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27 Mar 20. It’s official: North Macedonia becomes NATO’s 30th member. North Macedonia on Friday officially became the 30th member of the NATO military alliance.
“North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of 30 nations and almost 1 billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
North Macedonia’s flag will be raised alongside those of the other 29 member countries at NATO headquarters in Brussels and two other commands simultaneously on Monday.
Given the impact of the new coronavirus around the world, Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski said: “We cannot rejoice and mark the event as it should [be marked] … But, this is a historic success that after three decades of independence, finally confirms Macedonian security and guarantees our future. Congratulations to all of you! We deserve it!”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the country’s membership “will support greater integration, democratic reform, trade, security, and stability across the region. North Macedonia’s accession also reaffirms to other aspirants that NATO’s door remains open to those countries willing and able to make the reforms necessary to meet NATO’s high standards, and to accept the responsibilities as well as benefits of membership.”
It marks the end of a long quest for the former Yugoslav republic. Joining NATO and the European Union has been a priority for its leaders, but a dispute with neighboring Greece over the country’s name stalled progress for more than two decades.
North Macedonia previously was known as Macedonia, a name it shared with a Greek province. Under a 2017 deal with Athens, the country changed its name and Greece agreed to drop objections to its NATO and eventual EU membership.
It’s been a big week for North Macedonia. On Thursday, EU leaders gave the small Balkans country the green light to begin membership talks. (Source: Defense News)
27 Mar 20. Germany reportedly moving toward a split buy of Super Hornets, Growlers and Eurofighter Typhoons to replace Tornado jets. The German air force will reportedly buy up to 90 Eurofighters, 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers to replace the remainder of its Panavia Tornado fighter jet fleet, but the split procurement doesn’t offer an easy answer for Germany’s requirement to field a nuclear-capable jet, a U.K. defense think tank said.
Germany plans to use the Super Hornet, made by U.S. aerospace company Boeing, to fill a NATO requirement to field fighter aircraft capable of dropping the B61 nuclear gravity bomb, according to German business publication Handelsblatt, which first reported the split buy. It will also buy Growlers to replace the Tornados that carry out an electronic attack role.
However, only the legacy F/A-18 Hornet — not the Super Hornet — was ever certified to carry the B61, wrote Justin Bronk, a research fellow with the Royal United Services Institute, a U.K. based thinktank that covers defense issues. That means that the Super Hornet will have to go through the certification process, said Bronk, who called the split buy “the worst of all previously mooted outcomes.”
Boeing spokesman Justin Gibbons said that while the Super Hornet is not yet certified to carry the B61, the company has the U.S. government’s support for future integration.
“The F/A-18 Super Hornet is capable of being certified to meet B61 requirements for Germany under its timeline. Boeing has a proven track record of successfully integrating weapons systems that meet the needs of both U.S. and international customers,” he said. Gibbons declined to comment on the timing of Germany’s deadline for competitive reasons.
Germany has agonized over replacing the Tornado for years, and both political and industrial factors have helped sway the government’s stance on its next tranche of fighters. In 2017, Lt. Gen. Karl Muellner, then the country’s air force chief, expressed a preference for Lockheed Martin’s F-35, but he was later fired reportedly for his outspoken support for the U.S. jet and Germany officially knocked the F-35 out of the competition last year.
This left the race down to either the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is made by a consortium led by Germany’s Airbus, Italy’s Leonardo and the U.K.’s BAE Systems, or Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The Typhoon received strong political support, with Airbus making the case that another batch of Eurofighters for Germany could help the European defense industry bridge the gap between the Typhoon and the sixth-generation Future Combat Air System. Historically, Germany has kept a portion of its Tornado fleet configured to use U.S. nuclear bombs as part of a NATO nuclear-sharing agreement. In the case of a major war with Russia, German pilots would be able to load their jets with nuclear weapons, take off and drop them on behalf of NATO.
In late 2019, reports indicated that the pendulum was swinging toward a German buy of Super Hornets based on information from the U.S. government stating it would take three to five years longer to certify the Eurofighter for nuclear missions.
Bronk noted that while the Eurofighter offers greater power, lift and agility compared to the Super Hornet, it could be more politically difficult and time-consuming to certify the Typhoon as the Eurofighter consortium would have to hand over some technical details over the to the U.S. government and U.S. defense contractors to integrate it with the B61.
However, “neither Eurofighter nor Super Hornet are a credible delivery system for the B61 against Russian targets due to the vulnerability of both platforms to modern Russian air defenses,” he wrote.
The F-35 is not yet capable of carrying the B61, but integrating the joint strike fighter with the bomb is planned as part of the jet’s ongoing Block 4 modernization phase. However, Bronk said buying the F-35 represented the best chance to fielding an nuclear capable jet on a fast timeline.
“If the DCA [dual capable aircraft] role is considered to require actual operational credibility from Germany, then the only feasible choice is the F-35A. Of all the potential aircraft on offer, the F-35A is the only one which represents an operationally credible B61 Mod 12 delivery solution. It will also be operated by all other European DCA members, offering shared training and maintenance burdens,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
26 Mar 20. Covid-19: UK MoD monitoring effect of coronavirus on specific procurement programmes. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is monitoring the effect of coronavirus on specific procurement programmes, and is working with industry to mitigate any potential fallout from the global pandemic. Speaking to Jane’s on 25 March, an MoD spokesperson noted that manufacturing shutdowns and other measures being adopted internationally to combat the coronavirus could affect any number of the UK’s ongoing procurement projects and supply chains.
“We are aware that the global outbreak of COVID-19 may have an impact on specific defence procurement supply chains. We will continue to work with industry to monitor how programmes might be affected,” the spokesperson said.
While the MoD did not refer to any specific programmes, one platform that could potentially be impacted by industry-led shutdowns is the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft (MMA) for the Royal Air Force (RAF).
The 737-derived aircraft is built at Boeing’s Renton facility in the Puget Sound area of Seattle. On 23 March the company announced that it was temporarily suspending all production operations at its sites in this area, with the 14-day shutdown commencing on 25 March.
The RAF has to date received two of its nine P-8As, with the remaining seven all due to be delivered to the UK by the end of 2021. Jane’s understands that the next two aircraft are currently in the production facility in Seattle, and that Boeing is revising its schedules as it factors in any potential knock-on effects of the shutdown. (Source: Jane’s)
25 Mar 20. Royal Navy shadows seven Russian warships in the Channel and North Sea. As the Royal Navy prepares to help the NHS and other government departments deal with the response to the coronavirus outbreak, nine British ships have been shadowing seven Russian vessels in waters around the UK. The Navy has completed a concentrated operation to shadow the Russian warships after unusually high levels of activity in the English Channel and North Sea. Type 23 frigates HMS Kent, HMS Sutherland, HMS Argyll and HMS Richmond joined Offshore Patrol Vessels HMS Tyne and HMS Mersey along with RFA Tideforce, RFA Tidespring and HMS Echo for the large-scale operation with support from NATO allies.
Lieutenant Nick Ward, HMS Tyne’s Executive Officer, said: “As the Armed Forces are helping the NHS save lives in the UK, it’s essential the Navy continues to deliver the tasks we have always performed to help keep Britain safe.
“This is very much part of routine business for HMS Tyne and represents one of the many roles our patrol vessels perform in support of the Royal Navy’s commitments.
“This is our core business and represents an enduring commitment to uphold the security of the UK.”
As the Navy’s logistics specialists and military planners work with the wider Armed Forces to help the coronavirus response effort, Royal Navy sailors and aircrew were monitoring every movement of the Russian ships using state-of-the-art radar, surveillance cameras and sensors, allowing them to track their course and speed as they passed the British Isles.
They were supported by Merlin and Wildcat helicopters of 814 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons.
Portsmouth-based HMS Tyne spent more than a week working in the English Channel, in often challenging seas, keeping a close eye on the Russian vessels as they pass the south coast.
Three Steregushchiy-class corvettes, two Ropucha-class landing ships and two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates were observed during the operations, plus their supporting auxiliary ships and tugs.
HMS Sutherland, fresh from a demanding period of Arctic training on Exercise Cold Response, watched over the Russian presence as part of her duties with NATO’s Standing NATO Maritime Group One – a very high readiness task group made up of frigates and destroyers which patrols northern European waters to provide a reassuring presence.
The Devonport-based frigate’s Merlin helicopter carried out a number of intelligence-gathering sorties over the Russian ships as they passed through the Channel.
HMS Sutherland’s Operations Officer, Lieutenant Hannah Lee, said: “Our successful integration into the maritime group proves our ability to adapt to task group operations at short notice.
“Having proved we can work together and contributed once again to NATO operations, we now look to return to UK national tasks in support of the very highest defence priorities.”
NATO duties also saw HMS Sutherland support the French carrier strike group led by aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in recent weeks.
HMS Sutherland, working alongside French, Norwegian, German and Danish ships, then carried out surface and air defence exercises as well as carrying out joint gunnery training. (Source: Royal Navy)
24 Mar 20. Germany Extends Arms Embargo on Saudi Arabia. German media reported on Monday that the German government had approved an extension of the arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, which will now last until December 31, 2020. This decision marks the third extension to the arms embargo, which was initially enacted in late 2018 after the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018.
Berlin has also pointed to the situation in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition to oust rebels from the country’s capital, in justifying its arms embargo. The Saudi military, particularly the Air Force, has made extensive use of Western-supplied systems in carrying out its campaign in Yemen, leading to backlash from governments and activists in the West who have recoiled against the war’s human toll. The Saudi coalition has denied targeting civilians deliberately in its campaign.
Two months prior to the killing of Khashoggi, a Saudi coalition air strike on a bus in a market in northern Yemen killed dozens of children and wounded over a dozen more, Human Rights Watch said, prompting global criticism. The Saudi military later acknowledged that a targeting mistake had led to the bus being hit. In a statement, the Saudi coalition said that intelligence had pointed to the bus being occupied by senior members of the Ansar Allah rebel group. The military said in a statement at the time, “The Joint Forces Command of the coalition expresses regret over the mistakes, [and] extends its sympathies, condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims,”
However, a number of European arms suppliers have cut arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In addition to Germany, other countries like Switzerland, Finland, Norway, and Denmark cut sales. The German ban has proved to be problematic for the Saudi military, as the country’s industry produces many of the components found in existing systems in the Saudi inventory as well as weapons platforms that Riyadh has been negotiating to buy, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon.
After initially pursuing a total arms export ban on Saudi Arabia, Berlin later eased its restrictions to enable the supply of components and spares for completed contracts, but has nevertheless resisted pressure from other large European defense producers, such as the U.K. and France, to lift the embargo on Saudi Arabia.
Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud sought unsuccessfully to persuade Germany to lift its ban. He said in an interview with DPA International, “We hope that Germany understands that we need the means to defend ourselves.” He added that Germany’s refusal to lift the ban is inconsistent with ensuring positive relations between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia has come under attack from missiles and drones operated by Ansar Allah, which have carried out strikes on oil facilities and other infrastructure within Saudi Arabia. In September of last year, two oil facilities – Abqaiq and Khurais – were attacked by both drones and missiles in what the U.S. has suggested was an Iranian-origin operation. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Forecast International)
24 Mar 20. Royal Navy deploys ships and submarines in response to Covid-19. The Royal Navy has deployed more than 12 ships and submarines on front-line operations from the mountains of South Georgia to south-east Asia in response to the unprecedented coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The deployment of the vessels is aimed at keeping the UK safe and the sea lanes open for free trade flow.
As part of the military’s response to Covid-19, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Reservists are being put on standby.
In hospitals across the country, including Derriford in Plymouth and Queen Alexandra in Portsmouth, Royal Navy surgeons, GPs, nurses and medical specialists are working to treat patients with the virus.
Royal Navy head Tony Radakin said: “The Royal Navy’s responsibility is to protect and defend the UK and its interests.
“In times of crisis, we are ready to support and assist the government wherever needed. But our duties remain unchanged, and we continue to deliver on operations around the world.”
The Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary are continuing to perform their regular duties during the pandemic. Destroyer HMS Defender, which is currently patrolling the Gulf and Indian Ocean, will be replaced by Frigate HMS Argyll.
New patrol ships HMS Forth and Medway will continue their missions for a longer period and will support the international fight against drug trafficking, remaining ready to provide humanitarian aid wherever it is needed. Minehunter HMS Grimsby and frigate HMS Sutherland are supporting Nato’s work on patrol in the waters of northern Europe.
Survey ships HMS Scott and Enterprise are deployed to the Atlantic and Far East to obtain data about the world’s oceans.
Frigates HMS Richmond and Lancaster are carrying out post-refit trials and training in home waters. (Source: naval-technology.com)
19 Mar 20. EDA-supported defence R&T project co-funded by EU Structural Funds. Co-funding worth some 5m euros from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) has been allocated to an EDA-supported defence research project aimed at developing protective clothing for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). Proposed by the Romanian Ministry of Defence, the ‘Active Protection Costume EOD’ project benefited from EDA’s dedicated expertise in its successful ESIF application.
Front-line EOD operators face severe risks when identifying, disabling or dismantling explosive devices, be it in military operations or in a civilian context (terrorism, unexploded ammunition in former conflict zones, etc). To provide them with best possible protection, the ‘Active Protection Costume EOD’ project is developing a special protective suit based on innovative materials and numerical simulations for structures.
The consortium in charge of the development encompasses STIMPEX S.A., a Romanian SME, the Romanian Scientific Research Center for CBRN Defense and Ecology as well as the National Institute for Research and Development for Non-Ferrous and Rare Metals.
The successful ESIF application of this project is testimony to EDA’s important role in helping defence project access EU funding opportunities. After a number of successful pilot cases, the Agency now actively facilitates access for all defence-related stakeholders (MoDs, industry, R&T organisations, academies, labs, etc.) to available funding at European level, with the help of its online “IdentiFunding” tool: a user-friendly and customised software application which allows interested parties to search for eligible EU funding for their specific defence projects and activities. (Source: EDA)
20 Mar 20. UK Personnel to Drawdown from Iraq. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a reduced requirement for training from the Iraqi Security Forces and a subsequent pause in the Coalition and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation training missions in Iraq. The Ministry of Defence has therefore decided to redeploy some of its personnel back to the United Kingdom (UK).
The training mission, which the UK has conducted alongside Global Coalition partners since 2014, has been paused for 60 days as a precaution due to the global pandemic.
The UK will retain key military personnel throughout the country to ensure the Iraqi Government, Global Coalition and UK national interests are appropriately supported.
The troops returning home will remain at readiness for a range of potential deployments across the world, while having the opportunity to support loved ones facing the challenges of the virus.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “In recent months the tempo of training has significantly declined, which means that I am in a position to bring back the current training unit to the UK. There remains a significant footprint of UK Armed Forces within the coalition and elsewhere. We are committed to building Iraq’s security capacity through our membership of the Global Coalition that has proved so effective and will continue to support the Iraqi Government in achieving stability.”
While Daesh no longer holds any territory, its corrupt ideology persists as a threat to the country and region. The UK remains committed to the complete defeat of Daesh through our enduring support to the Government of Iraq and membership of the Global Coalition. (Source: ASD Network)
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