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22 Nov 21. Leonardo raises investment pledges in push for UK helicopter deal. Italian group touts £1bn spending programme if it wins tender to replace Puma fleet. Italian defence group Leonardo has pledged to increase its investment plans for the UK’s only helicopter factory if it secures a contract to replace Britain’s ageing fleet of Puma support aircraft. Norman Bone, chief executive of Leonardo UK, said the company would build a new production line at the Yeovil plant in Somerset and introduce digital manufacturing skills as part of a £1bn investment programme. Leonardo faces competition for the helicopter contract. European aerospace and defence group Airbus is offering a militarised version of its H175 helicopter and has promised to build a final assembly line at Broughton in north Wales, where it already makes wings for commercial aircraft. It has previously said the facility would create 400 new jobs. Another potential competitor is America’s Sikorsky. The Ministry of Defence confirmed in the spring that the Royal Air Force would retire its fleet of 23 Puma helicopters, which were built in the early 1970s. Upgraded versions have been used to carry troops in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government has not yet launched a formal competition for a new medium helicopter (NMH) to replace the Puma, as well as three other types, but has invited potential bidders to a briefing in the coming week, fuelling speculation that a formal tender could be issued soon. Industry executives said the contract, understood to be for between 36 and 44 aircraft, could be worth as much as £1bn.
The contract battle threatens to reignite the long controversy over helicopter manufacturing in the UK. The future of the Yeovil plant, part of the former Westland business, has periodically become a politically charged issue. Leonardo has been keen to stress its local credentials as part of the government’s pledge to sustain domestic strategic industrial capability in its Integrated Review published this year. Yeovil employs close to 3,000 people. Bone said winning the contract would help secure “in the region of 300 to 400 jobs” at the site and allow Leonardo to maintain critical skills. He declined to comment on what would happen if its bid was unsuccessful, adding that the company would focus its attention on other export opportunities for its AW149 helicopter. Bone said ministers should consider using the competition for the NMH as a “catalyst for a national rotary wing strategy”, similar to existing strategies for shipbuilding and combat air. Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, said he was “not convinced there is a realistic requirement for this helicopter”. “If we were buying 60-80 aircraft, maybe,” he said. One option, he said, would be for the government to consider using existing Merlin and Lynx helicopters and then “buy a transformational capability” at a later stage. Airbus said it looked forward to “engaging in the competitive process with a high level of confidence in the performance of our product and support solutions, along with our proven record of on-time, on-cost delivery to UK MoD”. The MoD said a “market interest day” for the NMH programme would be held on November 25 to outline “requirements with potential suppliers”. (Source: FT.com)
19 Nov 21. In what has been described as being a landmark agreement, the UK and Polish Governments have this week signed a ‘Statement of Intent’ that will lead to the two nations sharing pioneering technology in order to develop a Ground Based Air Defence System for Poland known as NAREW.
The accompanying MOD statement also confirmed that NAREW will use MBDA’s Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), a missile-based system that flies at supersonic speeds and has the ability to destroy threats from the air including from stealth aircraft and high-speed missiles. The CAMM family of missiles are equipped with an advanced active radar seeker that can see even the smallest, fastest and stealthiest targets through the worst weather and the heaviest electronic jamming.
Chris Allam, Managing Director of MBDA UK said that “MBDA is delighted to be playing such a leading role in the UK-Poland Defence partnership. This agreement endorses the deep relationship we have formed with Poland’s Ministry of National Defence and Polish Industry and is underpinned by the nature of our unprecedented technology co-operation and transfer proposal for NAREW and Polish Air Defence. In choosing MBDA, and the CAMM family, Poland will receive the benefits of a true European missile partnership, the latest capabilities, and the ability to secure and develop highly skilled jobs in its defence industry. We thank Poland for the trust placed in us and we look forward to delivering this programme in co-operation with PGZ”.
With Russia increasing levels of tension in Eastern Europe and seen by many as testing the resolve of western allied defences, no one can accuse the UK of failing to rise to the challenge of supporting countries such as Poland and Ukraine who feel increasingly threatened by Russia.
Having also visited Ukraine earlier this week and confirmed a number of joint defence projects including financing arrangements, a £1.7bn loan from the UK that will allow Ukraine to acquire two minesweepers naval vessels, weapons and assistance to develop naval facilities in that country, the Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace is not just paying lip service to the increased level of threat posed by Russia on its neighbours but proving real tangible support. UK industry is also rising to the challenge and ready to support further UK government initiatives.
Back in June the UK’s Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin together with the immediate past First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Antony Radakin, Oleksandr Myroniuk, Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine and David Lockwood, CEO of Babcock International signed a ‘Memorandum of Implementation’ (MOI) that will lead to a variety of naval projects in Ukraine including introduction of various new capabilities, delivery of new naval platforms and defensive shipborne armaments, training of Ukrainian Navy personnel, the creation of new naval bases and purchase of decommissioned UK Royal Navy countermeasure vessels.
Babcock International will lead UK and Ukrainian industrial partners in order to assist the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence in delivering these projects. Funding is being made available by UK Export Finance (UKEF).
Contractual work includes implementation missile sales and integration on new and in-service Ukrainian Navy patrol and airborne platforms, including a training and engineering support package, development and joint production of eight fast missile warships, creation of a new naval base on the Black Sea as the primary fleet base for Ukraine and a new base on the Sea of Azov, Babcock International participating in the Ukrainian project to deliver a modern frigate capability and a Government to Government agreed sale of two refurbished former Royal Navy ‘Sandown’ class mine countermeasure vessels.
Separately, the ‘Statement of Intent’ signed with Poland this week may be seen as a very significant step forward in the UK providing improved security for Poland, a nation that we have built strong relations with and that clearly requires more assistance and support from the west in the face of increased threats.
During his visit to Poland, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace has also confirmed that the UK will provide up to 150 Army engineers in order to provide practical support to assist Poland tighten its eastern border with Belarus and where, encouraged by Russia, large numbers of migrants have been attempting to cross into Poland. (Source: Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.)
18 Nov 21. EU nations add air, space and drone tech to their defense cooperation roster. Union defense ministers this week approved new collaborative projects meant to boost the bloc’s military capabilities in air, space and drone operations.
The fourth wave of 14 initiatives boosts the slate of Permanent Structured Cooperation projects to 60 since late 2017. Collectively, they represent a key component of EU defense aspirations, though fielding any usable equipment as a result is still years away.
A new Strategic Air Transport for Outsized Cargo project aims to field a common aircraft fleet for long-haul cargo flights, filling a perennial shortage among European NATO members. The project, which is open for “possible third-state participation,” counts Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands and Slovenia as its members.
The reference to so-called third states is a hint to non-EU countries — likely the United Kingdom or Norway — that they could play a role in the effort if they want. The idea is to identify a “common European solution for the transport of outsized cargo” by 2023, with a separate, follow-on project in 2026 to work toward actual equipment, according to a fact sheet published online by the European Defence Agency.
Estonia, France and Latvia are banding together on a “semi-autonomous” and optionally manned naval vessel that could be used for reconnaissance, hunting submarines and surface ships, and laying mines. For this project, initial capabilities are already drafted, and companies are looking for ways to form a consortium, according to the EDA statement.
A “next-generation” small drone sporting a weight of 150 kilograms is the aim of another new project, which aims to deliver an initial prototype by 2026. The craft is meant to be runway-independent, highly deployable, multirole and “tactical,” though official statements leave open what exactly that means.
Germany, as one of the project members besides Spain, Portugal and Slovenia, has been reluctant to admit the use of armed drones for its forces, though the incoming government has reportedly indicated their use could be permissible under strict self-defense conditions.
Under the banner “Defense of Space Assets,” six nations will endeavor to inject survivability considerations into the space programs of EU members states, as satellites vital for military operations on Earth are increasingly becoming targets for would-be adversaries.
The project entails a “three-step approach combining training for space military operations, space resilience and access to space and in-space maneuverability,” the EDA statement read. France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Austria are listed as project members so far.
Aside from approving new initiatives, officials this week also adopted recommendations aimed at monitoring progress in the PESCO projects, according to the European Council website. Critics previously lamented the slow pace in some lines of work, warning that the bloc needs to more quickly catch up in the effort to muster new military capabilities without American help. (Source: Defense News)
18 Nov 21. UK and Poland collaborate on multi-billion pound Polish air defence systems. A landmark agreement has been reached between Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak to cooperate on Poland’s future air defence system.
A first for the UK-Poland relationship, the Statement of Intent will see the two countries share pioneering technology to develop NAREW, Poland’s future Ground-Based Air Defence System, which is anticipated to have a multi-billion-pound budget. The agreement will provide enhanced security and defence development for both countries, while developing and sustaining critical skills across the missile sector in Poland and the UK.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This agreement will deliver a step change in our defence co-operation with Poland and paves the way for our militaries to operate even more closely. Minister Błaszczak and I look forward to seeing the GBAD partnership develop. Britain and Poland have historically stood side by side against a range of threats and will continue to deepen our partnership.”
In the UK, MBDA’s Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) family has been confirmed for the NAREW programme. Flying at supersonic speeds, CAMM missiles can destroy modern air threats including stealth aircraft and high-speed missiles. Each CAMM family missile is equipped with an advanced active radar seeker that can see even the smallest, fastest and stealthiest targets through the worst weather and the heaviest electronic jamming.
Chris Allam, Managing Director MBDA UK:
MBDA is delighted to be playing such a leading role in the UK-Poland Defence partnership. This agreement endorses the deep relationship we have formed with Poland’s Ministry of National Defence and Polish Industry and is underpinned by the nature of our unprecedented technology co-operation and transfer proposal for NAREW and Polish Air Defence.
In choosing MBDA, and the CAMM family, Poland will receive the benefits of a true European missile partnership, the latest capabilities, and the ability to secure and develop highly skilled jobs in its defence industry. We thank Poland for the trust placed in us and we look forward to delivering this programme in co-operation with PGZ.
The Statement of Intent was signed during the Defence Secretary’s visit to Poland where he reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to European defence and security and NATO Allies. The Defence Ministers visited personnel in Bemowe Piskie Camp, Orzysz, where the UK Armed Forces are serving alongside Polish and other NATO Allies as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.
The Defence Secretary and Minister Blasczazk also discussed the current situation along Poland’s border with Belarus. The Defence Secretary affirmed UK support for Poland, and the UK’s firm condemnation the Lukashenko regime’s attempt to engineer a migration crisis to undermine Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. He confirmed the UK will continue to offer practical support through the deployment of UK military engineers to provide engineering technical and liaison assistance and wider engineering support to Polish military personnel deployed at the border.
Poland and the UK are both investing in improving capabilities and in modernising our Armed Forces, exceeding NATO’s Defence spending target of 2% of GDP. The bilateral relationship between the nations is strong, with forces operating side by side on land, at sea and in the air. Endeavours to work together to face shared challenges are underpinned by the Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty signed in 2017. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/government)
19 Nov 21. Russia ‘paying close attention’ to HMS Queen Elizabeth as race to salvage F-35 jet intensifies. Recovering jet is top priority to stop it falling into wrong hands, say defence sources following news it went down shortly after take-off
The RAF’s crashed F-35 jet went down soon after take off, it has emerged as the race to recover the aircraft continues. Defence sources confirmed that since Wednesday’s crash, which saw the Carrier Strike Group lose one of the Royal Air Force’s eight F-35b stealth fast jets, Russia had been paying close attention to the incident. There are concerns about the need to protect the sensitive information contained in the £100 million jet, which are considered the most complex and secretive aircraft that the UK possesses.
“The Russians haven’t taken their eyes off the carrier while it’s been in the Eastern Med,” the source said. “Recovering the jet is the top priority to stop if falling into the wrong hands.”
It is believed that the jet plunged into the sea close to the ship when it crashed on Wednesday morning shortly after 10am.
The pilot ejected and was safely rescued, and has since been taken to hospital for a routine medical check-up in Greece.
In order to get the pilot to hospital, HMS Queen Elizabeth had to divert from her planned route so that the pilot could be flown off the ship.
In order for the pilot to be removed from the aircraft carrier, she had to sail closer to land so that a helicopter could meet her at sea.
Due to the change of course, the Prince of Wales was on Friday forced to cancel a planned visit to the aircraft carrier. He had been due to visit the ship from Egypt.
However, despite the fact that it is thought the aircraft landed near the carrier, some have suggested a plane will “fly” underwater in a similar way to being in air, meaning that the jet would have travelled a significant distance after crashing.
Given that the aircraft went down in about 1.24 miles of water, it is likely the search area on the sea bed will be a circle of about four miles diameter.
The Telegraph understands that the F-35 has not yet been located, but Royal Navy ships are remaining in the area to deter anyone else trying to recover the jet.
Provided that the jet’s black box was not damaged in the crash, it will be signalling.
The Navy will send down a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to be directed onto the wreckage by this signal.
The ROV will attach flotation devices, which can be filled with compressed gas. These are effectively “open-sided” balloons; open to allow the expansion of gases as the wreckage ascends to the surface.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will first be working to locate the jet. Afterwards, it has to decide whether to recover the aircraft, or any pieces if it has broken up.
The technology exists for such a recovery, even given the depth of water. The US has considerable experience of this, having suffered a number of “ditchings” from aircraft carriers.
If a recovery operation is launched, a dedicated salvage platform will need to be located and contracted for the task, given that the MoD does not own such equipment.
However, it is not known how long any salvage operation will take. It will not be swift and will be dictated by the location of any salvage platform.
However, while the UK is aware that Russia is watching, on Friday night Navy sources sought to play down the threat, insisting that Russian Kilo-Class submarines that could be used to search for the jet are located in the Black Sea and are not capable of diving to 1.24 miles.
The MoD does not comment or speculate on matters that could affect operational security, but it is thought likely the swift recovery of the aircraft will be a priority.
Britain will likely call on allies to support the logistics of any salvage operation. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
17 Nov 21. HMS Queen Elizabeth: British F-35 crashes in Mediterranean. The aircraft, worth roughly £88.8m, is from the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier which is deployed on Carrier Strike Group 21. A UK F-35 jet from HMS Queen Elizabeth has crashed during flying operations over the Mediterranean. The Ministry of Defence says the British pilot, who ejected from their aircraft, has safely returned to the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. They added that an investigation has begun into the incident. The Ministry of Defence confirmed the incident on Twitter. The Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) – led by HMS Queen Elizabeth – is in its final month of what is its maiden deployment. F-35Bs on board aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are prepared to be scrambled, when necessary, and have had more than 30 live interactions with the Russian military during the current deployment. There are both British and American jets on board the Queen Elizabeth-class warship – seven from the UK and 10 from the United States. In March 2020, defence minister Jeremy Quin stated the price of an F-35B was $115m (around £88.8m when using UK Government March 2020 exchange rates), covering airframe and engine cost. (Source: forces.net)
16 Nov 21. U.S., Norwegian Defense Leaders Discuss High North Strategy, Dealing With Russia. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen for meetings at the Pentagon today, following up on discussions they held during the NATO Defense Ministerial last month. Enoksen, who became defense minister last month, and Austin looked to deepen an already deep relationship between the two nations. Norway is one of the founding members of NATO. “Norway is one of our most valued and forward-leaning allies,” Austin said during his welcome. “Our defense relationship is based on our shared values and our common commitment to NATO, which we see as the essential forum for consultation, decision-making and action on transatlantic security issues.” Climate change makes the Arctic region more accessible, and Russia, with its long Arctic coastline, is aggressively moving into the area. Russia has even placed missile systems on ice breakers. “In a sense, Norway is the alliance’s eyes and ears in the High North,” Austin said. Norway hosted NATO’s Exercise Trident Juncture in 2018. The exercise featured ground, naval and air operations north of the Arctic Circle.
“The U.S. is Norway’s most important ally,” Enoksen said. “We do not take you for granted. I look forward to developing the relationship even further.” I’m also looking forward to discussing how we can work closer together towards the NATO summit next summer.
Norway has met the NATO goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense. The country is continuing its impetus to modernize its military. Austin noted the nation is receiving the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft this week.
“We’re also grateful to you for hosting rotational deployments of U.S. troops for training and exercising in Arctic conditions, as well as for the prepositioned equipment that you’ve hosted for many years,” he said. “This cooperation has built exceptional levels of interoperability, and that serves us well when we join in security operations around the globe.”
Norway has stored Marine Corps equipment in facilities near Trondheim since 1981.
“You can see our partnership at work with the Norwegian frigate now deployed with the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, with the Norwegian F-35 fighters that exercised last month with our B-2 bombers and with the deepening cooperation between our special operations forces,” the secretary said.
Norwegian service members served alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Austin thanked the minister for his country’s help. “I especially want to thank Norway for its contributions in Afghanistan,” he said. “We will always be grateful to the brave Norwegian forces who operated the hospital at the Kabul airport right up to the very end of our common military mission. And we’re also deeply grateful for your help during the historic airlift of 124,000 people. That lifesaving mission wouldn’t have been possible without our allies and partners — including Norwegian forces and military aircraft.”
Norway shares a small land border with Russia, and constantly interacts with its neighbor in the High North. Austin said he looks forward to deeper discussions with Norwegian allies on the challenges President Vladimir Putin’s Russia presents.
“Norway follows development in Russia closely both in the East and in the North,” Enoksen said. “Norway takes our responsibility for the High North very seriously. We are concerned about Russia’s military capabilities in our neighborhood. We welcome the increased interests and activities in the High North from the U.S. and other allies.” (Source: US DoD)
15 Nov 21. MoD admits third data breach involving vulnerable Afghans. The Defence Secretary was told to “get his house in order” after the latest revelation. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has admitted a third data breach involving the email addresses of vulnerable Afghans left behind after the British airlift from Kabul.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was told to “get his house in order” on Monday after the latest revelation suggested a total of 268 addresses have been exposed.
Mr Wallace said all three breaches were “mistakes” that took place in the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) casework team tasked with advising the vulnerable Afghan nationals.
He said they were the result of group emails being sent with addresses in the “carbon copy” field rather than the “blind carbon copy” field, which would have anonymised recipients.
The Defence Secretary said in a written statement to Parliament the actions were not “deliberate or negligent”, but the “result of insufficient training and data-handling procedures”.
Mr Wallace admitted the third, previously unknown data breach, occurred on 7 September and involved “an additional 13 email addresses not previously compromised”.
Earlier investigations showed a data breach reported on 20 September consisted of 245 live email addresses and one two days later included 10 fresh addresses.
Describing the breaches as “unacceptable”, Mr Wallace added: “They were also a breach of the trust many former Afghan staff have placed in us to honour our commitment and do all that we can to keep them safe.”
He said the errors arose from the “intense speed” and pressure under which the ARAP team was expanded.
“As a result, some members of the team were inexperienced and insufficiently trained for such casework management,” Mr Wallace added.
He added that two personnel have been assigned to other roles outside the ARAP team following the investigation.
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: “These breaches pose a fundamental threat to our operational effectiveness and national security which must be addressed immediately and comprehensively.
“This is a basic issue of competence for this Government.
“Until the Defence Secretary stops these leaks our service personnel will rightly be wondering whether the MOD has their back.”
More than 7,000 Afghan nationals, including former staff of the British mission and their families, have been relocated in the UK, according to Mr Wallace’s update.
He added that there are fewer than 200 remaining in Afghanistan as the UK continues “to work with urgency to relocate all those who remain via a range of routes”. (Source: forces.net)
15 Nov 21. UK stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Poland, Boris Johnson pledges. British troops at ‘high readiness’ in region after massing of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers – including elite units – near the Ukraine. The UK stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Poland, the Prime Minister pledged on Monday, as parliament heard that British troops were at “high readiness” in the region. Boris Johnson made his comments as thousands of migrants camped out at the Polish border with Belarus for a second week. Warsaw has accused the Russian leader Vladimir Putin of orchestrating the crisis along with Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Mr Johnson told a press conference: “On Belarus and Russia, we are showing solidarity with our friends in Poland as you would expect and we would encourage everyone to work for peace and stability in the whole European region.”
He added: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends across the whole region; Estonia, Poland, we are there.”
It comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the House of Commons that British troops in Estonia were ready to deploy.
Mr Wallace said: “There is a very, very high readiness battlegroup available in Estonia, with a matter of hours to move”.
He said the migrant crisis was “a tragedy and actually a disgrace” in the way vulnerable people had been treated.
Mr Wallace revealed that this week he will travel to Poland to meet with his Polish counterpart, as he urged diplomatic channels to make clear that “this is unacceptable behaviour”.
He said it was a “hybrid, destabilising method deployed by too many countries, with human beings being the traffic”.
General Sir Nick Carter, the outgoing head of the Armed Forces, has warned the West must be “on guard” at the prospect of war with Russia.
Helicopter footage released by Polish authorities yesterday showed at least 1,000 people gathered against the country’s border with Belarus.
The asylum-seekers, many from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, have been living in tents in the woods for days.
Polish police warned the migrants via loudspeaker that Belarus had “deceived them” and that they would not be allowed into the country.
The EU believes Mr Lukashenko has arranged the crisis in order to punish the bloc for sanctions against his regime.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has called on Mr Putin, the sole international ally of the Belarusian leader, to intervene.
The EU on Monday agreed to slap sanctions on airlines, travel agents and individuals accused of helping Mr Lukashenko wage his “hybrid attack” against the bloc.
The standoff comes as Nato’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned that a “significant” Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian border has cut the time the West would have to prepare for any invasion.
Mr Stoltenberg urged the transatlantic alliance to be “realistic” about the threat following warnings last week from US intelligence officials that Moscow could be plotting a repeat of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Referring to military maneuvers in western Russia, Mr Stoltenberg said: “We see an unusual concentration of troops, and we know that Russia has been willing to use these types of military capability before to conduct aggressive actions against Ukraine.”
“Nato remains vigilant, we are monitoring the situation very closely and we continue to consult amongst our allies and partners such as Ukraine and the European Union,” he said.
“Any further provocation or aggressive actions by Russia would be of serious concern.”
Mr Stoltenberg spoke after a meeting in Brussels with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said Russia’s “sophisticated military infrastructure” was “ready to be used” against his country.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops have been amassing near the Ukrainian border in recent weeks, according to satellite photos, with high-tech military equipment also being deployed in the area near the breakaway Donbass region.
Russia has dismissed the fears of an invasion as “alarmist” and accused Nato of provoking tensions in the region with its own unplanned exercises.
Mr Kuleba insisted the migrant crisis and military build-up should not be treated separately, as both are part of Mr Putin’s “strategy to shatter Europe”.
“When we see migrants used as a weapon, when we see disinformation used as a weapon, when we see gas used as a weapon, and soldiers and their guns… these are not separate elements,” Ukraine’s top diplomat said in an interview with the Politico website.
“We should see everything that is happening east of the EU border and inside of the EU as part of a general effort.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
16 Nov 21. EU to aim for rapid deployment force without U.S. assets by 2025, document says. The European Union is considering a joint military force of up to 5,000 troops by 2025 to intervene in a range of crises and without relying on the United States, according to a draft plan.
The “EU Rapid Deployment Capacity” should be made up of land, sea and air components that could be swapped in and out of any standing force, depending on the crisis, according to the confidential 28-page document dated Nov. 9 and seen by Reuters.
EU foreign and defence ministers briefly debated the plan on Monday evening in Brussels and are set to continue on Tuesday, aiming to settle on a final document by March next year.
Two decades after EU leaders first agreed to set up a 50,000-60,000-strong force but failed to make it operational, the draft strategy by the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is the most concrete effort to create a standalone military force that does not rely on U.S. assets.
“We need more rapidity, robustness and flexibility to undertake the full range of military crisis management tasks,” said the draft, called the “Strategic Compass”.
“We need to be able to respond to imminent threats or quickly react to a crisis situation, for example a rescue and evacuation mission or a stabilisation operation in a hostile environment,” the draft said.
Not all 27 EU states would need to take part, although approval of any deployment would require consensus.
The Strategic Compass is the closest thing the EU could have to a military doctrine and akin to U.S.-led NATO’s “Strategic Concept” that sets out alliance goals. Crucially for the EU, Borrell wants EU states to commit to “providing associated assets and the necessary strategic enablers”.
That means developing the logistics, long-range air transport and command and control capabilities of the United States that European allies in NATO have relied on.
The United States has urged Europeans to invest in deployable troops and U.S. President Joe Biden has said such moves would be complementary to NATO. The EU has maintained battlegroups of 1,500 troops since 2007 but they have never been used, despite efforts to deploy them in Chad and Libya.
Breaking up the battlegroups into smaller units could make them more flexible and more deployable. Today they are led by individual nations who may or may not have an interest in the crisis of the day, defence analysts have said.
“The use of modules will give us greater flexibility to tailor our force to the nature of the crisis … This is key if we want to overcome the obstacles that we have faced in the past,” the draft strategic plan said. (Source: Google/Reuters)
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