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27 Feb 20. Naples Franco-Italian summit: the two governments give their full support to cooperation between their naval industries. The intergovernmental agreement signed today reaffirms the full support of the French and Italian States to Naviris, the joint-venture between Naval Group and Fincantieri. This agreement makes the long term alliance launched by these two industrial Groups fully operational.
“We welcome this intergovernmental agreement, which reinforces our joint-venture Naviris. We are delighted to be able to count on the support of both the Italian and French governments together with the Navies of our two countries to carry out our mission effectively”, declared Hervé Guillou and Giuseppe Bono, CEOs of Naval Group and Fincantieri respectively.
Naviris, the joint-venture of Naval Group and Fincantieri, was set up in January 2020This joint-venture, owned equally by the two groups, will manage ambitious projects, including mid-term modernization of the Franco-Italian Horizon frigates, common R&D, export opportunities and the development of a European Patrol Corvette. The cooperation between Naval Group and Fincantieri is the key for the consolidation of the European naval sector. Naval Group and Fincantieri are open to enlarge their cooperation to other European partners in order to make the European naval industry the worldwide leader in product performances and technology innovation.
27 Feb 20. UK spending watchdog warns of £13bn defence ‘black hole.’ MoD accused of concealing scale of financial problems by being ‘over-optimistic’ on savings. ‘[The MoD] must develop an affordable long-term plan to support our brave armed forces,’ said Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts committee.
The UK armed forces risk losing day-to-day operational capabilities such as air surveillance and their only medical ship due to a black hole in the defence ministry’s equipment budget of up to £13bn, parliament’s spending watchdog has warned. The National Audit Office said the Ministry of Defence had presented an “unaffordable” equipment plan for the third year running, and accused the department of being “over-optimistic” about its ability to make savings in order to conceal the scale of its financial problems. “This cannot carry on,” said Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts committee. “The department is locked into short-term thinking, wasting taxpayer’s money, and has missed two chances to sort things out . . . it must develop an affordable long-term plan to support our brave armed forces.” The suggestion that the MoD is mismanaging its budget is particularly damaging given that prime minister Boris Johnson has just launched a review into UK defence and security strategy, which will include a focus on military procurement. Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, has been a vocal critic of past procurement, accusing the MoD of “squandering billions of pounds” on unnecessary hardware while neglecting investment in cutting-edge technology. Why would you want to give the department more money when they have proved they can’t spend it properly?
Francis Tusa, Defence Analysis According to the NAO report, the MoD’s programme to purchase and support aircraft, ships and weaponry will cost £183.6bn between 2019 and 2029, which represents an overspend of £2.9bn. However, the watchdog made clear that in a “worst-case scenario”, if all the risks in the plan materialise, this shortfall could rise to £13bn. Even though the budget black hole is smaller than the £15bn calculated last year, the NAO said this was because the department had made “optimistic judgments” that reduced the cost overruns by £7.8bn, rather than addressing the underlying issues. The NAO report also suggested that this “short-term focus” meant existing military capabilities were being lost and overall costs were increasing. In particular, the watchdog said that the “floating hospital” facilities provided by the RFA Argus ship could be lost, and the number of Sentry early-warning radar aircraft cut from six to three. Deferring the introduction of the Protector drone, which has advanced reconnaissance and attack capabilities, has increased the costs of the project by over £200m.
The MoD said it “acknowledged” the difficulties in its equipment plan and was striving to reduce the budget gap. “Managing these ambitious, complex programmes can be challenging, but we have already achieved £7.8bn of efficiency savings and last year secured an extra £2.2bn for defence,” said a spokesman. “The department is progressing towards managing down the legacy liability that it has inherited over the years.” Recommended The FT ViewThe editorial board Britain’s defence strategy needs a reality check Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons defence committee, said the NAO’s findings underlined the importance of the upcoming defence review in spurring an “honest assessment” of UK defence costs. “This is a wake-up call for the 2 per cent target”, he said, suggesting that Britain needs to spend more than the Nato benchmark of 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence. “The consequences of not having the money we need is having to make tough decisions which are in turn wasting more money.” Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, a newsletter, said the NAO report was a stark record of the MoD’s “irresponsible” spending practices. “Why would you want to give the department more money when they have proved they can’t spend it properly?” he asked. (Source: FT.com)
26 Feb 20. British prime minister sets deadline for defense, foreign policy review. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has officially launched the foreign policy, defense, security and international development review, which he expects will be completed this year.
Johnson said the review, which he promised to undertake during the general election campaign late last year, will be the largest integrated effort of its type since the end of the Cold War. He set out the broad terms to Parliament on Feb. 26 of what could be a radical rethink of Britain’s role in the world now that is has left the European Union.
“We need to grasp the opportunities of the next decade and deliver upon the Government’s priorities. This is a defining moment in how the UK relates to the rest of the world and we want to take this unique opportunity to reassess our priorities and our approach to delivering them,” Johnson wrote in a statement to lawmakers.
Topping the list of objectives outlined in the statement was to define the government’s “ambition for the UK’s role in the world and set out the long-term strategic aims for national security and foreign policy.” The review will also “determine the capabilities we need for the next decade and beyond to pursue our objectives and address the risks and threats we face,” the statement said.
National media reported cited government sources as saying the review will not be “cost neutral” — a phrase interpreted as meaning additional funds might be available to the Ministry of Defence. However, that’s unlikely to see the MoD avoid capability cuts; it already has a funding hole in its 10-year equipment plan.
Possible cuts to the size of the Army and reductions in the numbers of main battle tanks were mooted by some in the media as possible targets. Both have previously been targets for cuts in recent reviews.
Instead of conventional weapons, the government wants to invest in space, cyber and information system capabilities. A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office reemphasized the point, saying the review will look at “how we can better use technology and data to adjust to the changing nature of threats we face — from countering hostile state activity to strengthening our armed forces. All this will be undertaken with the aim of creating a more coherent and strategic approach to our overseas activity.”
Peter Roberts, the director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London, cautioned the government against taking that approach too far in a paper on the integrated review released last week.
“The MoD and government need to consider cyber, information and sub-threshold warfare and the UK needs to be ready and able to engage in this, but it should not hide behind euphemisms or think that all conflict can be fought in the sterile space of data. Pretending that future war will be bloodless, limited to creating virtual or cyber casualties, makes the carnage of real war more likely. As does being unclear about what behaviour is unacceptable or the consequences of behaving badly,” he said.
“The integrated review needs to provide the right sized hammer [hard power] for the government’s toolbox and clarity on how it will be used,” Roberts added.
What about Johnson’s deadline?
A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office said the review will run in “parallel to the Government comprehensive spending review, ensuring departments are equipped with the resources they need to enact the review’s conclusions.”
Britain’s comprehensive spending review, expected later this year, is meant to set firm, multiyear spending limits across all government departments.
“The main bulk of the [newly launched] review is expected to conclude in line with the comprehensive spending review later this year, although implementation of its recommendations will be a multi-year project,” the statement read.
But some analysts are concerned the review will suffer under such a tight timescale. Independent analyst John Louth said its unlikely complete findings will be available this year.
“I think we will see the main themes ready by the end of the summer, but it might take a while before we see the full picture. A lot of the detail associated with the review will likely come later, things like force structure, new investment, what goes, what stays — that will take longer,” he said.
However, Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general at the RUSI think tank, said the government’s decision to conclude the integrated review at the same time as the comprehensive spending review was the right way to go.
“The commitment to protect the 2 percent of GDP spent on defense provides some reassurance against deep cuts. But the MoD will want to have clarity on its budgets beyond the next two years if it is to plan for the radical modernization that is required,” Chalmers said. “What makes this review distinct from [the strategic defense and security reviews of] 2010 and 2015 — and what could make it the most radical since the end of the Cold War — is the increased focus on foreign policy.
“A radical review of foreign policy is needed to help the government respond to President [Donald] Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine, which, together with wider international trends, is in danger of leaving the U.K. isolated when pursuing its national interests. While there are also new opportunities as a result of recent changes, the risks to the U.K.’s essential alliance relationships are greater now than they have been for many decades. The mitigation of these risks should be central to this new review.”
The statement to Parliament also included a passing reference to funding.
“The Review will be underpinned by the commitments the Government has already made to continue to exceed the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence, to commit 0.7% of Gross National Income to international development and to maintain the nuclear deterrent,” it said.
The MoD’s procurement processes will also come under the microscope of the review, according to the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Late deliveries and overspending by the MoD and the defense industry is a particular hobby horse of Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummins. The ministry has reformed its procurement processes over many years without ever quite cracking the issue. At one point, the MoD planned to privatize its in-house procurement agency, but that was ultimately canceled. (Source: Defense News)
Comment from Steve Beeching managing director of Viasat UK on the Prime Minister’s plans overhaul the approach to foreign policy through the cross-Whitehall Integrated Review. We commend the Prime Minister on his plans to overhaul the approach to foreign policy through the cross-Whitehall Integrated Review. To help meet the rapidly changing adversarial environment UK armed and security forces must have the most up to date equipment, from cyber to space-based capabilities. Whilst platform-centric capital programmes involve long gestation periods, the technology and adversarial threats continue to develop at pace. Harnessing new private sector technologies will be a crucial in realising the outcomes needed to meet these evolving conflicts and ever expanding boundaryless battlefields. As we begin the process of transforming our nation’s integrated defence and homeland security capabilities, we strongly urge the UK government to continue to work closely with UK private sector leaders. The Integrated Review must reach beyond visions of future conflict and budgets, and set out how procurement and industrial engagement processes are to change to deliver fused intelligence, kinetic and non-kinetic advantage and protecting our nation, ensure our way of life and empower our service men and women. Steve Beeching, managing director of Viasat UK
27 Feb 20. Boris Johnson sets deadline for UK defence, foreign policy review. British PM Boris Johnson has billed it as the most significant rethink of the UK’s foreign and defence policy since the Cold War, and now he has set a deadline for what could be the foundation for the UK’s repositioning as a great power in the 21st century.
Following a resounding electoral victory and the ensuing political certainty established under the leadership of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK has turned its attentions to the rapidly developing multi-polar world order, particularly as the nation untangles itself from the bureaucratic confines of the European Union.
Following his appointment in late-July, PM Johnson declared: “Today, at this pivotal moment in our history, we again have to reconcile two noble sets of instincts between the deep desire for friendship and free trade and mutual support and security and defence between Britain and our European partners and the simultaneous desire, equally deep and heartfelt, for democratic self-government in this country.”
Part of the UK’s strategic realignment towards ‘great power’ status has seen the former global power commit to a range of capability acquisitions and force structure developments, including:
- Recapitalisation and modernisation of the Royal Navy – including the acquisition of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, the Type 26 Global Combat Ships and the planned development and acquisition of the Type 31e frigates to supplement the capability delivered by the Type 45 Daring Class guided missile destroyers and the Astute Class fast attack submarines;
- The restructuring of the British Army to focus power projection and rapid expeditionary capability as part of the Army 2020 plan – this plan is designed to support concurrent deployments in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Indo-Pacific;
- Modernisation of the Royal Air Force to include fifth-generation air combat capabilities in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the E-7A Wedgetail and upgrades for the Eurofighter Typhoon – while supporting increased airlift capabilities and a focus on the future, including the beginning of development on the sixth-generation Tempest air superiority fighter; and
- A modernisation of the British nuclear deterrence force – with the planned construction of the Dreadnought Class ballistic missile submarines.
A key focus for the Prime Minister is countering foreign influence, including ‘grey zone’ tactics and political warfare, methods increasingly favoured by totalitarian regimes in Russia and China – with asymmetric threats like violent extremism also figuring strongly in the proposed holistic national security response.
PM Johnson’s proposed response would incorporate the combined efforts of the British Armed Forces, foreign and domestic intelligence services, counter terrorism and law enforcement agencies to respond in an era of great power competition – with the aim of delivering the review by the end of this year.
Recognising this, the British Prime Minister has doubled down on his efforts to realign and reposition the UK on the global stage, prompting the PM to step up the government’s review in a statement to the public service:
“We need to grasp the opportunities of the next decade and deliver upon the government’s priorities. This is a defining moment in how the UK relates to the rest of the world and we want to take this unique opportunity to reassess our priorities and our approach to delivering them.”
Building on this, the Prime Minister set forth a list of objectives focused on what is described as defining the government’s “ambition for the UK’s role in the world and set out the long-term strategic aims for national security and foreign policy”.
Additionally, the Prime Minister’s statement articulates a need to clearly identify the capabilities the globally ascended UK will require to future-proof its position: “determine the capabilities we need for the next decade and beyond to pursue our objectives and address the risks and threats we face”.
Singing from the same song sheet
The efforts identified by the British Prime Minister are echoed Australia’s Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds, who articulated a growing need for closer collaboration between Australia and the UK.
“We are seeing grey zone tactics being used to undermine the foundation of the current international rules-based system and, I would argue, of democracy itself. It is incumbent on all nations to work together to strengthen and adapt the global order and an international system that allows all nations to thrive, and to do so in peace. We need one that is fit for purpose in the 21st century,” Minister Reynolds said earlier in the year.
“So that leads to the first question for us both – where do we start? As we look to that task of defining an international order in an evolving context, Australia is committed to working closely with traditional partners like the United Kingdom.”
The rapidly deteriorating state of the contemporary geo-political and strategic environment, driven by a resurgent Russia and increasingly assertive China, combined with the rising threat of asymmetric threats, serve to challenge the capacity of both nations to support the continuation of the ‘rules-based order’ without a commitment to deepening the bonds between the two nations and, more broadly, the Five Eyes network.
“Together, working with other trusted partners, particularly Canada, New Zealand and the United States, we can do much more to provide security for ourselves and stability for the world. And few countries can claim ties as close as those that Australia shares with the United Kingdom. When I visit the United Kingdom I am reminded in a very personal way of the values we share; and our shared commitment to meeting challenges,” Minister Reynolds said.
“But the question we need to ask ourselves now is whether our close and longstanding partnership is up to the challenges that lie ahead – challenges that pose new risks for the integrity of the global order.
“It is worth reminding ourselves of just how profoundly some of these challenges are impacting the strategic environment and, in very direct ways, contesting our values.” (Source: Defence Connect)
25 Feb 20. U.S. Forces in Europe Work With Allies to Deter Threats. American forces continue to work with allies and partners in Europe as great-power competition with Russia and China comes to the forefront of threats, the commander of U.S. European Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters told the committee today that Eucom — like the rest of the Defense Department — is moving to implement the directives of the National Defense Strategy, which emphasizes facing the return of great-power competition while addressing lesser threats.
“In Europe, political uncertainty, energy competition, and diffusion of disruptive technology are stressing the established Western order,” Wolters said during his testimony. “Threats and challenges, most notably Russia, Iran and China, seek to take advantage of these conditions through aggressive action using all instruments of national power and are backed by increasingly capable military forces.”
Eucom is fully aligned with the National Defense Strategy implementation efforts, the general said, and is adapting the approach to ensure that the means are used most effectively.
Wolters, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, stressed the role the European allies play in the effort.
“Together with like-minded allies and partners, our team of patriots defend freedom and in domains across the area of responsibility and around the clock,” he said. “Thanks to their efforts, … Eucom continues to maintain positive momentum with respect to readiness and is postured to compete, deter and effectively respond with the full weight of the trans-Atlantic alliance.”
European Command has adapted to changes in the NATO alliance, Wolters said. “In 2019, NATO took significant military strides with improvements in command and control, indications and warnings, mission command, and by approving a new NATO military strategy, entitled Comprehensive Defense and Shared Response,” the general said.
NATO also established two new headquarters — Joint Forces Command, Norfolk and the Joint Support Enabling Command — the U.S.-based command focuses on maintaining trans-Atlantic lines of communications, while the German-led enabling command handles rear-area logistics coordination.
“These headquarters increase our ability to command and control, enable deployment and sustain NATO forces in crisis through conflict,” Wolters said. “The European Union, NATO and Eucom have made progress improving infrastructure and transit procedures to facilitate rapid movement of forces across the Euro-Atlantic.”
This will be tested later this year, when Eucom participates in Exercise Defender Europe 2020, which will deploy a division-sized unit to the continent.
In addition to demonstrating the capability, the exercise “showcases U.S. and allied commitment to collective security of the Euro-Atlantic,” Wolters said.
U.S. forces are in Europe because a peaceful Europe is in America’s best interests, and there has not been a major conflict in Europe since 1945. American presence plays a large part in that accomplishment, the general told the panel.
“The United States position in Europe is an invaluable cornerstone of national security,” he said. “Today, U.S. service members in Europe continue to generate peace alongside our allies and partners.” (Source: US DoD)
26 Feb 20. Britain’s submarines to use US technology for nuclear warheads. Opposition politicians concerned decision made without parliamentary scrutiny. The UK government has confirmed it is developing a new nuclear warhead for its submarine-based deterrent in collaboration with the US, after the decision was first revealed by Pentagon officials earlier this month. Ben Wallace, defence secretary, announced on Tuesday that the government had agreed to replace its existing warhead, which will fit the recently upgraded Trident missile carried on the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class submarine and will eventually be transferred to the new fleet of Dreadnought class submarines, due to enter service in the early 2030s. “To ensure the government maintains an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought Class ballistic missile submarine we are replacing our existing nuclear warhead to respond to future threats and the security environment,” Mr Wallace said in a written statement to parliament. He added that the Ministry of Defence would “continue to work closely with the US” to ensure that the new warhead remained compatible with the Trident Strategic Weapon System.
News of the joint UK-US warhead development first emerged earlier this month when a senior Pentagon official told a US nuclear deterrence summit that the two countries were collaborating on the weapon technology. “I think it’s wonderful that the UK is working on a new warhead at the same time, and I think we will have discussions and be able to share technologies,” he said. However, opposition politicians including the SNP and Liberal Democrats have raised concerns that the decision to replace the warhead had been taken without parliamentary approval or scrutiny, especially on the cost implications of the new weapon. The announcement comes as the government hinted that its upcoming security, defence and foreign policy review will not have to be “cost neutral”, raising expectations of an uplift in stretched UK military budgets. In a statement, prime minister Boris Johnson said the review would look at Britain’s place in the world after Brexit, examining military procurement as well as how to harness technology and data to combat new threats such as hybrid warfare. However, a Downing Street official said that unlike previous defence reviews, this one “doesn’t have to be cost neutral”, suggesting that there could be an increase in spending.
Recommended Brexit countdown UK battles to define defence and security role post-Brexit Setting out the terms of the review, Mr Johnson said that while the UK’s “expertise, leadership and values” were recognised around the world, the country could not rest on its laurels. “We must do more to adapt,” he said. “We will be judged by how we respond to the opportunities ahead.” The prime minister added: “As the world changes we must move with it, harnessing new technologies and ways of thinking to ensure British foreign policy is rooted firmly in our national interests, now and in the decades ahead.” The review will examine how to further British foreign policy aims while maintaining its existing minimum commitment as part of Nato to spend 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence and the government’s own target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on overseas aid. Commenting on the announcement, Neil Melvin, director of the international security studies research group at the Royal United Services Institute, said the review would provide an opportunity for the UK to set out its defence and diplomatic relations post-Brexit. “Critically, the review will need to calibrate the UK’s foreign and defence policies for engagements in the regions that will probably define international security in the decade ahead — northern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and Gulf, south Asia . . . parts of Africa, and south-east Asia,” Mr Melvin said. “This will require responses to genuine threats alongside the reality of economic interdependency, notably with China, and the aim of ultimately steering hostile countries into more co-operative and less confrontational relationships.” He said this would only be possible through adapting existing alliances and partnerships and by building new ones, “thereby placing diplomacy at the heart of national security”. (Source: FT.com)
21 Feb 20. Maximising EU defence tools’ impact on national planning. The EU’s defence tools – Capability Development Plan (CDP), Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), European Defence Fund (EDF) – will only have the desired effect on enhancing the coherence of Europe’s defence landscape and boosting European defence cooperation if they are fully embedded and used by Member States in their national defence planning. This was the core message conveyed today in Brussels at a seminar co-organised by EDA and the Croatian EU Presidency.
The objective of the event, which took place in the Agency’s premises, was to exchange views among government representatives on how to practically embed the EU defence initiatives into national defence planning processes and thereby maximise their benefits in support of Member States’ efforts. It was the first time senior national defence planners met to discuss the conceptual and practical implications of the new EU defence initiatives on national defence planning processes and practices.
In his opening statement, EDA’s acting Chief Executive Olli Ruutu said the implementation process of the initiatives was now at a key moment. “CARD is more than halfway through its first full cycle with a final report to be presented to Defence Ministers in November this year. PESCO is moving ahead with the third batch of projects approved and a strategic review also scheduled towards the end of this year. Preparations for the EDF are entering a decisive phase. Hence, this is the right moment for a check-up of what has been achieved so far and to listen to Member States’ views in order to maximise the benefits for them. Member States’ ownership through embedding the EU defence tools into their national defence planning processes is crucial for their success”, stated Mr Ruutu.
Representing the Croatian EU Presidency, Dunja Bujan, the acting Defence Policy Director at the Croatian Ministry of Defence, stressed the need to increase the coherence between the EU defence initiatives and national defence planning. “In the foreseeable future, we will continue to pull our strength and ability to act from national armed forces and budgets. No EU defence initiative will be able to compensate that. If we want the EU defence initiatives to succeed, we need to keep them in line with this reality” and thus embed them into national planning. “The sooner we start to do that, the greater will be the chance to avoid any potential future discrepancies”, she stated.
The keynote speeches were followed by two panel discussions. The first featured Major General Eric Charpentier (France’s National Capability Director), Rear Admiral Juha Vauhkonen (Finland’s military representative to EU/NATO), Lieutenant General Jaromir Zuna (Czech First Deputy Chief of General Staff) and Colonel Jorge Farre (Head of EU Department in Spain’s MoD). It mainly focused on the questions of whether the initiatives have already impacted national defence planning and to what extent the wider EU perspective is being taken into account in Member States’ decision-making.
The second panel looked at practical steps towards improving the implementation and usage of the tools in national processes. This panel was composed by Major General Jorge Côrte-Real Andrade (National R&T Director and Deputy Director of the Directorate-general of National Defence Resources at the Portuguese MoD), Brigadier General Ludy Schmidt (Deputy Capability Director at the Dutch Ministry of Defence) and Colonel Markus Kohlweg (Head of Unit, Multinational Defence Planning, at the Austrian MoD). (Source: EDA)
20 Feb 20. NADs discuss prioritisation and EU defence tools. Member States’ National Armaments Directors (NADs) met on 20 February at the Agency for their biannual Steering Board meeting under the chairmanship of Bulgaria’s Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov.
Acting Chief Executive Olli Ruutu updated NADs on the progress made on a wide range of EDA projects, programmes and activities. Directors discussed the state of play and next steps to be taken on the Strategic Context Cases (SCC) through which the revised European Capability Development Priorities are being implemented. They were also briefed on the development of the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) as well as on the Agency’s work on the Key Strategic Activities (KAS).
The state of play and the Agency’s role in the implementation of the EU defence initiatives (CARD, PESCO, EDF) were also presented and debated with the participation of representatives of the European External Action Service including the EU Military Staff, and the European Commission (DG Defence Industry and Space). On CARD, Directors were informed that the Aggregated Analysis will be sent to Member States in May. Following further discussions, including at NADs level, the final CARD report will then be presented to Ministers in November. Directors were also briefed by the PESCO Secretariat on the progress made so far this year which will be particularly important given the ongoing PESCO Strategic Review.
Directors were also provided with an update on EDA’s cooperation with the Commission and a briefing by the new Commission DG Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS). The Directors were also briefed on the cooperation with the Commission DG Environment in the area of Circular Economy.
The Steering Board was also briefed by the EDA and NATO on EU-NATO cooperation and the progress made in the implementation of the Joint Declaration. (Source: EDA)
20 Feb 20. Viasat announced the results of Freedom of Information requests, highlighting that over 2,000 UK government mobile devices were lost or stolen in a single year – or 39 per working week / 8 per day. Of these, 347 were reported as stolen and 1,474 as lost – while just 249 were recovered. What’s more, although the majority were encrypted, at least 65 were not, meaning data could have been accessed with ease. This shows the struggle the UK faces when it comes to securing data, especially given the plethora of sensitive information that could have been stored on government devices. And while good progress has clearly been made, there are still unencrypted devices in circulation, giving malicious actors access to sensitive content, be it top-secret information or personal data.
The FOI request also asked government departments for the data of their last audit by the Information Commissions Office. These findings showed:
- Of all government department that responded, eight reported that they had not been audited by the ICO, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Exiting the European Union, who lost 44 and 36 devices respectively.
- Of the five departments that reported their last ICO audit, the most recent was the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which was audited in June 2017. At the opposite end of the scale, the Ministry of Defence was last audited in 2010.
24 Feb 20. Germany’s to-do list: A spring of (in)decisions is brewing in Berlin. As the European Union wrestles to assert its role in world affairs, its members are increasingly looking to Germany and France. But the two allies have yet to find their groove when it comes to weapons cooperation and joint operations. The recent Munich Security Conference added new assignments to Germany’s to-do list, taking the already immense expectations of Berlin to a new level.
Officials are slated to announce key program decisions this spring that could redefine the trans-Atlantic relationship on a political and industrial level. The government also wants to put teeth to the promise of an operational role together with France by initiating a naval protection mission in the Strait of Hormuz under an EU flag.
But Germany is famously sheepish on defense matters, its coalition-government parties CDU and SPD are far apart on key strategic questions, and Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer oversaw an intra-party struggle that some in Germany say left her weakened.
Here’s a look at some of the key items in Germany’s portfolio:
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Speaking at Munich, French President Emmanuel Macron once again offered French nuclear weapons in the context of protecting EU members, now that the U.K. is leaving the bloc. He largely repeated his points from an earlier speech in Paris, which amounted to an overture to European allies to discuss the issue further.
German officials appeared unsure about the whole idea, even though Munich Security Conference emcee Wolfgang Ischinger flagged the proposal as an open invitation that requires a formal response.
When asked about the idea, Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed Germany’s dependence on the NATO nuclear umbrella, which is underwritten by the U.S. arsenal. Since Macron has ruled out putting his country’s atomic weapons under some kind of EU authority, what exactly is on the table, she wondered. For example, does the proposal imply some kind of European nuclear industry — a no-go for Germany?
“We must have the conversation,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said. “But I can’t imagine coming to a decision that would have us leave the American umbrella only to slip under a French one that is much smaller.”
Germany previously punted on a Strait of Hormuz naval protection mission to protect cargo ships against Iranian harassment, but Berlin wants to try again. Doing it with the Americans is off the the table because Europeans are spooked by Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign, so a strictly European mission would be ideal.
And since the French and the Dutch already have sent ships to patrol the crucial waterway under their own moniker, why not expand that mission into an EU-led affair? Putting the mission under the auspices of the European Union would require “better use” of permissions granted in the bloc’s founding legal texts, Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Munich conference audience.
According to a German Defence Ministry spokesman, that’s a reference to Article 44 of the Treaty on European Union. The section says the European Council can authorize a group of countries to carry out certain missions if they have the desire and wherewithal to do so.
As for the wherewithal, Kramp-Karrenbauer left open exactly what types of assets the German Navy would be able to contribute to a Strait of Hormuz mission. The timing also remains murky. While the minister mentioned the need for an EU summit on the topic, her spokesman said there was no information yet about when such a gathering could happen.
Issue experts have said protecting global shipping lanes should be considered low-hanging fruit for Germany, as the mission is inherently defensive in nature. “It’s the mission that Germany should have chosen months ago,” said Jeffrey Rathke, president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Replacing Germany’s fleet of aging Tornado aircraft is a can of worms like no other. That’s because a portion of the fleet is assigned to carry American nuclear-tipped gravity bombs into Russia in the event of a major war. Though largely symbolic, the idea of German pilots using German aircraft to deliver American nukes is something of a quiet cornerstone of trans-Atlantic relations. People here don’t like to talk about it much, but the effect is significant.
The Tornado aircraft are getting old, which means the nuclear weapons will soon need a new ride. And this is where things get even trickier: Each of the replacement candidates can satisfy one requirement of Berlin’s decision-making calculus, but not all of them.
Boeing’s F-18 fighter jet would represent a political commitment to the United States as the guarantor of nuclear deterrence. In such a scenario, the Pentagon presumably would lean forward to quickly sort out the requisite modifications and certifications, which is no small matter when it comes to nuclear weapons employment.
The Airbus-made Eurofighter, on the other hand, would dovetail with plans by Germany and France to build the Future Combat Air System — and prop up local industry at the same time. Airbus said it would consider a pick of the F-18 as a death knell for the futuristic program, a view that France is reportedly also pushing behind the scenes.
At the same time, there is the question of the U.S. government’s willingness to approve a European aircraft for the most sensitive of missions, especially when the Trump administration already feels cheated by the continent on defense and trade.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, once in the running, is not expected to make a return to the competition, the German Defence Ministry spokeswoman told Defense News.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said she will decide by the end of March.
Speaking at Munich, she also hinted at a new round of fundamental discussions about the nuclear-sharing mission in general.
“That is the political dimension of the decision that we have to debate within the coalition,” she said. “I want to have that debate relatively quickly, as we need clarity.”
The “Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem,” or TLVS, is one of those German word creations that sounds as complicated as it is.
The program would replace the venerable Patriot anti-missile system that’s been in service for decades. Made by Lockheed Martin and its German junior partner MBDA, it boasts several new features, like 360-degree radar, interceptor coverage and open-data architecture. Crucially, Berlin wants complete control over all system components, as opposed to simply buying something akin to a license for using American-made gear, which is how many weapon sales work.
While officials had been gung-ho about the program, things have gone quiet since last December, when the government disclosed that contract negotiations over the industry consortium’s second offer weren’t going as expected.
At the time, the plan was to conclude talks by the end of the year, though that didn’t happen.
As of earlier this month, the talks were still ongoing, according to the defense spokeswoman. “The negotiations are on a good track,” she told Defense News.
Once considered a must-have project by Berlin, TLVS’ future may now look iffy, especially given there is talk of yet another, third offer to be solicited from the vendor team. (Source: Defense News)
24 Feb 20. Europe steps up defence spending: IISS. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) report The Military Balance 2020, European countries stepped up their defence spending by 4.2% in 2019.
Analysis from IISS found that across Europe defence spending rose to levels unseen before the financial crisis, rising to $289bn in 2019. The leading spender in Europe was the UK with its $54.8bn budget comprising 18.4% of the entire continent’s defence spending.
Europe as a whole has seen a steady increase in defence spending as economies recover and European members of NATO step up their ambitions to meet the recommended spend of 2% of GDP on defence. Only Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Austria, Montenegro and Luxembourg saw their defence spending decrease in 2019, with every other nation raising its spend.
Europe’s biggest defence spenders:
- The UK: $54.8bn
- France: $52.3bn
- Germany: $48.5bn
- Italy: $27.1bn
- Spain: $12.9bn
Eastern European countries unnerved by Russia’s incursions in Ukraine and Georgia have turned on the taps on defence spending and looked to NATO allies to increase their presence in Eastern-facing countries for fear they could suffer the same fate. IISS noted that two-thirds of NATO allies have plans to reach the 2% of GDP spending commitment by 2024 after the US protested it was taking on too much of the burden.
IISS senior fellow for defence and military analysis, and editor of The Military Balance James Hackett told Army Technology: “Defence spending across the continent was up by 4.2% in 2019 when compared to figures a year earlier. European states spent US$289bn on defence in 2019, in real terms. We also noted that spending on defence investments – procurement and R&D – increased as a share of total spending from 19.8% in 2018 to 23.1% in 2019, for countries where data is available.
“Although economic growth across the continent slowed in 2019, the rise in defence spending owes much to changing threat perceptions. Some states are funding specific recapitalisation and modernisation programmes, with purchases including rocket artillery and air defence assets as well as combat air platforms.”
Hackett explained that despite the successive increases, spending in European countries has only now managed to beat the pre-financial-crisis of spend of $280bn while other countries have seen a steady increase over the last decade.
Hackett said: “That said, the increase in European spending just brought the continent back to the spending levels seen at the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008. Germany was largely responsible for the increase in European defence spending. Germany accounted for over a third of the increase when measured in constant 2015 dollars. But, even with this increase, Germany’s contribution still fell US28.7bn short of the NATO aim to spend 2% of GDP on defence by 2024.
“Defence spending was projected to rise by 9% in 2019 in Central Europe in constant 2015 dollars, compared with 2018. In Northern Europe the figure was 6.6%; in Western Europe, the figure was 2.9%; though in Southern Europe spending fell by 3%, due to reduced budgets in Italy and Spain as well as differing threat perceptions.”
IISS noted that in Europe the return of great power competition between countries, and specifically the old adversaries of Russia and NATO, was a key driver of defence policy. However, the continent has seen political discussions over the utility of the organisations as different members argue over what the biggest threats it faces are.
Last year French President Emmanuel Macron claimed the alliance was ‘brain-dead’ and allies cast doubt on the utility of Article 5 – the commitment to collective defence – as different countries perceive threats differently.
IISS also found that continued US presence in Europe and its increasing presence in Eastern European countries had done little to assuage European concerns over US strategy and commitment to the defence of the region. It added that if the US faced a crisis that required a US troop surge in the Asia-Pacific, personnel and equipment could be moved from Europe to plug the gap.
Focus on the UK
The UK maintained its place as the biggest defence spender in Europe, compromising 18.4% of the entire continent’s spend on defence. In the wider world, the UK ranks as the sixth-largest defence spender globally.
However, in The Military Balance IISS noted: “The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) will likely continue to struggle to fund its current capabilities, arrest a decline in personnel numbers and manage the risk to its equipment-modernisation plans, even with the increase of £2.2bn (US$2.8bn) over two years that came with the 2019 defence budget.”
The UK is about to embark on an integrated Foreign Policy and Defence Review which aims to look at the UK’s capabilities from top-to-bottom and provide a comprehensive account of the Armed Forces going into the 2020s. IISS said that the UK’s defence policy remains rooted in the ability to project stability across the world, requiring direct commitments to a number of operations from NATO forward presence in Eastern Europe to on-going counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East, the UK is also currently in command of the operation to police the Strait of Hormuz and protect commercial shipping.
IISS said that while British Armed Forces managed to maintain a good balance between ‘combat, combat-support and logistic-support functions’ the organisation said that in other areas namely armoured warfare and air defence the UK is close to ‘critical mass’. Modernisation programmes for the Challenger II Main Battle Tank and Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle at the time of the reports writing were still not fully contracted despite years of planning.
IISS also highlighted the ongoing shortfall in the MOD’s Defence Equipment Plan of between £7bn and £14.8bn as an ongoing problem that has yet to be resolved despite budget increases. The size of the UK’s Armed Forces is also seen as an area of concern with shortfalls in recruitment.
IIIS said: “The personnel strength of the British Armed Forces continues to decrease, with an overall deficit of 7.6% in 2019, compared with 6.2% the previous year. Although recruitment initiatives continue, shortages remain in key specialist areas, including 18% of required Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots.” (Source: Defense News)
21 Feb 20. French Navy NH90 Caiman availability rates improving. While the overall availability of the French Navy’s NHIndustries NH90 Caïman NATO Frigate Helicopters (NFHs) remains a problem, rates are beginning to improve, a senior service official has said.
Speaking to Jane’s, the commanding officer of the French Naval Aviation (Aéronavale), Rear Admiral Guillaume Goutay, said the availability of Caïmans for front-line service has increased from 40% to 50%.
“The situation of the Caïman force is slowly improving,” he said. “Overall availability remains a problem, however, with about 50% of the fleet being stuck in deep maintenance or in upgrade programmes at any given time.
“That problem comes from the fact that Caïmans were delivered to us in a variety of standards, Step A, Step B, and FRC [full radar configuration], that all need to be updated to MR1 [maintenance release 1].”
Two of the aircraft have already been updated to MR1 standard, Rear Adm Goutay noted, which features “very stable” mission system software and has proven to be more reliable than previous configurations.
“My concern is that the industry is redelivering upgraded NH90s back to us late, and I do not expect that issue to be solved until 2023,” he said. “Thankfully, all new Caïman MR1s coming out of the production line are delivered on time.”
To date, the Aéronavale has received 24 of 27 Caïmans on order, with the final three expected to be in service by the end of 2021.
The Caïmans will be based with Flottiles 33F, in Lanvéoc Poulmic, and 31F in Hyères on the Mediterranean coast, while one of the Lanvéoc Poulmic-based platforms will be seconded to Cherbourg. (Source: Jane’s)
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