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03 Jul 20. Britain’s armed forces pivot east to face growing China threat. Security and defence review dominated by ways to counter Beijing’s hybrid warfare. Closer ties with Asian allies, greater use of artificial intelligence and deploying more troops east of Suez are among the strategies Britain’s military chiefs are considering to counter China’s growing assertiveness since the pandemic. The heads of the army, navy and air force met with ministers at the Tower of London this week to decide priorities for the government’s security, defence and foreign policy review, due to conclude this autumn. The post-Covid world will see increased “economic crisis, conflict and competition”, defence secretary Ben Wallace warned after the strategy summit. “
The threats we face come in many forms across many continents.” Despite escalating Russian activity in the north Atlantic, Iranian threats to shipping in the Gulf and Isis’ operations in the Middle East, the risks posed by China dominated discussions. Beijing’s imposition this week of a new security law in Hong Kong and its increasingly insistent claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea have underlined a growing willingness for confrontation. A protester is detained in Hong Kong under the new national security laws. Beijing has threatened countermeasures in response to UK condemnation of its actions in Hong Kong © Miguel Candela/EPA Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and chair of the House of Commons defence select committee, said UK relations with China needed a “fundamental reset”.
“We need to work out how we will deal with a China that economically, technically and militarily is going to surpass the US within our lifetimes,” he said. Project Defend — a strategy to reduce Britain’s industrial reliance on China — is already under way to help reshore and diversify supply chains. The defence chiefs’ challenge is to determine the military manifestation of a more sceptical attitude to Beijing. A key focus will be technology and cyber defence. The UK does not expect armed confrontation with China, but experts have warned it must prepare for a different type of conflict. China’s readiness to stand up to the west — for instance, when Beijing threatened countermeasures this week in response to UK condemnation of its actions in Hong Kong — is likely to involve an expansion of hybrid warfare combining political and economic aggression with cyber attacks. Military officials said the review would look at how forces can use artificial intelligence to protect data, networks and intellectual property.
Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency in Cheltenham. Threats from China are likely to involve cyber attacks rather than military confrontation © GCHQ/PA Charles Parton, a former British diplomat who was posted for several years in Beijing, argued that a “major objective” of the review should be a proper study of China’s hybrid tactics. This should, he suggested, include close consultation with Taiwan, which currently bears the brunt of such hostilities. The review is also likely to recommend a more visible UK presence in China’s sphere of influence. This means going beyond Nato, Britain’s traditional military focus, to work more closely with allies on China’s doorstep, such as South Korea and Japan. It also fits the government’s vision of a more “global Britain” post-Brexit. Robert Johnson, director of Oxford university’s changing character of war centre, said that while there were “obvious limits” to what the UK could achieve against Beijing on its own, it should look to strengthen alliances. “Australia, the United States, and the UK have been joined by other nations, including India, in opposing China’s draconian diplomacy and coercive policies,” he said.
The armed forces, too, are looking at ways of bolstering Asian allies. “We’ll probably be looking at being a bit more present,” said one official. “That might mean putting a few more people in a few more places, but they wouldn’t all be doing hard war fighting”. Just this week, the Royal Navy announced that it would permanently deploy a few hundred Royal Marine commandos east of Suez as part of a new “persistent global presence” of naval personnel based on ships who can rapidly deploy to emerging crises. Officials said this was a hint of what was to come and suggested the review would recommend more ships “forward-deployed” in this region. Finally, the review will have to consider new hardware requirements. Even if an escalation to actual combat is not likely, projection matters. In the past five years, China’s navy has grown by the equivalent tonnage as the whole Royal Navy. Beijing’s development of long-range precision missiles, capable of targeting aircraft carriers and warships, threatens UK capabilities.
“The carrier is not a threat to China because China has developed missiles specifically to kill carriers at great range and to shoot down joint strike fighters,” said Richard Barrons, a retired general and former head of Britain’s Joint Forces Command. “How do we reset the carriers for power projection with new technology . . . to restore their competitiveness?”
One option is buying new drones and missiles to fly from the Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers. Another is funding research into how to combat Beijing’s sophisticated defence systems which prevent adversaries from getting close to an area of operations. Given the competition for resources post-Covid, any new spending on air or naval power is expected to involve a cut to the army, which could fall from its current level of 82,000 to as low as 60,000. Recommended UK defence spending Funding crisis raises concerns on armed forces readiness The Ministry of Defence is under pressure to come up with fresh ideas on a tight deadline. Downing Street is keen that the review — which was paused at the height of the Covid crisis — should still conclude in time for recommendations to be implemented in this autumn’s spending review. Mr Ellwood, meanwhile, urged ministers not to downgrade defence in favour of other spending priorities. “We overplay our military capability in public, when actually it’s been on the decrease for a number of years,” he said. “You find out to your peril when you should have invested more.” (Source: FT.com)
03 Jul 20. Royal Navy surface fleet availability hits 82%. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has revealed that surface fleet availability has hit 82%. The figure comes in a written response to the Parliament Defence Committee detailing the progress service chiefs have made in achieving priorities mandated by the Secretary of Defence last year.
Last year, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace ordered the heads of the Armed Forces to each find and fix one issue in their domain before the MOD would ask the Treasury for asking funding, as a way of proving the department can manage its budget effectively.
In the case of the Royal Navy, this meant fixing availability issues with the existing fleet before requesting the budget to build new ships. In the written response, the MOD said that First Sea Lord (1SL) had increased surface fleet availability to 82% and added that this was projected to increase over the course of the year.
The MOD said: “In meeting this priority, 1SL has refocused the Royal Navy on their contribution to defence outputs and is driving greater levels of productivity from his force; 82% of the surface flotilla is now available, reflecting an arrest of declining numbers, and availability is projected to keep increasing over the next six to 12 months.”
The availability of frigates and destroyers became a focus of the navy after refits and maintenance for several ships saw delays. Wallace said in October that a quarter of the Royal Navy’s fleet could not be put to sea, straining the ability for it to meet operational demands. At the time, just half of the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 Destroyers were available.
Laying down the priority last October, Wallace told the Defence Committee: “If I had more of our current fleet working then I would have much more freedom to deploy to meet some of our ambitions and tasks.
“I’ve made it very clear to the First Sea Lord one of my priorities is to get what we’ve got working.”
Improving the availability of the fleet, Wallace said, was crucial to the Royal Navy securing future funding from the Treasury to expand its fleet.
The MOD’s response added that the fleet has continued to expand with the commissioning of the UK’s Second Aircraft Carrier HMS Prince of Wales and the introduction of ‘new Royal Fleet Auxiliary shipping.’
Impact of Covid-19
The committee also asked whether Covid-19 had affected or impacted the goals outlined by Wallace. Responding to this the MOD said that the risk minimisation strategy for its workforce while maintaining output had been ‘successful’.
The MOD said that in the early stages of the pandemic naval industrial capability on the south coast dropped to 35% and 55% at Faslane, Scotland, but added that this capability had slowly recovered as the country got to grips with the spread of the pandemic.
The MOD said: “It is acknowledged that Covid-19 is impacting on shipbuilding and refit programmes. While appropriate Covid-compliant working practices have been introduced to allow production to continue in accordance with government advice, any modified working practices are, understandably, likely to be less efficient than pre-Covid.”
In terms of infection rates across the Royal Navy, the MOD said that ‘precautions and protocols implemented in establishments and on ships’ had been successful, ensuring that infection rate across the force ‘remained extremely low’. Of all three branches of the Armed Forces, the Royal Navy has registered the least tested positive cases of Covid-19.
As of the 31 May only 297 service people had tested positive for Covid-19 out of 2,909 tested. Of the positive cases, there were 45 in the Royal Navy, 203 in the British Army and 49 in the Royal Air Force. (Source: naval-technology.com)
02 Jul 20. From Bridge Layer to Guided Missile: Bundestag Approves Procurements. The budget committee of the German Bundestag has approved the purchase of new rockets for the MARS rocket launcher and the modernization of Patriot missiles. It also approved new battlefield bridgelayers, aircraft for signals intelligence and driver vision systems for the fleet of GTK Boxer armored transport vehicles.
The committee released a total of almost EUR1bn.
For around 278m euros, the Bundeswehr will procure another 1,818 unitary guided missiles for the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) with a unitary warhead. These high-precision missiles are fired by the Mars II rocket launcher and can hit point and area targets up to 80 kilometers away with pinpoint accuracy and in any weather condition.
With the planned further procurement of missiles, which are to be delivered in 2023, the German requirements, including those for the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) will be fully met.
Also for the VJTF in 2023, 170 guided missiles of the Patriot ground-based air defense system from the Bundeswehr inventory will be upgraded. At a cost of around 213m euros, the defense against enemy missiles will be improved, and sufficient missiles will be available for the VJTF.
Support of the driver in the Boxer GTK armored transport vehicle
A camera monitoring system to support the driver will be installed in 405 Boxer GTK armored transport vehicles at a cost of about EUR69m. Due to its seating position, the driver has so far been unable to see the right side of the vehicle. With the new camera monitoring system, the driver will now be able to fully monitor the vehicle so as not to endanger other road users, especially when driving on public roads.
First step in closing a skill gap
The Bundeswehr can purchase three Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft for around EUR75m. The Integrated Signal Intelligence System (ISIS) is to be installed in these aircraft. From 2025 onwards, the Bundeswehr will again have the capability for wide-ranging airborne reconnaissance. At the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Defense decided to use the commercially-available Global 6000 aircraft as the carrier platform. Since this aircraft is already being flown in the Air Force, synergy effects also result in maintenance, training and the procurement of spare parts.
Beaver is being replaced
At the end of this decade, the Biber bridge-laying system will be completely replaced. The Bundeswehr plans to order 24 additional Iguana armored bridge laying systems for around 330m euros. The overall package also includes information technology components, navigation systems, training equipment and spare parts.
In a first batch, seven Iguana bridge-layers were ordered in 2016. These have already been used as part of the VJTF 2019, and should also be available for the VJTF 2023. With the Iguana battlefield bridge, troops can overcome obstacles, ditches and rivers up to 24 meters wide, and cross them with their heavy vehicles, up to military load class 80. The Iguana can be quickly relocated. This contributes significantly to the increased mobility of heavy land-based weapon systems of the Bundeswehr and allied nations.
25m euro programs
The projects approved by the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag on July 1 with a total volume of around EUR1bn were presented as “EUR 25m programs.” These include all procurement and development projects of the Bundeswehr with an investment volume of 25m euros or more, and require the approval of the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag before the contract is concluded. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
(Source: defense-aerospace.com/German Armed Forces)
02 Jul 20. NATO puts defence plan for Poland, Baltics into action, officials say. NATO has put a defence plan for Poland and Baltic states into action after Turkey dropped its objections, officials from Lithuania, Poland and France have said.
Turkey’s foreign ministry declined to comment on Thursday.
The plan for Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, details of which are classified, was drawn up at their request after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. It was approved at a NATO summit in London in December.
But Turkey did not allow NATO chiefs to put the plan into action unless they recognised the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria as a terrorists.
“The Turks have dropped their objections,” an official of the French Armed Forces Ministry said on Wednesday.
A NATO diplomat said that the plans were now finally agreed.
Although it was unclear if Turkey extracted any concessions for agreeing, a second NATO diplomat said Ankara had acquiesced after pressure from the other 29 allies late last month.
The Poland and Baltics defence plan, known as Eagle Defender, has no direct bearing on Turkey’s strategy in Syria.
“Putting in place the political decision, which was reached in London, is a success for all NATO,” Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis told reporters. Paweł Soloch, head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, also confirmed the deal.
Turkey began its offensive in northern Syria after the United States pulled 1,000 troops out of the area in October. Ankara’s NATO allies have said the incursion undermines the battle against Islamic State militants.
NATO declined to comment directly, saying that it “has plans in place to protect all allies. Those plans are regularly revised and updated”.
01 Jul 20. U.S. to work with Turkey on F-35 parts until 2022 – state media citing Pentagon. The United States will continue working with Turkish companies producing some parts of F-35 fighter jets until 2022, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu agency quoted a Pentagon spokeswoman as saying on Wednesday.
Turkey said in May it was still producing and delivering parts for the stealth jets despite being suspended from the programme nearly a year ago over its purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defence systems.
Turkey was both a parts manufacturer and major buyer of the Lockheed Martin F-35s. Washington says the S-400s jeopardise the jets – which Ankara denies – and are incompatible with NATO defence systems.
Anadolu quoted Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell as saying the Turkish companies would continue to produce 139 components of the jets until 2022. “Our industry partners will carry out the continuing contracts,” she said, adding the Pentagon was still looking for alternatives to Turkey.
The Pentagon was not immediately available to comment.
Washington announced last July – when the first Russian S-400 units arrived in Turkey – that it was suspending Ankara from the F-35 programme and expected to “wind down” Turkey’s involvement by March 2020.
The United States also said the purchase meant Turkey could be subjected to sanctions under U.S. legislation aimed at discouraging defence purchases from Moscow. (Source: Reuters)
01 Jul 20. RAF Typhoons launch for Nato Air Policing Mission. British Royal Air Force (RAF) Lithuania-based Typhoon fighter aircraft have been.
for the fifth time to conduct a routine Nato Air Policing mission. During the mission, the Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth based 6 Squadron RAF intercepted a Russian IL-78 MIDAS air-to-air refuelling aircraft off the Baltic coastline.
Currently, an RAF Squadron has been deployed at Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania to execute the Nato mission.
The RAF conducted the operation with a Spanish Air Force detachment at Siauliai Air Base and a French Air Force detachment at Amari Air Base in Estonia.
This allowed the three Nato Allies to respond to any violations on Nato airspace all around the clock.
By participating in these missions, the UK operates in support of Nato and its allies, maintaining regional stability.
As part of Nato’s enhanced Forward Presence mission, the UK leads the Nato Battlegroup deployed in Estonia and supplies troops to the US-led Battle Group based in Poland.
RAF 135 Expeditionary Air Wing commanding officer Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt said: “Today’s interception, though routine, is a continuing sign of why it is necessary to deploy the Nato Air Policing Mission here, to ensure that all air users in this region can conduct their activities in a safe and professional manner.”
In May this year, the RAF Typhoons jets conducted training sorties with US B-1B Lancer bomber aircraft over the North Sea. A long-range training sortie was conducted by the USAF B-1B Lancer bombers from their home base at Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), South Dakota, US. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
01 Jul 20. Airbus hints at compromise as governments fret over job cuts. Europe’s Airbus (AIR.PA) left the door open on Wednesday to scaling back its planned 15,000 job cuts in exchange for government-funded labour schemes and research, as its coronavirus restructuring stoked political and union alarm.
Europe’s largest aerospace group plans to cut 11% of its global workforce, after a 40% slump in its 55 bn euro ($61.8 bn) jet business, sparking anxiety about compulsory redundancies in France, Germany, Spain and Britain.
France urged Airbus (AIR.PA) to make as few forced layoffs as possible, while French and German unions said compulsory cuts at the European planemaker were a “red line”.
“The state urges Airbus to ensure that there are as few forced redundancies as possible,” French Junior Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told BFM TV.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier urged Airbus to spread the burden in a fair way.
“We of course assume this restructuring will take place in such a way that neither favours nor disadvantages any country,” he said in a clear reference to maintaining balance with France.
Chief Executive Guillaume Faury has warned staff against reverting to national or regional agendas that plagued the Franco-German-led firm in the past as workers battle for jobs.
“We are successful because we have a European and global DNA and because of this partnership spirit which is very unique to Airbus,” Faury told Reuters late on Tuesday.
More than two thirds of the cuts are in France and Germany where Airbus sites are running 40% below pre-crisis levels.
In a finely balanced presentation, Airbus announced plans to cut 5,000 posts in France, 5,100 in Germany, 900 in Spain, 1,700 in the UK, and 1,300 elsewhere by mid-2021.
The total includes another 900 non-Covid cuts that Airbus says it already planned at its Premium AEROTEC unit, meaning a total of 6,000 posts are targeted in Germany by the scheme.
Faury later said in an interview published by Les Echos newspaper on Wednesday no plant closure “was in the pipeline”.
Veteran human resources chief Thierry Baril told reporters on Wednesday that a fifth of the 5,000 job cuts targeted in France could be saved once the French government formalises a new reduced-work scheme, a move expected next week.
Another 500 engineering posts could be saved with the help of promised state investment in next-generation green jets.
Airbus has outlined the possibility of saving another 1,500 jobs in Germany through similar support.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said it is working with Airbus to find ways to keep jobs in the country.
France and Germany own 11% each of Airbus and Spain 4%, though their power to intervene directly is limited.
Aircraft industry sources said horse-trading over jobs and government aid is common and concessions are expected. But Airbus’s stated target for cutting full-time jobs is three times bigger than its previous 2008 shake-up which included cutting 5,000 full-time posts, plus 5,000 temporary ones.
In its 51 years, Airbus has so far avoided significant forced redundancies as it challenged Boeing for a space in the global aircraft market and then enjoyed years of record demand.
France’s Force Ouvriere union said preventing such cuts was a “red line”.
Germany’s IG Metall union said Airbus must not hide behind the coronavirus crisis to implement earlier aims to downsize.
Djebbari, the French minister, meanwhile confirmed Air France planned to shed nearly 7,600 jobs this week
Djebbari urged Air France (AIRF.PA) to minimise compulsory redundancies, after the government agreed state aid for the carrier worth 7bn euros ($7.9bn).
“It’s not 7bn euros to pay for redundancy programmes. It’s 7bn for survival, to pay salaries at the end of the month,” the minister said.
30 Jun 20. Crisis response and budget cuts: will Covid-19 affect future military funding? The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the armed forces’ crucial role in crisis response. Harry Lye explores how this, combined with the threat of economic downturn and budget cuts, will shape military funding in the coming years.
From building hospitals to transporting cargo, armed forces have played a critical role in the response to the coronavirus crisis by supporting the capacity of civilian healthcare authorities. But despite playing an essential role in immediate response to the crisis, as well as maintaining international cooperation and resilience at home, armed forces could lose out as a result of the pandemic due to shrinking GDPs and mounting economic damage.
Budget battles to come
As and when the world recovers from the impact of Covid-19, the economic landscape will cause concern for budgets and military spending. Some countries, for example Thailand and South Korea, have already reduced their military budgets to allocate more money to the pandemic response, and the same is likely to happen elsewhere
With lockdowns rapidly shrinking GDPs and the inevitable decline in tax receipts to countries’ treasuries, large military budgets could be seen as an easy source of cash to help pay for the pandemic response and recovery measures.
“Defence budgets are overall sheltered for the current fiscal year as they have already been voted and allocated in most country. But economic recession will probably impact FY 2021 budgets as defence expenditures are normally calculated as a percentage of GDP,” says GlobalData analyst for aerospace, defence and security Nicolas Jouan.
“If tax revenues go south because of a recession, credit allocations for defence are likely to be impacted. The only countries having officially declared defence budget cut to face Covid-19 so far are Thailand and South Korea.”
A number of countries also tie their defence spending to the 2% of GDP recommended by NATO, which means that if a country’s economy contracts, the defence budget will shrink, too. Despite current budgets being safeguarded, there is no guarantee that the effects won’t be felt when militaries across the world outline their spending plans for 2021.
“The debate is ongoing in the US and the rest of NATO but no decision has been taken yet,” Jouan adds. “Shorter-term options rather concern extensions of credits to defence and stimulus packages in order to face the crisis, like in the US.
“But lobby groups are increasingly asking Congress to stop appropriating extra funds for the Pentagon’s Covid-19 response and instead let the Department of Defense use regular funds from its $750bn budget voted for FY 2020, the largest ever.”
Defence budgets have been growing for a number of years. US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper in May cautioned that even a stagnant US defence budget would mean accelerating the cutting of legacy programmes at the Department of Defense. In countries which do not already have large defence budgets, stagnant spending could mean cuts to capabilities or future plans.
Duff & Phelps M&A advisory managing director Paul Teuten echoed these concerns in a previous conversation with Global Defence Technology, saying the threat of changing budgets could affect future financial activity in the defence sector.
“A number of people are concerned, for considerable reasons, about defence being the right place to be right now; however, it still relies on a commitment to defence budgets by governments,” Teuten said.
“The massive amounts of money being allocated to address coronavirus have to be paid for somehow, and defence budgets, being big budgets, will not be immune to that. While defence may be protected for a while, at some point, those defence budgets are going to come under renewed pressure to reduce, along with all budgets, to pay for the broader coronavirus bailout.”
Although it is still too early to gauge the long-term effects of the pandemic on spending, International Institute for Strategic Studies senior fellow for military aerospace Douglass Barrie wrote on the Military Balance blog that “increased pressure on funding is inevitable”.
For countries such as the UK, which already suffer from strained defence budgets and finance black holes in multi-year equipment plans, a cut to defence spending in the wake of Covid-19 would only serve to further strain capabilities.
Shift to home defence
Since armed forces have had such a visible role in the response to the coronavirus crisis, public perception of them as not just fighting forces, but also supporters of resilience at home may also have a long-lasting effect on how budgets are spent. As part of the Covid-19 response the UK, for example, placed 20,000 personnel on high readiness and participated in support missions across the board to relieve pressure on civil sectors.
This was highlighted by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at a defence select committee hearing which reviewed the UK armed forces’ response to the virus. The UK has delayed its ‘integrated review’ into defence and foreign policy – which was set to shape the armed forces for the next five years – due to the pandemic.
Wallace said the UK needs to ask questions of whether it is spending money in the right places, and whether or not the pandemic has changed the nature of threats the UK has to deal with.
“That, of course, has been slightly skewed by this event,” he added. “It is the case, though, that the government wishes to do the integrated review and the comprehensive spending review in tandem as much as possible, which gives us the space to present where we need new money or money and why we need it.
“It also gives us the opportunity to learn lessons from Covid-19 about what we need to let go. Are there things? Has this resilience challenge taught us that we are investing in the right place or the wrong place? Has it changed the risk matrix about what is more important than we thought it was? There will be things in the resilience space that will go up that we will have to do more in, say cyber-defence, not less. It may be that we have to do less in other areas that we thought were more important.”
Wallace added that, as part of the revised review process, the MOD would have the time to factor in the ways Covid-19 has changed priorities.
A fresh look at threats
For the past few decades, at least in the Western world, the biggest threat to the safety of a nation’s citizens has been terrorism, a problem that can be tackled with defence and security measures. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed this, and the solution cannot come from military intervention or the security services, but instead relies on civilian departments.
Despite having the world’s largest military budget, the US has been hit particularly hard by the virus, with gaps in the country’s healthcare system posing a challenge the response. As in the UK, the US military has played a key role in responding to the crisis, providing logistics support and hospital ships – but as in the UK, the frontline has been elsewhere.
In the wake of the pandemic, public perception of the armed forces may be fundamentally changed, seeing them only as responsible for overseas operations to ensure safety at home, but also as an essential resource to lean on in times of crisis.
Political leaders will need to adjust to the reality that the biggest challenge to their nations’ safety and security in this crisis came from a virus and not from war or terrorism. As a result, the way armed forces are used and funded in the future could see a significant change. (Source: army-technology.com)
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