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08 Mar 23. Ben Wallace rethinks cuts to British Army in light of Ukraine. Ben Wallace is reviewing the decision to cut the size of the British Army to 73,000 troops. The defence secretary set out plans in 2021 to shrink the army to its smallest since the Napoleonic era. The number of full-time soldiers was to have fallen from 82,000 to 72,500, although this target was raised to 73,000.
The Times understands that the plans to shrink the army are under review after the invasion of Ukraine led to a nervous debate in Whitehall about its strength.
Ministers have admitted that Britain cannot field a warfighting division, and senior US generals have warned that the UK is no longer considered to have a “tier one” military. Wallace has been engaged recently in a “robust” debate with the Treasury about the need to invest in defence.
On Monday, the government will publish a refresh of its 2021 integrated review of foreign policy. It is unlikely to deviate from the main conclusions of the original, which identified Russia as the main threat to British interests and called China a “systemic competitor”.
The refresh will coincide with the announcement by Rishi Sunak of a boost in defence spending of £4bn to £5bn — about half of what Wallace had been demanding from the Treasury — as the prime minister travels to California to meet President Biden and Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, for the unveiling of the Aukus submarine deal.
The original 2021 review was accompanied by a defence command paper announcing cuts to the numbers of soldiers, tanks and armoured vehicles in the army to allow investment in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cyberwarfare and drones.
James Heappey, the armed forces minister, told the defence select committee that the refresh would be followed by an update to the defence command paper and that ministers were prepared to change their minds, having learnt the lessons from Ukraine. “If the conflict in Ukraine proves that we made the wrong call two or three years ago, then that’s something we’ve always been open to looking at again,” he told MPs. “There have been some robust exchanges with the Treasury in public and there have been some even more robust exchanges behind closed doors.”
Wallace had already said that he was reviewing the decision to cut the number of main battle tanks from 227 to 148 after General Sir Patrick Sanders, the chief of the general staff, said a donation of only 14 Challenger 2s to Ukraine would leave the UK “temporarily weaker”. Sanders has said it would be “perverse”, given the war, to go ahead with plans to cut the army given. Labour has said that it would freeze the cuts and keep the army at its present size of just under 76,000 troops. (Source: The Times)
07 Mar 23. Risk management consultancy Redstone Risk has today published a report – Unwrapping the Riddle of Defence Acquisition in the United Kingdom – setting out the fundamental changes required to optimise defence acquisition in the United Kingdom.
Based in the south-west of England, Redstone Risk has drawn on 20 years of practitioner experience delivering risk management consultancy and analysis to clients in the defence and energy sectors, using these insights to inform the ‘Redstone Way’ – a strategy for maximising intended military outcomes whilst minimising risks.
Co-written with Professor John Louth, a leading expert in defence and security research and former Director of the Defence, Industries and Society Research Programme at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the paper seeks to understand the challenges facing UK defence acquisition, and the options for maximising future performance to eliminate cost overruns, schedule slippages and capability gaps.
Coinciding with the Defence Sub- Committee’s inquiry into the Ministry of Defence’s equipment procurement processes, Redstone’s paper represents a timely and necessary intervention aimed at strengthening UK Defence’s ability to deliver critical military effects with greater agility.
Currently, Redstone Risk argues, defence acquisition in the UK is ‘requirements’-led, based on reforms from the late-90s, which government had intended to be a ‘faster, cheaper and better’ way to procure equipment. Whilst on paper such an approach seems sensible, the report from Redstone Risk argues that the ‘requirements’-led approach is dysfunctional, out-of-date and leads to a focus on project outputs rather than military outcomes.
Redstone Risk recommends in their paper that there should be a shift in focus from milestones and outputs to defence effects, and acquisition projects would be better delivered through the insights offered in ‘the Redstone Way’.
This is underpinned by the belief that considerations of the speed of technology innovation, changing budget assumptions and evolving conditions of warfare must be prioritised over misplaced project certainty and frozen user and system requirements within acquisition programmes.
Applying a strategic change budget within the UK Defence’s equipment plan would provide much needed flexibility to mitigate programme risk where it threatens operational effectiveness whilst, at the same time, maximising returns for the taxpayer.
The ‘Redstone Way’ also introduces an ‘Investment Ladder’ framework, which provides an architecture to help those delivering large scale acquisition projects. It makes the case that the “Body” of most defence acquisition programmes is made up of known and assured technologies, whilst the “Mind” of the programme is concerned with newer, transformative and disruptive capabilities that need to be proven and integrated.
Much of the causes of cost overruns or schedule delays relate to an inadequate maturation of these newer technologies and the challenges they pose towards integration. The “Spirit” of the ‘Investment Ladder’ considers team cultures for decision making to acknowledge and actively manage the issues and risks of blended technologies.
Put simply, new technologies are often uncertain and costs of development and time required to integrate them are not predictable, inevitably leading to delays and a spike in project costs if this is not recognised and actively managed at inception.
William Foulds, Managing Director of Redstone Risk, said: “The Government’s Integrated Review, renewed war in Europe and the challenges faced by our public finances has brought our defence acquisition model to the fore once more. Our paper offers a robust framework, based on my company’s practitioner experience on strategic programmes and Professor Louth’s research, that re-imagines risk management, benefits management and technology investments in defence. Redstone Risk offers a proven approach that has minimised cost overruns and schedule slippages on the programmes with which we’ve been involved. With the current economic climate placing constraints on the UK’s defence budget, adopting the ‘Redstone Way’ will help bolster the UK’s ability to respond to emerging threats whilst maximising taxpayers’ investments.”
Professor John Louth, former Director of the Defence, Industries and Society Research Programme at RUSI and a strategic advisor and non-executive director to a number of defence companies said: “Much of the UK’s approach to defence acquisition and capability generation is stuck in the late 1990s whilst profound technological change can be timed in months or just a few years. The practices of procurement, therefore, must be updated to reflect a period of unprecedented transformations in technologies, behaviours, governance and data-led decision-making. The practitioners of Redstone Risk understand this and have offered great value to their corporate clients and the UK frontline itself. This paper captures their approach which is in tune with much of my thinking.”
About Redstone Risk
Redstone Risk is a risk management consultancy which has worked collaboratively with clients and their end users in the defence and energy sectors since its inception in April 2017. It provides services in risk consulting, modelling and analytics to a number of organisations across both the public and private sector. To date, Redstone Risk estimates that it has brought its enterprise and risk management expertise to approximately £22bn-worth of defence programmes, contributing to the mitigation and avoidance of costly programme failures and the delivery of crucial defence effects.
08 Mar 23. Seoul approved Poland’s export of howitzers with S.Korean parts to Ukraine, official says. South Korea’s government approved export licenses for Poland last year to provide Ukraine with Krab howitzers, which are built with South Korean components, a defence acquisition official in Seoul told Reuters on Wednesday.
The comments are the first confirmation that South Korea officially acquiesced to at least indirectly providing weapons components to Ukraine for its war against Russia.
Seoul officials have previously declined to comment on the Krabs, fuelling speculation over whether South Korea had formally agreed or was simply looking the other way.
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The Defense Acquisition Program Administration’s (DAPA) technology control bureau reviewed and approved the transfer, said Kim Hyoung-cheol, director of the Europe-Asia division of the International Cooperation Bureau.
“We reviewed all the documentation and possible issues inside DAPA… then we made decision to give out export license to Poland,” he told Reuters in an interview at DAPA headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul.
Produced by Poland’s Huta Stalowa Wola, the Krab is a self-propelled howitzer made by combining a South Korean K9 Thunder chassis, British BAE Systems turret, French Nexter Systems 155mm gun, and a Polish fire control system.
Following Russia’s invasion in February last year, Poland sent 18 Krabs to Ukraine in May, and the two countries have signed orders for dozens more.
Russia calls the war a “special military operation”, and President Vladimir Putin last year accused Seoul of providing Ukraine with weapons, saying such a decision would destroy their bilateral relations.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said at the time that South Korea, a U.S. ally, had not provided any weapons. His administration says it has no plans to change that policy.
Yoon has said South Korean law makes it difficult to directly sell weapons to countries in active conflict. Seoul has also been reluctant to anger Russia despite growing pressure from the United States and NATO countries to provide weapons and ammunition.
“We obviously think South Korea should be doing more, and we have been communicating that to the Yoon administration regularly,” a Western diplomatic source in Seoul told Reuters.
During a visit to Seoul in January, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged South Korea to increase military support to Ukraine, citing other countries that have changed their policy of not providing weapons to countries in conflict following Russia’s invasion.
The head of DAPA has the right to decide what to export, but in practice it’s up to the president’s will as well, said Yang Uk, research fellow and defence expert at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
“A government has to consider all positions including the foreign ministry’s position, diplomacy, as well as economic considerations,” he said. “If Korea supports Ukraine, Russia may retaliate by selling up-to-date aircraft to North Korea or transfer technology that North Korea really needs.”
South Korea has benefited from Europe’s rush to rearm, signing a massive $5.8bn arms deal with Poland last year for hundred of Chunmoo rocket launchers, K2 tanks, K9 self-propelled howitzers, and FA-50 fighter aircraft.
Kim said Poland would need further South Korean permission to provide any of those new weapons to Ukraine. DAPA officials previously stressed that those sales are for boosting Poland’s defences, rather than helping Ukraine.
South Korea’s sensitivity over the issue has been highlighted by a deal to sell 155mm artillery shells to the United States. Officials in Washington have said they want to send the ammunition to Ukraine, but South Korea insists that the United States must be the end user.
A spokesman for South Korea’s ministry of defence said negotiations for that deal are ongoing. (Source: Reuters)
06 Mar 23. Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas has won a resounding victory in parliamentary elections, a triumph for one of the EU and Nato’s most pro-Ukraine voices. Kallas’s liberal Reform party came in first place in Sunday’s vote, taking 37 seats of the 101 in Estonia’s parliament and putting her in pole position to carry on as prime minister and form a new coalition. The far-right nationalist Ekre party came in second, its best-ever ranking, although it lost two seats to finish on 17. Estonia, a country of 1.3mn m people which borders Russia, has been one of the EU’s most vocal supporters of Ukraine. Kallas has heavily criticised Russia since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. Her frequent appearances in the international media have ensured Estonia punches above its weight as she has pushed other leaders to send more weapons to Ukraine, impose swingeing sanctions on Russia and reinforce the defence of the three Baltic states. President Alar Karis urged the parliamentary parties on Monday to swiftly agree a new coalition. “The current situation does not favour a long period of uncertainty between the outgoing government packing its bags and the incoming coalition starting up,” the non-partisan president said. Kallas’s landslide victory — Reform gained three seats and increased its share of the vote — gives her several possibilities for securing a majority in parliament, including a three-party coalition with two other liberal-leaning groups. Reform now has 37 seats, Ekre 17, Centre 16, new liberal party Eesti 200 14, and Kallas’s two current coalition partners — the Social Democrats and Isamaa — nine and eight respectively. Fifty-one seats are needed for a majority. Estonia’s international image was damaged and its political system shaken after the 2019 elections when Reform, despite also coming in first place, did not manage to form a coalition. Instead, Ekre and the Centre party, popular with Estonia’s large Russian-speaking minority, formed a controversial government for two years. The Centre party, the biggest loser in Sunday’s poll, lost 10 seats. During their stint in power, the nationalists insulted many of Estonia’s closest allies including US president Joe Biden and Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin. The coalition collapsed in scandal two years ago, leaving Kallas free to finally form a coalition and deal with both the Covid-19 crisis and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kallas said late on Sunday that Reform would talk to all parties but has already ruled out a coalition with Ekre. “We are very grateful for your assessment of our work,” she added. Estonia is pushing its Nato allies to announce a heavier military presence in the Baltic states when they meet for a summit in Vilnius in Lithuania in July. Kallas told the Financial Times last week that western unity was becoming harder to maintain but that support for Ukraine needed to continue until it was victorious in the war against Russia. (Source: FT.com)
03 Mar 23. Eurofighter Typhoon programme progresses. Defence Ministers from participating nations meet in Italy to discuss the pan-Europe Eurofighter Typhoon programme. From the UK, the Minister for Defence Procurement, Alex Chalk KC, joined the cohort in Milan to discuss on-going cooperation on the programme – a joint venture between UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, under the governance of NATO.
They discussed existing Eurofighter export campaigns and ongoing investment in the aircraft to further increase its military capability in the coming years.
As previously announced, Typhoon fighter jets are to be fitted with the world’s most advanced radar – as part of a £2.35bn investment and the programme continues to support more than 20,000 jobs throughout the UK.
Showcasing the successes of defence collaboration between allied nations, the Eurofighter Typhoon continues to be a highly capable, combat proven, air defence and ground attack aircraft with a range of world-beating capabilities.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Alex Chalk KC, said:
The Eurofighter Typhoon continues to be a world-beating aircraft and that is thanks to the strong and enduring relationship we have with our partners on the programme.
I am reassured by their commitment and look forward to further strengthening those ties in Combat Air Capability.
With 137 serving with the RAF, the Eurofighter Typhoon forms the backbone of the UK’s combat air capability. It entered service in 2003 and is planned to remain in service until at least 2040.
The fighter has been vital to UK operations in air-policing in Estonia, Op SHADER in the Middle East, quick reaction alerts at home and in the Falkland Islands, as well as working with the Qatari Emirati Airforce to provide air-security at the FIFA World Cup 2022
The UK’s defence cooperation with Italy extends further than the Eurofighter Typhoon programme. The UK and Italy have a proven 50-year track record of working closely together on Combat Aircraft development.
Last year, the Prime Minister announced that the UK, Italy and Japan would form an international coalition to develop the next generation of combat aircraft through the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP).
Combat air capabilities will remain vital to controlling airspace, helping protect our nations, our allies and our interests worldwide, and making a vital contribution to our overall military capability across all domains. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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