the unique expertise, resources, and facilities necessary for a successful deployment. Some of the world’s most advanced radars are designed, manufactured and tested by the company right in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland, making Northrop Grumman a center of excellence for radar production – but it doesn’t stop there.
Northrop Grumman has been pursuing a new way to provide maritime surveillance to Norway via the MC-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Triton provides near-real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions – making the world’s oceans smaller. Triton is tailored to work in pair with the P-8, which Norway is preparing to phase in over the coming years. Triton’s operating range and endurance will enable the P-8 to focus on anti-surface and anti-subsurface warfare while Triton maintains an unblinking eye on areas of interest.
With Norway’s strategically important location, high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide necessary, all-seeing eyes in the sky to provide surveillance over the vast sea areas that make up the High North.
Norway’s strategic location has increased the need for protection and defense of the country, on the ground, at sea and in the air. Surveillance in the arctic region of Norway, known as the High North, is a necessity – and time is of the essence. As a key member of NATO for the High North and an important ally to the United States, Norway is able to keep its eyes and ears open for old and new threats. Bringing Northrop Grumman’s technologies and solutions to fruition for its allies is important for our common security and partnership.
Northrop Grumman is building on its 80-year partnership by establishing strong industrial cooperation with Norwegian industry to provide the systems necessary to address current and emerging threats.
This strategic partnership dates back to 1940 with the sale of the first N-3PB aircraft to Norway, built by Jack Northrop of Northrop Aircraft, Inc. The first N-3PB was delivered to Norwegian forces in February 1941 for maritime surveillance, while the country was being occupied by Germany.
To this day, the company aims to support Norwegian industry with the right technology, training and tools to maintain fielded systems to provide the Norwegian warfighter the capabilities needed to maintain their systems domestically.
As future threats multiply in types and numbers, it presents new challenges for the integrated air and missile defense mission. As we enter a new era of digital transformation, we must expand capabilities and solutions across all domains – land, sea, undersea, air, space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum – to ensure trusted, mature solutions are always readily available to protect warfighters domestically and internationally during any mission.
12 May 20. Estonia Monitors Latvian Border with Threod Systems Stream C UAV. The 2nd Infantry Brigade of the Defense Forces supported the Police and Border Guard Board by monitoring Estonia’s southern border with a Stream C unmanned aircraft system (UAS), produced by Threod Systems to enable the detection of illegal border crossing attempts.
The Defense Forces launched Threod’s unmanned aircraft near Antsla to conduct surveillance rounds over the closed southern Estonian border due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The flight was conducted in order to test the ability of the Defense Forces, the Police and Border Guard Board to share air footage and act upon the data gathered.
“We provide professional assistance to the Police and Border Guard Board to support border guards at the southern border in an emergency situation when the internal border is closed,” said Major Robert Kase, Staff Officer of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. “We use Threod’s UAS for observation flights and it’s not much different from what can be done with an airplane or a helicopter, the only difference is that the pilot is on the ground.”
In order to carry out the operation, a mobile communication center had been set up in the vicinity of the airport in the village of Lusti, from where the aircraft was launched. Then the image and video data gathered by the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was analyzed and processed.
“We use drones in training as much as possible,” Kase explained. “When the weather allows, we are in the air and we take the maximum out of this tool. The aircraft has been manufactured in Estonia by Threod Systems and the Defense Forces have obtained a certain number of them.”
The Stream C UAV is able to ascend to a height of over three kilometres, has a petrol engine and can stay in the air for up to eight hours, sending real-time video stream to the control center that is over a hundred kilometres away.
“It can be used in many ways, but the main use is to find your opponent’s activity in the field,” said Major Kase. “At the same time, we can also use it to observe and control our units. The soldier is no longer in the forest with binoculars, but he has an aircraft above with which he looks from and the picture is better.” (Source: UAS VISION)
12 May 20. EU’s top diplomat warns against defense cuts. The European Union’s top diplomat is warning member countries not to slash defense spending as their economies buckle under pressure from the coronavirus, as the disease could spark security challenges.
After chairing a video conference of defense ministers on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was clear the pandemic is very likely to deteriorate the security environment in the years ahead.
Borrell said as the crisis also hits the economy, it’s important to secure the necessary funding for security and defense.
Talks between the 27 EU member countries over their next long-term budget have been blocked for more than a year, well before the coronavirus hit Europe. Cuts to defense funds in that spending package were already under consideration. Given the impact of the disease, that seems even more likely now. (Source: Defense News)
12 May 20. On budget eve, EU defence money at risk from coronavirus. European Union plans for a multi-billion euro defence fund have been thrown into doubt by the economic shock of the coronavirus, officials and diplomats say, potentially threatening three years of unprecedented military cooperation. With EU governments focused on a trillion-euro plan to offset the worst economic contraction since the 1940s, the billions for defence in the 2021-2027 budget are at risk. Deep cuts would undermine EU ambitions to reduce a military reliance on the United States, complicate efforts to streamline a bewildering plethora of military systems in Europe, and decimate contracts for the European defence industry.
“We can expect an additional strain on resources, it is already looming,” said Jiri Sedivy, new chief executive of the European Defence Agency, which helps EU governments develop military capabilities. He took up his post this month.
“It’s especially disappointing considering that defence budgets only recently recovered from the financial shock of ten years ago,” he told Reuters.
With the European Commission expected to present revised budget proposals next week, defence ministers held a video conference on Tuesday with the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who made the case for defence after COVID-19.
Acknowledging that the coronavirus “is a new factor, demanding resources,” Borrell told a news conference: “The coronavirus has brought a new threat … and it requires a stronger Europe in the world.”
Military cooperation could help advances in technology for pandemics, officials say, including in chemical and biological research such as hi-tech, resistant clothing.
PLETHORA OF PROGRAMMES
Following Britain’s 2016 vote to quit the EU, France and Germany seized on European defence as a way to promote integration. They agreed a new pact with other EU governments.
While the United States, the world’s biggest military power, has 30 weapons systems, the EU has 178. The bloc has 17 types of battle tank, compared to just one in the United States.
After a 90m euro pilot phase to boost defence cooperation, the Commission proposed a 13bn euro budget to allow EU militaries to plan, spend and deploy together.
Some 6.5bn euros aimed to modernise Europe’s disjointed transport systems to move troops east in the case of conflict with Russia – known as military mobility.
Facing a funding gap because of Britain’s departure from the EU this year, negotiators last year cut money planned for military mobility to zero, prompting alarm in Baltic states.
“There is pessimism that has crept in, so we have to broaden the understanding of mobility,” said Ben Hodges, a retired U.S. general who commanded American army forces in Europe. “It’s not just about moving tanks to the front. This is about the flexibility of our leaders to do things to deal with a crisis.” (Source: Reuters)
11 May 20. Germany Needs Armed Drones for Military: Govt Adviser. Armed drones would be a useful purchase for Germany’s Bundeswehr, the outgoing parliamentary defense commissioner says. His comments came ahead of government deliberations on what is a controversial issue in Germany. Germany’s army should purchase armed drones to protect patrols in conflict areas, the outgoing parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces has said.
Such drones could act as “rapid close air support” and are perhaps “better in emergencies than waiting for a requested combat helicopter or fighter bomber,” Hans-Peter Bartels told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) in comments published on Monday.
But Bartels said no one in Germany wanted to adopt the “American use of armed drones for targeted killings.”
The US has often come under criticism for drone attacks in the Middle East in which numerous civilians have often been killed along with the targeted militants.
On Monday, the Defense Ministry is holding a session that includes several representatives of civil society along with members of parliamentary parties to discuss whether the drones should be purchased. The aim, the ministry says, is to trigger a “broad social debate” and lead into a long consultation period.
The topic of armed drones is a controversial one in German politics, with several politicians rejecting their use on ethical grounds. It is also a possibly divisive issue within Germany’s grand coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the leftist Social Democrats (SPD).
In December, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had recommended adding drones to the Bundeswehr’s arsenal during a trip to Afghanistan, where Germany has deployed troops in a training and support mission for local security forces. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Deutsche Welle German Radio)
11 May 20. B-1s Integrate with Allies and Partners During Bomber Task Force Mission. A B-1B Lancer from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, conducted a second long-range strategic Bomber Task Force mission to the European area of operations, May 11, 2020. A KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, enabled the B-1 to make the trip from Ellsworth Air Force Base and back without stopping. The flight included integration and interoperability training with Danish F-16s overflying Bornholm Island, Denmark, and Polish F-16s and MiG-29s joining to overfly Warsaw, Poland, in addition to overflight of Latvia and Lithuania. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Air Force Global Strike Command)
11 May 20. NATO chief backs Germany’s vow to keep war-ready US nukes. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has waded into Germany’s fiery debate about the decades-old pledge to retain American atomic bombs in the European nation as a way of deterring Russia.
Stoltenberg argued that only sticking to the doctrine of “nuclear sharing” would ensure Berlin’s continued seat at the table of strategic decision-making within the alliance.
“NATO’s nuclear sharing is a multilateral arrangement that ensures the benefits, responsibilities and risks of nuclear deterrence are shared among allies,” he wrote in an op-ed first posted on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung website. “Politically, this is significant. It means that participating allies, like Germany, make joint decisions on nuclear policy and planning, and maintain appropriate equipment.”
The policy prescribes that a smattering of countries in Europe that don’t possess atomic weapons will host such arms on their territory and maintain the means to deploy them. In the case of Germany, there are 20 B61 bombs reportedly stored at Büchel Air Base in western Germany’s state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
If called upon, German Tornado pilots would fly the weapons into enemy territory and toss them at the targets in a lofting maneuver, releasing them during a sharp upward and backward turn to maximize bomb airtime.
Debate has flared up in recent weeks about Germany’s nuclear role, following the German Defence Ministry’s recommendation to purchase 30 F-18s for the job, as the Tornado fighter jets are expected to reach the end of their useful life by 2030.
Led by Rolf Mützenich, the chairman of the Social Democrats in parliament, a group within the governing coalition’s junior party want to exit the NATO atomic arrangement, arguing that deal, too, has outlived its usefulness.
Not so, argues Stoltenberg.
“While NATO views its own nuclear deterrent primarily as a political tool, Russia has firmly integrated its nuclear arsenal into its military strategy,” Stoltenberg wrote. “It has placed nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, just 500 km from Berlin. It has threatened allies such as Denmark, Poland and Romania with nuclear strikes. Russia also forcibly and illegally annexed part of Ukraine, a country whose borders it had previously committed to respect in return for Ukraine giving up its own nuclear protection.”
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s defense minister and chief of the Christian Democrats, also cited lingering geopolitical tensions as an argument for keeping U.S. nukes in the country.
“As long as there are nuclear-weapons states who don’t want to be part of our community of values, we need a strong negotiating position,” she said last week, as reported by Die Zeit. “The deterrence capability of the nuclear-sharing arrangement serves that purpose. Those who want to give it up are weakening our security.”
To the uninitiated, the mere act of absorbing the nuclear debate here could seem like an acid trip through the various stages of Germany’s coming of age since the Cold War. It is easy to get lost in the details. The intricacies to be considered touch on anything from certifying new jets for nuclear missions, the folly of attempting an atomic bomb run with a manned fighter jet in the first place, or the deterrence value of B61 bombs in Europe when other classes of weapons would breathe much more destructive fire over the continent.
Perhaps that is why symbolic arguments aimed at preserving NATO cohesion appear to have the upper hand among Germany’s decision-makers for now.
Or as Stoltenberg put it: “All allies have agreed that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.” (Source: Defense News)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Homeland Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company