Sponsored by Exensor
26 Jun 20. China Becoming Concern for U.S. Commanders in Europe. It seems counter-intuitive, but China is increasingly a concern for the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa and NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command. Navy Adm. James G. Foggo told the participants of a webinar sponsored by the International Institute of Strategic Studies that China is actively working in Europe and Africa to subvert the international rules-based infrastructure that has maintained peace since the end of World War II.
China’s whole-of-government approach has expanded out of the Indo-Pacific into the Arctic, Europe and Africa. In this region China is conducting unsafe intercepts of aircraft and ships, he said. It is threatening nations. China has established an overseas military base in the Horn of Africa, and is looking to control other ports.
China is “purchasing news outlets and entertainment companies to push its propaganda and erase any criticism against its government,” he said. Chinese leaders are meddling in elections across the world, “restricting information about the coronavirus and donating equipment and personnel, even in Europe as a way to show that it is a world leader.”
The Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative combines economic, diplomatic, military and political arms to change the international rules-based architecture. They are offering financial relief and opportunities to nations, especially in Africa, and then using that to influence the governments. “This type of influence is a security concern, and it could be used to restrict access to key seaports and airport facilities while providing access to sensitive government and military information through the technology of state-owned and state-controlled enterprises,” he said.
In the past decade a lot has changed. Ten years ago, it was possible for U.S. officials to envision working with China and Russia.
But that was before Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine. That was before China started building and fortifying islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea. That was before both nations began a huge military build-up, and before both nations conducted cyber operations against other nations. Finally, that was before Russia and China meddled in domestic politics.
“China has even labeled itself as a ‘near Arctic country,'” he said, complicating an already complicated situation as new sea lanes of communication open in the North. “NATO can no longer ignore China’s activities in Europe,” he said. “Things like 5G — the Trojan horse. Buying port infrastructure, and the One Belt, One Road initiative.”
Foggo’s responsibility spans from the North Pole to South Africa, from the middle of the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, Black, Barents, Caspian and Baltic seas. There are 93 countries in this region with 23 percent of the world’s population.
The admiral gave a virtual tour of the area of operations beginning with the North. The United States has long been an Arctic nation — it was Navy Rear Adm. Robert Peary who led the first expedition to reach the North Pole. “The diminishing ice coverage is causing competition to emerge in this new area,” he said. “The High North is attracting global interest with abundant natural resources and opening maritime routes that have not been navigable before.”
Russia, with its long Arctic coast, is aggressively pursuing its interests in the region. They are building new ice breakers and arming them with offensive weaponry. They are re-occupying old Soviet era bases. “We’re seeing a new era of maritime competition in the Arctic, and strong navies are needed to protect common interests and ensure the timely flow of trade,” he said.
The North Atlantic is an integral part of the name of the most successful military alliance in history. Foggo believes NATO is involved in the Fourth Battle of the Atlantic. The first battle was World War I, the second during World War II and the third being the Cold War.
Last year, unclassified sources indicated there were 10 Russian submarines underway in the North Atlantic. This is a lot even when compared to Cold War sailings, he said. Russia has also already earmarked five new attack submarines for the Northern Fleet. “We still have the competitive advantage in the undersea domain, … but they’re pretty good at their tradecraft,” he said.
The U.S. Second Fleet is meant to counter this development. “The North Atlantic is critical to NATO’s collective security, and whoever can exert control over this region could either protect or threaten NATO’s northern flank,” Foggo said. “The North Atlantic is therefore synonymous with our security and our sovereignty.”
The Trident Juncture Exercise in the North Atlantic and the High North was in part a demonstration to the Russians of the capabilities the alliance has and can deploy to the area. U.S. and British ships also cruised in the Barents Sea last month to reinforce the point, Foggo said.
The admiral next discussed the Black Sea and upholding international law and norms in that strategic body of water. American and NATO warships routinely conduct patrols in the Black Sea. Last year, there were around 240 days of presence in the Black Sea. “I think that’s a wonderful demonstration of our commitment to our Black Sea allies and partners,” he said.
The Eastern Mediterranean “is becoming one of the most kinetic places in the world,” Foggo said. Russian forces are propping up the Syrian regime. They have submarines in the region capable of hitting European capitals with little warning, he said. “Routine violations of sovereign airspace and dangerously … unsafe intercepts have become standard operating procedure for Russia,” the admiral said.
Russia occupied Crimea and its strategic bases. It has forces in Syria. They have moved forces into Libya, and Foggo sees this as dangerous. “This highlights the need to maintain a vigilant, highly capable naval presence throughout European waters,” he said.
The world ignores Africa at its own peril, Foggo said. “Africa is a complex continent of great importance,” he said. “By 2050 one in four people in the world will live in Africa — that’s 2.5 billion people. The potential African workforce will exceed China’s by 2030 [and] exceed India’s by 2035.”
There is tremendous poverty on the continent and vast amounts of natural resources. Thirty of the top 50 most fragile states in the world are in Africa.
Working with partner nations and organizations like the African Union, U.S. and NATO security experts work to build security capabilities in nations of the continent. They work to promote connectivity among the nations of the continent and intelligence sharing.
“I think we’re making a difference in Africa,” Foggo said. “We saw that with the development of the 2013 Yaounde (Cameroon) Code of Conduct signed by 25 Western and Central African nations as they collectively sought to address matters such as piracy, illegal fishing and illicit maritime activity. The Code of Conduct framework established objectives and improved inter-regional coastal relationships and joint capabilities. The resulting joint efforts have already reduced illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.”
Moving forward in the entire region, the United States needs to maintain and build the relationships from the High North to the Cape of Good Hope, the admiral said. “You can’t surge trust, it has to be developed over time,” he said. “We also need to reevaluate our force structure, and we need to champion what we have here in the theater.”
There also has to be a re-evaluation of NATO’s maritime strategy. The last look came in 2011, before a resurgent Russia and a newly active China.
“Our collective strength, that ability to project power with the help of our capable NATO allies and partners is what enables us to confidently state that there truly is no competition in this era of great power competition that we cannot overcome,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
26 Jun 20. NATO Chief Talks Nuclear Arms, Burden-sharing, NATO 2030. NATO welcomes nuclear arms talks between the United States and Russia, and strongly supports the idea of China’s would-be involvement, as well, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels this week.
The secretary general spoke as part of the Brussels Forum.
Arms control treaties are the best way “to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, and that will make us all safer and reduce the risk of any use of nuclear weapons,” he said. “I welcome that Russia and the United States are now sitting down and talking to each other on arms control. But having said that, I also strongly support that China should be involved. China is … a global power. China has a responsibility to be part of global arms control arrangements.”
China is modernizing and enlarging its nuclear arsenal and the means of delivery. “We assess that within a decade, China will have doubled the number of nuclear warheads,” Stoltenberg said. “That matters for all of us.”
China is becoming a more important military power with long-range power projection capabilities. The effect of these moves is felt worldwide. Chinese participation in arms control negotiations would help head off an arms race, Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg was asked about the solidarity of the alliance, especially in light of President Donald J. Trump’s insistence that allies reach the 2% of gross domestic product invested in defense.
At the same time, Trump is committed to the alliance, Stoltenberg said. “He has also now publicly, several times, recognized that European allies and Canada are investing more,” the secretary general said.
Eight of the 30 nations in the alliance spend 2% of GDP on defense, but all have increased spending. Since the summit in 2016, European allies have invested $130bn more than originally planned. “That helps and it strengthens the solidarity within the alliance,” he said.
It remains to be seen what effect the coronavirus pandemic will have on the economies of all nations in the alliance, he said.
Russian presence in Libya concerns the secretary general, and NATO allies have also expressed their concern for the development. “There are differences between NATO allies on the situation in Libya, at the same time, all NATO allies agree that we are concerned about the increased Russian presence in Libya,” he said. “This is part of a pattern with more Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean. We see them in Syria. We see them elsewhere.”
Russia has deployed fighter jets and other military capabilities — including Russian mercenaries — to the country. “All allies are concerned about the increased Russian presence,” he said. “We also agree that we need to monitor and follow this very closely and share intelligence and information on the increased Russian presence.”
Stoltenberg discussed his NATO 2030 initiative at the forum saying the reason the alliance has preserved peace is because of its ability to change.
“Now we have to change again,” he said. “It’s about keeping NATO strong militarily, it’s about strengthening NATO politically and it’s about developing a more global approach to NATO.”
Part of that will entail the alliance cooperating more fully with the European Union. It also requires a keen eye on China and an awareness of actions in the Mediterranean and into continental Africa.
“One of the purposes of NATO 2030, is to make sure that we adapt, that we change, as we see the world is changing,” he said. “This is partly about Russia.”
But it is also about China, and the effect of new technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, hypersonics and more.
“We don’t regard China as an adversary,” he said. “We don’t see any threat against any NATO ally. But just the fact that we have such a growing power, which is actually coming closer to us in the Arctic, in Africa, in cyberspace, investing in our infrastructure here in Europe and with weapons systems that can reach all NATO allies, of course matters. That’s the reason why this is part of NATO 2030.” (Source: US DoD)
26 Jun 20. Here’s why Britain is struggling to form a fully effective carrier strike group. Britain’s Royal Navy took delivery of two new aircraft carriers, but a government report on the ships achieving operational capability has laid bare some obstacles toward making a fully effective carrier strike group.
In a report released June 25, the National Audit Office pointed to delays in developing the Crowsnest airborne early warning radar and contracting to build the logistics ships destined to support the 65,000-ton carriers as ongoing problems for the Royal Navy. The NAO also raised questions about future funding.
The Ministry of Defence is making slow “progress in developing the crucial supporting activities that are needed to make full use of a carrier strike group, such as the Crowsnest radar system and the ability to resupply the carriers. In addition, it has not established a clear view on the future cost of enhancing, operating and supporting carrier strike, which creates the risk of future affordability pressures,” the NAO said.
Added the head of the watchdog: “The MoD also needs to get a firmer grip on the future costs of carrier strike. By failing to understand their full extent, it risks adding to the financial strain on a defense budget that is already unaffordable.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of two carriers built by British industry in a £4.6bn (U.S. $5.7bn) program, is already undertaking extensive sea trials, with its F-35B jets ahead of a planned first deployment next year.
The second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, is also conducting sea trials but is some months behind its sister ship. The warships are not expected to be operated simultaneously.
The NAO said the Lockheed Martin-led program to install Crowsnest radars on Royal Navy Merlin helicopters is running 18 months late and will impact how the British carrier strike force is initially deployed. The watchdog said the MoD is working to come up with an acceptable baseline radar by the time HMS Queen Elizabeth undertakes its initial deployment next year.
“As at April 2020, the Department [the MoD] expected to achieve initial Crowsnest operating capability in September 2021, some 18 months later than planned,” the NAO reported. “As this is later than the December 2020 milestone for declaring initial operating capability for carrier strike, the Department is working to provide a credible baseline radar capability for the first deployment with the United States in 2021. It expects to recover some lost time to declare full operating capability in May 2023, 11 months later than planned. However, the existing timetable contains no contingency to accommodate any further slippage. The delays will affect how the Department can use carrier strike during this period.”
British and U.S. Marine Corps jets will be based on the carrier during its first deployment, partly because the U.K. does not have a sufficient inventory of available jets. Eighteen of the aircraft have so far been delivered for use by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force
Lockheed Martin secured the Crowsnest contract in 2017, with Searchwater radar supplier Thales and helicopter builder Leonardo as subcontractors.
Crowsnest is a key element in the protection of the naval strike group, giving air, maritime and land detection and tracking capabilities.
The NAO said the delay “has been caused by a subcontractor, Thales, failing to meet its contractual commitments for developing equipment and not providing sufficient information on the project’s progress. Neither MoD nor its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, were aware of these problems until it was too late, reflecting MoD’s ineffective oversight of its contract with Lockheed Martin.”
A Lockheed Martin UK spokesperson said the company is working to deliver the Crowsnest capability in time for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deployment.
“As prime contractor for Crowsnest, we understand the fundamental component that this program delivers to the UK’s Carrier Enabled Power Projection. We will continue to ensure that the program develops in line with our requirement to deliver the Crowsnest capability to support the first operational deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth,” the spokesperson said. “We will work with our industrial partners and the MoD to address any developmental issues which arise, including the deployment of additional resources, if necessary, to maintain program timescales and deliver this critical capability to the Royal Navy.”
Thales UK did not respond to Defense News’ requests for comment by press time.
The NAO partly blames the setbacks for why the MoD faces a “tight timetable” to develop full operating capability for a strike group by 2023. But the watchdog also highlighted the Fleet Solid Support program as another obstacle.
The MoD had targeted 2026 for when the first of up to three logistics ships could provide ammunition, food and general stores to the carrier strike group, but that timeline has extended by up to three years as a result of ongoing uncertainty over the schedule to compete and build the vessels operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
The MoD abandoned a competition to build the ships late last year, saying it was concerned about obtaining value for money. At the time, the program was mired in controversy over whether the contract should go to a British shipyard consortium or awarded to a foreign company. That issue remains unresolved.
No date has officially been given for restarting the competition. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the parliamentary Defence Committee earlier this year that he thinks it will relaunch in September, but that has not been confirmed.
Defence Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood was particularly critical of the failure to provide the necessary support ships, noting that without them, the carriers’ capability would be seriously undermined.
“It’ll be hotched and potched, only available for short operational journeys,” he told the Daily Telegraph on June 26. “It will be for display purposes only, and that’s a very expensive toy.”
Britain has only one solid support vessel, RFA Fort Victoria, that can replenish a carrier at sea. It entered service in 1994 and is due to retire in 2028, having had its life expectancy extended.
The NAO report said the limitations of RFA Fort Victoria would have a knock-on effect to carrier operations.
“Having only one support ship with limited cargo capacity slows the tempo and reach at which the Department [the MoD] can replenish a carrier group. In addition, the Department will have restricted options for deploying the carriers for much of 2022 because RFA Fort Victoria will be unavailable due to major planned maintenance work,” the NAO said.
Responding to the report, an MOD spokesperson said: “Carrier strike is a complex challenge, which relies on a mix of capabilities and platforms. We remain committed to investing in this capability, which demonstrates the U.K.’s global role.
“Despite the disruptions of COVID-19, the carrier strike group is on track for its first operational deployment.” (Source: Defense News)
26 Jun 20. Carrier Support Ships Delay ‘Deeply Concerning’ – GMB. Fleet Solid Support ships vital for future of UK shipbuilding, says GMB union.
GMB, the union for shipbuilding and ship repair workers, has reacted to the National Audit Office’s report on progress on delivering the full UK aircraft carrier programme.
The NAO warned that delivery of the Ministry of Defence’s forthcoming order for new supply ships, which is worth up to £1.5bn, will now be delayed by between 18 and 36 months. 
Meanwhile, thousands of shipbuilding jobs have been lost, and the Appledore yard closed last year as work dried up.
The Ministry of Defence is still considering whether the Fleet Solid Support ship order should be built in the UK or put out to international competition.
Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer and maritime Chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), said:
‘This news is deeply concerning. Until these support ships are delivered, taxpayers will never see full value for their £6.4bn investment in the Royal Navy’s new carrier fleet.
‘Yards in the UK are crying out for work, and with every extra day of delay that passes there is a greater risk that more sovereign defence manufacturing capability will be lost.
‘The Royal Navy needs these support ships and our yards need the work – it really is a no-brainer.
‘GMB urges the Ministry of Defence to provide the economy with the shot in the arm it needs by bringing forward this contract and guaranteeing that the ships will be built in the UK.’
26 Jun 20. UK Carrier Strike – Preparing for Deployment. Today the National Audit Office (NAO) reports that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) needs to focus on developing crucial supporting elements to make full use of Carrier Strike, as well as develop a better understanding of how much it will cost in the future.
Carrier Strike describes the ability to launch fixed-wing aircraft from a ship to undertake a range of military tasks. The carriers will allow the MoD to respond to conflicts and engage in humanitarian relief efforts anywhere in the world at short notice. It is based around the two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers – the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy – and Lightning jets.
The MoD has built the two new carriers in line with its timetable and for 3% above the budget, both of which it agreed in 2013. It has so far taken delivery of 18 Lightning jets.
Carrier Strike is planned to reach its ‘initial operating capability’ by December 2020. The MoD expects to meet this date, although it will not have the full level of radar capability that it expected (Emphasis added throughout—Ed.) at this point. The timetable for it to develop ‘full operating capability’ by 2023 remains tight.
The new airborne radar system (Crowsnest) – which is a key part of Carrier Strike’s protection – is 18 months late. This will affect Carrier Strike’s capabilities for its first two years of operation. The delay has been caused by a subcontractor, Thales, failing to meet its contractual commitments for developing equipment and not providing sufficient information on the project’s progress. Neither MoD nor its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, were aware of these problems until it was too late, reflecting MoD’s ineffective oversight of its contract with Lockheed Martin.2
Meg Hillier, chairman of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, which follows the work of the NAO, told the Portsmouth News that “The Ministry of Defence has lofty ambitions for the carriers but hasn’t put its money where its mouth is. Worryingly, it still doesn’t know the full cost of supporting and operating carrier strike.
“It must now ensure that the three front-line commands involved sing from the same hymn sheet. Otherwise, the Royal Navy will be stuck with a hollowed-out capability and unable to satisfy expectations.”
The MoD has made slow progress developing three new support ships, which are crucial to Carrier Strike’s operation. It has only one ship able to resupply the carriers with the supplies they need, such as ammunition and food. The MoD has long been aware that this will restrict Carrier Strike, and the cancellation of a recent competition to build new supply ships – because of concerns over value for money – mean they will not be available until the late 2020s.
The MoD will incur additional costs while it keeps the current ship in operation longer than intended.
The MoD is intending to buy 138 Lightning jets in total, which will help sustain Carrier Strike operations for the next 40 years. It has ordered 48 jets but has not yet committed to buying more. It has also deferred receipt of seven of the jets to 2025, a year later than planned, because of financial pressures. Since the NAO last reported in 2017, the approved cost of the Lightning project has increased by 15% from £9.1bn to £10.5bn because of additional expenditure on system upgrades, integration of UK weapons and sustainment costs. The MoD is planning to review the number and types of jets it needs, but buying fewer aircraft would affect how Carrier Strike can be used.
The MoD does not know how much Carrier Strike will cost over its life. For example, it is yet to make important decisions on the enhancement of the capability over the longer-term, such as how to replace or extend the Merlin helicopters. The NAO recommends that the MoD improves its understanding of the costs of running, supporting and enhancing Carrier Strike over its lifetime. The MoD may not have made sufficient provision in later years’ budgets for the full costs of Carrier Strike.
“The MoD has made good progress with the big-ticket items needed to deliver Carrier Strike, such as the carriers, the first squadron of jets and the new infrastructure. But it must pay much greater attention to the supporting capabilities needed to make full use of Carrier Strike.
“The MoD also needs to get a firmer grip on the future costs of Carrier Strike. By failing to understand their full extent, it risks adding to the financial strain on a defence budget that is already unaffordable,” said Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO.
— ‘Initial operating capability’ is the minimum level at which the capability or service is usefully deployable. In the case of Carrier Strike, it is a single, trained Lightning squadron (12 jets), able to embark on a joint warfighting mission with appropriate support and maritime protection. ‘Full operating capability’ is the level of military capability which is intended for a particular project.
— In November 2016, the MoD agreed a fixed price contract with Lockheed Martin to deliver the Crowsnest project. Thales and Leonardo Helicopters were appointed as the sub-contractors.
— The NAO has previously reported on the Carrier Strike in 2017, 2013, November 2011 and July 2011.
The National Audit Office (NAO) scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government and the civil service. It helps Parliament hold government to account and it use its insights to help people who manage and govern public bodies improve public services. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Gareth Davies, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO.
(Source: defense-aerospace.com/UK National Audit Office)
25 Jun 20. Germany pushes for a common EU stance on threats to the bloc. Germany will use its turn at the helm of the European Council to launch the first-ever common threat analysis for the European Union, as well as broker a deal allowing nonmember countries access to defense cooperation projects.
The two objectives represent a push to rekindle the bloc’s nascent defense efforts, which are facing growing pressure to show tangible results after a preoccupation with bureaucratic groundwork.
A threat analysis with buy-in from all members of the union could provide a fresh framework from which to derive new capability requirements. Such an analysis, which is routine for many national governments, has never been drawn up from an EU perspective.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer described the effort as a quest for a “common strategic compass” in an interview Wednesday with the Atlantic Council think tank. The exercise, for example, could lead the EU to get behind new counterterrorism initiatives in Africa to relieve the demand for U.S. presence there, she said.
Finding common ground among 27 countries on such thorny issues as dealing with Russia and China is a high bar in itself. Sustaining the trans-Atlantic relationship amid a U.S. presidency seen in Europe as increasingly cantankerous toward the bloc — and Germany in particular — is expected to add another challenge to Berlin’s six-month presidency on the council, which begins July 1.
American defense companies want the greatest possible access to the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation defense initiative, or PESCO, which comes with subsidies from the European Defence Fund.
The fund stands to get about $9bn in the latest long-term budget proposal covering 2021-2027, down from more than $14bn in the European Commission’s initial pitch.
But as U.S. officials push for an inclusive policy covering defense contractors of nonmember countries, European leaders say they want to focus first and foremost on streamlining intra-European cooperation.
A deal for including not only U.S. companies but also those from the U.K. and other EU partners has seemed within reach for some time.
But the devil is in the details: At the heart of it lies the challenge of letting outsiders partake in cooperative programs on a mechanistic level, while keeping them from receiving European defense money intended only for member countries.
In that spirit, Kramp-Karrenbauer, along with the defense ministers of France, Italy and Spain, has advocated for a Finnish proposal seen as a potential solution.
“The open question of third-party participation rules must be resolved as quickly as possible,” the four ministers wrote to EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell in late May. The Finnish proposal, the four defense ministers argued, should represent the bloc’s consensus on the issue. “This balanced compromise is in the interest of all participating member states on potential partners.”
According to a German Defence Ministry spokesman, the proposal in question rests on the premise that nonmember states, especially NATO allies, can become part of PESCO projects as long as an EU country retains “primacy” in the effort.
The proposal text itself hints at the fence that EU officials strive to create around the money source at the center of it all.
“The involvement of entities in PESCO projects does not imply that such entities will necessarily be eligible for funding under the EDIDP or EDF regulations,” it read, using shorthand for the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, a separate funding stream, and the European Defence Fund.
Kramp-Karrenbauer struck an optimist tone in her Atlantic Council appearance on Wednesday. “We will try to implement the proposal so we can get third states onboard in PESCO projects,” she said.(Source: Defense News)
26 Jun 20. Warning over plans for new Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Ambitious plans for the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers – each of which cost more than £3bn – will not be met without proper funding, the government spending watchdog has said.
The National Audit Office highlighted concerns over missing key elements such as aircraft and support ships.
The Ministry of Defence said it expects to meet its target of declaring an “initial operating capability” for the carriers by December 2020.
But the NAO called the target “tight”.
And it is uncertain whether the first of the ships would be fully ready in time for 2028, when the only existing operational one is due to be taken out of service.
The MoD is yet to commit the funding required for enough Lightning II fighter jets to sustain the carriers over their expected 50-year operating life, the NAO said in its report.
It also said the Navy had just one supply ship able to keep the carriers stocked with food and ammunition while on operations.
And it further warned the carriers’ new Crowsnest airborne radar system – which forms a crucial part of its defences – was running 18 months late, further diminishing its capabilities during its first two years.
Labour MP Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee which follows the work of the NAO, said the Navy was in danger of being left with a “hollowed-out” capability unless the issues were addressed.
“The Ministry of Defence has lofty ambitions for the carriers but hasn’t put its money where its mouth is,” Ms Hillier added.
“Worryingly, it still doesn’t know the full cost of supporting and operating Carrier Strike.”
A MoD spokesman said: “Carrier Strike is a complex challenge, which relies on a mix of capabilities and platforms.
“We remain committed to investing in this capability, which demonstrates the UK’s global role.
“Despite the disruptions of Covid-19, the Carrier Strike group is on track for its first operational deployment.” (Source: BBC)
24 Jun 20. UK may not upgrade all F-35Bs to Block 4 standard. The United Kingdom may not upgrade all of its early model Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning combat aircraft to the latest Block 4 standard later this decade, declaring it will decide numbers based on ‘military capability requirements’.
The UK government has said it has not yet decided how many of the 48 F-35Bs it will have received by 2026 will be upgraded to the latest Block 4 standard, noting any decision on numbers will be based on ‘military capability requirements’. (Lockheed Martin)
Answering a question in the House of Commons Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Jeremy Quin, said that, while the international Block 4 (full combat) upgrade has been costed into the UK’s procurement programme, the precise numbers of already-delivered jets to go through the retrofit process have not yet been decided.
“The F-35 Block 4 upgrade has been included in the UK F-35 programme budget since its inception. Decisions on the number of aircraft to be upgraded will be made on the basis of military capability requirements. The costs of the Block 4 upgrade are managed through the F-35 Joint Programme Office and, as one partner in the multinational F-35 programme, the UK is not in a position to share detailed cost information,” the minister said. (Source: Jane’s)
23 Jun 20. UK government’s arms export watchdog has been shut down for six months. Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told ‘any government that is serious about ending the use of our weapons against innocent civilians abroad’ would have committee up and running.
The watchdog that scrutinises the UK’s arms exports has not been operating for six months, it has emerged – amid concerns that sales approved by the government are fuelling conflict and repression abroad.
Parliament’s Committee on Arms Export Control (CAEC) has not yet been reconstituted after being dissolved ahead of last year’s general election, meaning Britain’s arms exports are not facing the usual scrutiny.
It comes amid a pending Supreme Court case on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, and a call from MPs and human rights groups to stop selling rubber bullets and tear gas to the US for use against peaceful civil rights protesters.
Britain is the second biggest arms exporter in the world and sells weapons to regimes with poor human rights records, despite government controls on the issuing of licences. But MPs warned they were being “kept in the dark” on the arms trade while campaigners said the lack of scrutiny from parliament would fuel abuses.
In a letter to Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, Labour’s shadow minister for peace Fabian Hamilton said that “any government that is serious about ending the use of our weapons against innocent civilians abroad” would ensure the committee was up and running and had the powers it needed.
The committee currently has no chair or membership, and the currently highly bureaucratic procedure for getting it up and running requires the agreement of four other select committees.
The unusual system has caused problem before, with a nine-month gap in sittings in 2015 after the retirement of the then chair Sir John Stanley. That gap came at the height of the Saudi Arabian war in Yemen and delayed a committee investigation into the conflict.
“The Committee must be reformed as soon as possible. UK arms sales are having devastating consequences around the world. Time and again the government has shown that it cannot be trusted to follow its own rules. It has consistently prioritised arms company profits over human rights,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
“Right now, the Saudi Air Force is using UK-made fighter jets to drop UK-made bombs over Yemen. Following last year’s Court of Appeal ruling we know that that these arms sales were illegal as well as being immoral. Similarly, we know that UK-made tear gas has been used in Hong Kong and exported to police forces across the US.
“This cannot be left another six months. Parliament must be able to effectively scrutinise arms sales and hold the government to account for its role in fuelling and enabling these abuses.”
Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary said: “It’s been six months since the General Election and the committee that scrutinises arms exports hasn’t yet been re-established. We’re calling on government to get it up and running with delay. Our weapons are our responsibility. We must not be kept in the dark any longer.” (Source: glstrade.com/Independent)
21 Jun 20. UK Accused of Selling Arms to Saudi Arabia A Year After Court Ban. The [UK] government stands accused of ignoring a landmark court ruling restricting UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
In a judgment handed down a year ago, the court of appeal ruled it was “unlawful” for the government to have allowed the sale of arms to the kingdom for use in Yemen, where independent estimates suggest a Saudi-led coalition has been responsible for the deaths of more than 8,000 civilians since 2015.
The ruling barred the government from approving any new licences to Saudi Arabia and forced it to review the decisions on existing ones, a process the Department for International Trade said would take it “up to several months”.
But, a year on, these licences continue to operate, allowing for the export of fighter jet components and aircraft maintenance. The aerospace giant BAE, the UK’s largest arms exporter to the kingdom, confirmed in its 2019 report that it continues to fulfil its 2018 Typhoon support services contract.
Now, in a letter to international trade secretary Liz Truss, her Labour shadow Emily Thornberry and members of other opposition parties claim, “we are left to assume that – despite being ordered to review these licences by the courts, and having 12 months to do so – your department has simply chosen not to comply”. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/The Guardian)
22 Jun 20. RAF Fighter Jets, Surveillance and Refuelling Aircraft Have Been in Action Across Europe This Week in Support of Nato Allies. Missions included escorting US strategic bombers and scrambling twice to monitor Russian planes operating around the Baltic Nations airspace.
During the early morning of 15 June, Typhoons from RAF Coningsby met up with two US Ai Force (USAF) B-52 bombers off the North of Scotland as they arrived from their base in the USA to conduct a long-range strategic training mission in the annual NATO BALTOPs exercise in the Baltic region.
The Typhoons welcomed the B-52s as they entered UK airspace and then escorted them across the North Sea as they were refuelled by USAF KC-135 tankers from RAF Mildenhall. The Typhoons from XI(F) Sqn were supported by a Voyager tanker from RAF Brize Norton, with coordination being provided by RAF Sentry and Sentinel aircraft from RAF Waddington.
As the B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota left Danish airspace, they conducted additional training with French Mirage 2000 and then RAF Typhoon jets from the Baltic Air Policing mission as they flew over Latvia and Estonia.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “NATO remains the best guarantor of our collective security and we continue to stand alongside our allies in the Baltics. That is why, despite the ongoing pandemic, the RAF’s participation in this multinational exercise is vital for enhancing Allied capabilities and demonstrating our combined strength.”
The following day Typhoons from the RAF Lossiemouth based 6 Sqn deployed in Lithuania, switched from the BALTOPS exercise to intercept a SU-24 Fencer E and two SU-35 Flanker M Russian aircraft operating off the Baltic coast. This was followed on the 18 June by another Typhoon scramble to deter and intercept a Russian IL-20 COOT A intelligence gathering aircraft over the Baltic Sea.
Wing Commander Stu Gwinnett, the 135 Expeditionary Air Wing commander that is carrying out the NATO Air Policing mission said:
“This weeks missions have highlighted the flexibility of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission; whether it’s working with the US Bomber Task Force or reacting to live Baltic airspace incursions, we are ready to react. This is a testament to the flexibility, training and professionalism of the deployed RAF personnel here in Lithuania and our ability to work with our NATO partners.”
Reflecting on the air activity this week Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, the Chief of the Air Staff said: “In a week that has been a painful reminder of the dangers of what we do, we have also demonstrated air and space power on a global scale, operating at range, at speed, and precisely. Royal Air Force command and control, surveillance, refuelling and fighter aircraft working alongside our NATO allies, patrolling our skies and protecting our shared freedom.” (Source: ASD Network)
22 Jun 20. A naval arms race is gaining speed in the Mediterranean Sea. In mid-May, Libyans standing on a beach in the west of the country reportedly watched a Turkish frigate off the coast fire a missile, which downed a drone operated by the United Arab Emirates.
The incident has not been confirmed but is consistent with Turkey’s bold use of naval power in recent weeks as it takes a central role in a proxy war in Libya that has sucked in regional players from Russia and Egypt to Qatar and France.
So far, Turkey’s foes in Libya appear to be impressed by its show of strength.
“In recent days there have been no reports of UAE drone flights against Turkish backed targets,” said Jalel Harchaoui, an analyst at the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands.
Turkey’s stance in Libya shows how the Mediterranean has turned in a few years from a backwater on the fringes of Middle East turmoil to a major flash point. As Libya burns, tensions are also rising over new gas fields in the Mediterranean and Russia is re-entering the fray.
The result is a new round of naval rearmament.
“Tension is escalating and I see procurement following suit,” said Sidharth Kaushal, a sea power research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
Turkish navy ships have been a constant presence off the Libyan coast since Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan sided with the U.N.-recognized Libyan government in Tripoli in its defense of the capital against an attack by Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifar Haftar.
This spring, Tripoli forces backed by Syrian fighters sent in by Turkey rebuffed Haftar, despite the general receiving backing from Russian mercenaries, the UAE, Egypt and France.
To help ensure the victory, Turkish vessels are thought to have given sensor support to Turkish drones as they attacked Haftar and destroyed Russian Pantsir air defense systems backing him.
Turkey sails ex-Oliver Hazard Perry-class vessels it acquired second-hand from the U.S. Navy which fire surface to air missiles, and is also eyeing new frigates, said Kaushal. “They might build their own hull but would shop abroad for electronics and sensors, rather like China did in the early 2000?s,” he said.
Vessels that Turkey has already deployed in the Mediterranean have been also been busy escorting cargo ships to Libya allegedly loaded with arms and supplies for fighters in Tripoli.
One such cargo ship was reportedly confronted on June 10 by a European Union task force set up to stop violations of an international arms embargo on Libya, only for the Turkish frigates escorting the vessel to turn back the EU force.
What makes the new tension in the Mediterranean so confusing is how old rules and alliances have been blurred. Turkey’s alleged violation of the arms embargo came weeks after its vessels had joined partner navies for a NATO exercise off the Algerian coast.
Turkey has meanwhile been accused of threatening Cyprus’ rights to undersea gas deposits with its own plans to drill in the Mediterranean, sparking a show-of-force naval exercise by Turkey’s NATO allies France and Italy to tamp down Turkey’s aggression.
Turkey’s behavior has also rattled Egypt, said analyst Harchaoui, despite Cairo’s own recent spending spree on naval assets from France, including two Mistral amphibious vessels purchased after Paris opted not to sell them to Russia, four Gowind corvettes and a FREMM frigate.
Italy, which has also built FREMMs in a joint program with France, is now in talks to sell two of the vessels to Egypt. The ships are ready, since they were originally built for the Italian navy, which will now have to wait for the construction of two more ships by Italy’s Fincantieri to fill its own quota.
At the eastern end of the Mediterranean, Russia is meanwhile renewing its Black Sea fleet and looking to leverage its access to Syria’s Tartus port to increase its naval clout in the Mediterranean as it seeks to become a player in the region, said Kaushal.
“Russia wants to be able to arm all its vessels with its Kalibr cruise missile, which has previously fired 2,000 kilometers from the Caspian into Syria,” he said. “It is a very cheap way to build up power projection. Putting this type of missile on low-cost vessels is the future, Russia is setting the trend by making minimal resources go a long way, and France and Italy, as well as Greece and Turkey may follow suit,” he said.
“Russia also has the P-800 Oniks supersonic anti-ship missile, which reaches 400 kilometers to 600 kilometers — and there is no Western equivalent,” he added.
The build up of lethal naval hardware in the Mediterranean is also going on under the sea, with submarines returning to the area in numbers.
“It is not impossible that Turkey would send submarines to Libya,” said Harchaoui.
Last year Algeria test fired a Kalibr missile from one of its Kilo-class Russian submarines, while in April, Egypt took delivery of the third of four German HDW Class 209 subs it has ordered. Germany has also supplied Turkey and Greece, which operate 12 and 11 subs respectively.
“There are 20-30 submarines deployable in the Mediterranean now, a higher number than 10 years ago,” said Paolo Crippa, a defense analyst at the Cesi think tank in Rome.
The total number of subs operated by countries giving on to the Mediterranean is currently 63, he said.
It is therefore hardly surprising the Italian Navy is increasing its focus on anti-submarine capabilities. If it does hand over two of its FREMM vessels for the Egypt deal, it will likely order the two replacements with added anti-submarine capabilities.
Italy is meanwhile due to receive a new LHD vessel, the Trieste, which will host the navy’s F-35Bs, while local yard Fincantieri is also building new PPA vessels for the navy.
In a defense white paper drawn up in 2015, Italy said it aspired to be the top naval power in the Mediterranean. Five years on, in a much changed world, that ambition is increasingly under threat.
“In terms of number of vessels, Italy’s aim might be reasonable, but the political will to use a navy will always be key,” Kaushal said. (Source: Defense News)
22 Jun 20. With challenges aplenty, Europe’s navies are coming to grips with high-end warfare. The former head of the U.S. Navy said in June testimony that as the service grapples with establishing the right type of force, it must account for the degraded capabilities of its allies, hinting at the once substantial Cold War-era European navies.
“In my mind [there’s] been an over-fixation on the total number of ships as opposed to the nuance numbers of specific types of ships that support viable operational plans,” retired Adm. Gary Roughead, former chief of naval operations, said before the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. “There’s also the need to understand just how small our allied navies have become, and in the past we have always looked to our allies to support us, but those navies are extraordinarily small.”
NATO has for years counted on the U.S. Navy as the centerpiece of its maritime forces, with the individual European navies serving as augmenting and supporting forces. And in the post-Cold War era, Europe’s navies have focused on low-end missions like counterterrorism and counter-piracy.
And that has led to a precipitous decline in naval power available to surge in the event of a high-end conflict. In a 2017 study, the Center for a New American Security found that Europe’s combat power at sea was about half of what it was during the height of the Cold War.
“Atlantic-facing members of NATO now possess far fewer frigates — the premier class of surface vessels designated to conduct [anti-submarine warfare] ASW operations — than they did 20 years ago,” the study found.
Where they collectively had about 100 frigates in 1995, that number hovers at 51 today.
“Similarly, these nations had, in 1995, 145 attack submarines — those dedicated to anti-shipping and anti-submarine warfare missions — but that number has plummeted to a present low of 84,” the study found.
But with the U.S. increasingly focused on Asia and amid tension within the alliance, Europe is coming to grips with the need to grow its forces and regain high-end capabilities it once had — a realization that also grew out of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
“Throughout the 1990s, the focus was low-end missions: counter-piracy, counterterrorism, migration, search and rescue,” said Sebastian Bruns, head of the Center for Maritime Strategy and Security in Kiel, Germany. “And they did so with the legacy platforms of the 1980s and 1990s. You know, sending an ASW frigate to fight piracy, well that’s not a lot of bang for your buck.
“But 2014, that’s really the turnaround. I can’t think of any European nation that’s not on board with modernizing and growing their navies. But the long-lead times and having to replace the legacy units, it just takes a damned long time to turn the ship around.”
But an unfortunate side effect of the long-lead times involved in force design — sometimes a decade or more — is that pre-2014 ship designs that are coming into service now are ill-suited for the high-end fight, Bruns said.
The prime example of this mission mismatch is Germany’s 7,200-ton Baden-Württemberg-class frigate. It began entering service in 2019, but is designed for low-end operations.
“They were designed in the 2000s — they even call it a ‘stabilization frigate’ — and they’re coming online at a time where the German Navy needs them for presence, but they don’t have the kind of teeth you’d expect for a 7,000-ton frigate,” Bruns said. “They’re really capable for presence and maritime security operations, but of course that’s not so much the world we live in anymore.”
But new, more advanced frigates are starting to filter into the market. For example, in 2017, France’s Naval Group launched a five-hull intermediate air defense frigate program designed to intercept air threats with the Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles.
And in January, the German Navy announced it had hired Dutch shipbuilder Damen to build at least four new MKS 180 frigates — a 9,000-ton ship designed to operate in waters with ice formations in a nod to the renewed competition in the Arctic.
Payloads over platforms
It’s not just new frigate designs that show Europe gradually upping its game.
Similar to the track the U.S. Navy has taken in fielding the Naval Strike Missile on its littoral combat ships and the Marine Corps’ approach to fielding it as a shore battery, European navies have begun to upgrade their ships’ systems in preparation for a high-end fight, said Jeremy Stöhs, a naval analyst who authored the book “Decline of European Naval Forces.”
“What we see now is since 2014 the focus is much more on sea control, lines of communication, territorial defense,” Stöhs said. “But because of the long-lead times, it is not just the ships they’re building; it’s the sensor suites, midlife upgrades, focusing again on sea-denial capabilities.”
Countries like the Black Sea and Scandinavian states are investing in anti-ship missiles and shore-based missile systems, he added, whereas a lot of those weapons were disbanded in the 1990s.
In 2016, for example, Sweden announced it was fielding coastal batteries with Saab’s RBS-15 anti-ship missile to defend its Baltic coast for the first time since 2000.
The Franco-British Sea Venom anti-ship missile is being designed to launch from a helicopter such as the U.K.’s Wildcat. It recently passed its first firing trial. The missile is currently designed for small, fast-moving vessels up to Corvette-sized warships.
In the Netherlands, the government announced in 2018 that their De Zeven Provinciën-class frigates would be ditching the venerable Harpoon missile for a new, more advanced surface-to-surface missile by 2024.
Evolving threat, evolving politics
Europe’s evolution toward more high-end naval battles in many ways mirrors the United States’ own pivot away from wars in the Middle East and Asia. But it’s also informed by changing politics.
“I’m seeing European navies pivot back to the basics: How do we handle the GIUK [Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom] gap? How do we patrol the North Atlantic? Anti-submarine warfare, convoy escort, anti-surface warfare: They are starting to come back to that,” said Jerry Hendrix, an analyst with Telemus Group and a retired Navy captain. “And as you are starting to see the new heavy German designs, they’re coming back to focusing on a maritime challenger.”
But with this evolution has come a realization of Europe’s shortcomings and just how dependent those navies have been on the U.S. for some core capabilities.
“They’re starting to think about a naval force without the US present,” Hendrix said. “[German Chancellor] Angela Merkel has talked about the need for Europe to start thinking about going its own way. And by the way, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I do see the interests on the continent and the U.S. going in different directions.”
But a European naval construct without the U.S. would prove challenging, as many countries based their investments on the idea of a shared responsibility, with the U.S. as the main high-end capability provider, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at The Hudson Institute.
“NATO, in theory, still has the NATO strategic concept where different countries were going to specialize in different capabilities, which led to the Finns and Swedes really embracing amphibious capabilities for small-scale, special operations forces insertion. The Brits and Italians focused on ASW. But without the U.S. acting as the strategic centerpiece, the strategic concept starts to fall apart.
“The concept assumes you have someone that has a multimission capability that you can augment, as opposed to: ‘We’re going to pull all this together without the U.S. from a bunch of disparate countries with disparate capabilities.’ ”
That situation means any NATO action with just European nations would need a lot of participation, he said.
“Before, if you had just the U.S. and three or four nations participating, you’d have a pretty robust, multimission capability” Clark said. “But without the U.S., you’d need half the alliance to contribute so as to not miss out on key mission areas.”
And without the robust U.S. logistics system, countries would have to replace not just the high-end weapons and sensors, but much of the support infrastructure as well. That could mean even more downward pressure on how much capability Europe can bring to bear.
“If you have to expend weapons or do extensive resupply or refueling, the whole model starts to break down,” Clark added. “The way the European navies are structured, they don’t have this end-to-end capability to deliver on all the support missions as well.
“So if they have to invest in a significant combat logistics force, with budgets for defense being limited, that’s going to mean their navies will potentially become even smaller.” (Source: Defense News)
22 Jun 20. Defense planning takes a back seat in Britain’s struggle to shake the coronavirus. Producing a promised new defense and security review was never going to be straightforward for the British government, but the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the fast-evolving geostrategic position has muddied the waters even further, leaving open the question of future investment priorities.
The integrated defense, security and foreign policy review ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson soon after he entered office last December was meant to provide answers to how Britain would make its way in the world post-Brexit.
That exercise is partly, but not entirely, on ice as the government focuses its attention on trying to control COVID-19 without putting the economy back in the Stone Age.
Completion of the review has been pushed back from this summer to sometime next year.
Stephan Lovegrove, the Ministry of Defence’s permanent secretary, told the parliamentary public accounts committee recently that some work on the review was ongoing, with early results expected to emerge this year.
“There will potentially be something direction-setting later this year. Exactly how full that is, I do not know. Our view is that the fuller it can be, the better,” Lovegrove said.
One MoD official, who asked not to be named, said one of the key items now being worked on was a look at the balance of economic priorities versus national security priorities.
It’s a key question, the answer to which will likely set the scene for decisions on defense investment priorities for years to come.
Johnson’s original claim that the review would be policy driven, not financially compelled, is no longer the case — if it ever was.
Independent analyst John Louth says that post COVID-19, it’s going to be all about the money.
“Without doubt the pandemic has changed everything. It [the review] is going to be driven by affordability,” Louth said.
Defense commentator Howard Wheeldon of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory said funding was going to be a big problem across the West.
“Pressures on Western governments in relation to defense spending have probably never been greater. But while we are seeing a significant awareness of the need to invest in activities like cyber, space and ISTAR we cannot afford to ignore the ongoing need to invest in conventional weapons,” he said.
“China is investing heavily in air and maritime, and Russia, despite economic pressures, is increasing spend on conventional weapons. Given that COVID-19 has impacted on virtually every nation we must expect that defense spending will be impacted in the medium term,” Wheeldon said.
“For the UK we must anticipate cuts in legacy systems across all three services but I am of the view that the army will bear the brunt when it comes to capacity reduction,” he added.
It’s not just affordability that is the issue.
The pandemic is focusing the minds of parliamentarians and others on issues like homeland resilience.
The military here have been lauded for their efforts supporting the fight against COVID-19 but it could eventually come at a cost, according to Doug Barrie, a senior analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London.
“The recognition for greater societal resilience, and the associated cost of this, as a result of the pandemic threatens to be a draw on the U.K.’s armed forces in terms of personnel and future investment — this will put pressure on defense expenditure across the board,” Barrie said.
“A neutral budget would be a success for MoD, but I can see some projects being postponed and platform capabilities trimmed as a near term measure,” he added.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the defense equipment budget was currently under control, but it’s not.
The National Audit Office, the government’s financial watchdog, reckons the current equipment plan has been unaffordable for several years.
The worst-case scenario puts the 10-year equipment budget shortfall at £13bn (U.S. $16bn) says the NAO.
While a decision by Johnson and his advisors on Britain’s strategic road map is thrashed out the MoD is living pretty much hand-to-mouth, balancing the books annually by in-year reductions in equipment spending and other measures.
Lovegrove told the parliamentary committee the MoD is focusing on smaller programs to cut to leave the government with space to make decisions on more strategic issues during the defense review. Such an approach does have financial consequences, though.
“What we typically seek to do is to look at some of the less strategic capabilities, which we are capable of making decisions on outside of a full-blown, multi-year strategic review, and ask difficult questions of those for the [Service] Commands. Ultimately, we would like the Commands to make their own decisions. Sometimes those are cut; more often, they are deferred and descoped,” he said.
“Deferring programs in order to give ministers proper choices within a strategic context has the result of pushing the bow wave of the unbalanced budget out a year or two, making it a bit bigger,” the permanent secretary said.
“There is a cumulative effect of doing what we have to do to maintain the integrity of the program of record when the balance is out of whack, in that we defer for a year, then defer for a year, then put projects on shorter rations. The bow wave becomes bigger. You see that in the nature of the more difficult financing position that we have for the next three or four years. … So, yes, I think that the program is very tight and getting tighter,” Lovegrove warned.
Without the results of the review the defense sector is operating in a bit of a vacuum on the equipment front.
Louth said that ultimately what the MoD spends its money on will be dictated by an as yet unknown view of Britain’s foreign policy goals in a post-coronavirus, post-Brexit era.
“Where the money is invested depends what they [the government] want to do. The problem is can anybody put their hand up and say ‘we understand what theUK strategic ambition is at the moment,” he said.
Despite the strategy vacuum the review likely heralds significant change to investment priorities, according to Wheeldon.
“I see a huge change of approach emerging in the UK — one that will concentrate more resources on internal defense, cyber and space and less on conventional armies and battlefield activities. The UK will remain committed to air and maritime and in particular ISTAR and carrier strike. Whilst retaining the overall air and maritime commitment to the NATO alliance I envisage a shift away from front-line land systems support to that of increased ISTAR, space and cyber,” Wheeldon said.
Which sectors will see the money invested ?
“My money would remain very much on ensuring we have sufficient air and maritime capabilities, particularly ISTAR, and fast jet and surface and sub-surface maritime capability. Investing in space is crucial, investing in cyber is hugely important. I also remain committed to replacement of our nuclear deterrent capability,” Wheeldon said.
Barrie agreed about the key requirement to invest in sectors like cyber, space and ISTAR, but cautioned that even here “ambitions will have to be shaped by budgetary reality.”
In a paper published in March as the COVID-19 crisis took hold, the Royal United Services Institute’s deputy director-general, Malcolm Chalmers, and Will Jessett, a former strategy director at the MoD, offered a view of Britain’s defense priorities should be in the future.
Britain’s new policy should be encapsulated in a new doctrine of enlightened national interest, they said.
“Under such an approach, the first priority for the armed forces should be the defense of the UK homeland and its immediate neighborhood. … The shape of expeditionary forces should now be determined primarily through the need to work closely with NATO allies in defense of Europe and its immediate neighborhood,” the two analysts said.
The analysts’ view of local and regional defense is partly reflected in their equipment list for Britain’s future forces.
“Defence priorities over the coming decade need to include robust air defense of the UK (and the Republic of Ireland), strengthened coastal defenses against limited incursions, protection of infrastructure (defense and civil) against virtual and physical attack, and maintaining the ability to provide adequate support to the civil power in national emergencies,” they said in their RUSI paper.
A move towards defense of the U.K. and, through NATO, its immediate neighborhood, would represent a significant shift.
Just a little over 15 months ago then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was making the case for Britain competing for its interests on a global playing field.
“In an era of great power competition we cannot be satisfied simply by protecting our own backyard” Williamson said in a speech at RUSI.
Britain has spent billions of pounds building two new F-35 equipped aircraft carriers as part of that policy and needs to invest heavily to buy additional jets and carrier strike support vessels.
But a swing towards beefing up defenses in Europe may gain more traction following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent announcement he was withdrawing thousands of troops from Europe.
Whether or not Trump means it, or is playing to the gallery ahead of the U.S. elections in November, is unclear, but a significant reduction in U.S. manpower would go right to the heart of NATO planning assumptions. Causing European powers like Britain to rethink how they address the need for their forces to maneuver against a potential adversary like Russia without significant US military support.
Louth said the Russian’s pushing west to regain territory lost since the end of the Cold War is not as unthinkable as it once was.
“We have to be able to address that level of uncertainty and in defense that must be about protecting Europe’s borders. What it means is you have to have an investment strategy and a capability generation process that allows you to protect those borders by being able to maneuver across a highly amorphous battlefield across a number of domains. The physicality of force goes to the heart of deterrent,” the analyst said. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
22 Jun 20. New European Defence Agency boss warns against ‘rash’ budget cuts by EU members. The new head of the European Defence Agency, Jií Šedivý, has thrown down the gauntlet to European Union member states, telling them: “It is up to you to deliver.” In an interview with Defense News, he said the onus is on EU countries “to use the EDA to its full extent.”
Šedivý has extensive experience in the defense domain, having served as defense minister and deputy defense minister of the Czech Republic, NATO assistant secretary general for defense policy and planning, and permanent representative of the Czech Republic to NATO.
His term comes amid a fast-changing European defense landscape and new EU defense initiatives that are under increasing pressure to deliver results.
How will the COVID-19 health crisis affect European defense spending in the near, mid and long term?
Let’s be realistic: We are still in the middle of the pandemic and, at this stage, nobody can foresee what its exact repercussions will be. But being realistic also means that we have to anticipate, already now, that national and European defense budgets might come under pressure as a result of the massive economic and financial costs of COVID-19, whether we like it or not. Here our answer should be straightforward: Rather than cutting national defense expenditure rashly, let’s coordinate, pool and share our resources and invest more in collaborative capability development because a collective approach is much more cost-effective than national solo efforts.
The same goes for defense research where national ministries of defense might face problems to receive the same funding than in the past to finance their individual national programs. The best response to shrinking national budgets for defense research is to join forces and resources and to engage in more cost-effective collaborations at EU level.
We therefore should maintain our European defense ambitions, keep course and pursue the implementation of the new EU defense instruments — the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF) — which are all in place, fit for purpose and ready to be used. The COVID-19 crisis could offer us an unexpected and unique opportunity to reinvigorate defense cooperation in Europe.
The defense portion of the proposed EU budget has come under pressure. If the European Defence Fund is indeed curtailed, how do you expect EDA to adjust its objectives?
It is too early to speculate about the Fund’s future budget allocation as negotiations are still ongoing. Therefore, we have to wait and see.
This being said, the EDF will be an essential part of the EU’s defense-cooperation toolbox, together with CARD and PESCO. Therefore, it is crucial that the Fund receives the financial means it needs to play its role properly. I thus hope for adequate funding for this important collaborative tool because for the reasons I just explained, we need more defense cooperation in the future, not less. And the Fund will serve not only as an incentive to that end, but also as a point of leverage for economic recovery.
In any case, EDA’s activities are not directly linked or dependent of the Fund’s budget as we are an intergovernmental agency entirely and directly funded by our member states, not through the EU budget.
U.S. defense companies want to be allowed to compete for EDF money and PESCO participation. How do you believe it is possible to strengthen intra-EU defense cooperation without shutting out trans-Atlantic ties at the same time?
Third-party participation in the EDF is among the topics currently discussed between member states, the Commission and the European Parliament as part of the legislative process on setting up of Fund. So the jury is still out on the outcome of these talks. EDA is not involved in that process and therefore I cannot comment.
However, I want to recall a basic underlying principle of European defense cooperation, namely that the European Union is fully committed to working with the U.S. as a core partner in security and defense matters. The EU defense initiatives must be understood in this context: They are not directed against our trans-Atlantic partnership but aim to enhance Europe’s contribution to our common trans-Atlantic security by sharing a greater part of the burden. PESCO and EDF will help enhance EU member states’ investment in the joint development of defense capabilities and deepen cooperation to make more efficient use of defense spending in the EU. The resulting defense capabilities will not be owned by the EU but by its member states. Which means they will also be available to NATO, at least for those EU member states that are NATO allies. As a result, EU cooperation ultimately also strengthens NATO as well as our trans-Atlantic partners.
What is in store for the dozens of PESCO projects currently underway? For example, do you expect new ones to join the roster at some point, or some to be canceled if they fail to deliver?
As you know, PESCO is a member states driven initiative. It’s therefore up to the 25 participating countries to decide whether they want to launch new collaborative projects in the future. If you ask me, I expect indeed more projects to be added in the future but not this year as it was decided to skip 2020 after three consecutive waves of new projects launched — 47 in total to date — since December 2017, when PESCO was established.
Focusing on the project implementation and delivering tangible outputs is thus the priority now. Equally, it is up to the member states involved in a given project to decide about possible changes or adjustments to be made or, to answer your question, even to cancel a project that would fail to deliver. It’s the member states who own the projects, so it is up to them to implement them in the way they want.
This being said, EDA is available and keen to support them, if they wish, in the implementation. As the European hub for collaborative capability development, we have the expertise and experience needed to do that. We therefore encourage member states to make full use of the Agency and to seek our know-how and support for bringing their PESCO projects forward. And we see that they start to rely more and more on our help. The number of PESCO projects which have been or currently are supported by the agency has constantly increased and now stands at six; two of them (in the areas of CBRN surveillance and deployable underwater capabilities) as EDA projects. Judging from informal expressions of interest received, we have reasons to expect those numbers to further grow in the future. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
19 Jun 20. NATO Defence Ministers Focus on Adaptation of the Alliance to Counter Modern Threats. UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace met with fellow Defence Ministers via video conferencing. Ben Wallace today welcomed NATO’s continued commitment to its modernisation agenda following a meeting of Defence Ministers, held amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The crisis prevented ministers meeting in person in Brussels, but continued as planned via video conferencing, including several bilateral meetings.
Work continues at pace to progress NATO’s agenda to adapt and modernise to meet the threats of an increasingly unstable world, as agreed at the London Leaders’ Meeting last December.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“From the outbreak of Covid-19 to Russia’s new missile capabilities, the complex threats we face take many forms and derive from multiple sources.”
“NATO is rising to meet all of these challenges, by strengthening its response to the pandemic, pushing forward its ambitious adaptation agenda agreed last year in London and continuing to provide essential deterrence and defence in an increasingly uncertain world.”
At this week’s meeting, ministers discussed:
- A new deterrence and defence concept for NATO, which sets out a framework for the Alliance’s military activity in response to threats across land, air, sea and in the new domains of cyber and space.
- NATO’s adaptation to address Russia’s deployment of new intermediate-range missiles and other new missile capabilities – NATO is responding to Russia in a balanced and responsible way, including by strengthening air and missile defences and adapting exercising.
- NATO’s nuclear deterrent, including a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group to discuss how to ensure the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.
- NATO’s operations and missions around the world, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The UK has been integral in championing the Alliance’s collective, balanced response to new Russian missiles and in strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, which is the bedrock of the UK’s defence.
Mr Wallace also praised the progress NATO has made in adapting to today’s emerging challenges such as hybrid warfare and disruptive technologies.
Ministers were also joined by counterparts from Australia, Finland, Sweden and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy to discuss the long-term security implications of COVID-19. Ministers agreed an operational plan to ensure Allies are ready to support one another through any further waves of infection, as well as new guidelines to strengthen Allies’ preparedness and resilience.
Through the NATO Euro Atlantic Disaster Relief Co-ordination Committee (EADRCC), NATO Allies have helped to deliver hundreds of tonnes of vital aid where needed. The Defence Secretary recognised the important role the Armed Forces and NATO have played in the global response to COVID and assured Allies the UK will continue to support in this effort.
The UK will also make a monetary contribution to a new NATO Pandemic Response Trust Fund, which will be used to support Allies and partners through activities such as the purchase of vital equipment, the transportation of medical personnel and supplies, and the purchase and delivery of other relief resources.
NATO burden sharing – UK defence investment
In discussions the Defence Secretary underlined that the UK will continue to meet its 2% GDP defence-spending commitment and our defence budget will grow by at least 0.5% above inflation in each year of this Government. NATO is built on a commitment to collective defence and mutual support – a commitment which is reinforced by countries sharing the burden of defence investment and meeting the 2% target. Since all Allies pledged to meet the 2% target by 2024 at the Wales Summit in 2014, significant progress has been made. In 2019, defence spending by non-US Allies increased in real terms by 4.6 per cent – the fifth consecutive year of growth.
NATO – The bedrock of UK defence
The UK continues to play a leading role in NATO by contributing to operations across the globe and offering its cutting-edge capabilities to the Alliance:
- The UK has around one thousand troops deployed in Estonia and Poland as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence initiative.
- The RAF is contributing this summer to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, protecting the airspace of our Allies on a 24/7 basis.
- The UK also provides significant capacity to NATO current operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing training and assistance to forces in support of sustainable peace settlements.
- The UK is the only member to assign all its nuclear forces to the defence of NATO.
- The UK was the first Ally to offer our offensive cyber capability to the Alliance.
- The UK has nearly one thousand personnel serving in the NATO Command Structures, and we hold the post of the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
- The UK has offered a significant contribution to the NATO Readiness Initiative over land, sea and air. Our nation’s future flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth and cutting-edge F-35 jets will be at the heart of this offer.
(Source: UK MoD/ASD Network)
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 Home land 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