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Author: Subject: NATO, and all of its ramifications

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[*] posted on 26-9-2017 at 01:09 PM

Major Air and Missile Defence Exercise Starts off Scotland

(Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organization; issued Sept 24, 2017)

A major Allied air and missile defence exercise got underway at the Hebrides Range in the Western Isles off Scotland on Sunday (24 September 2018) with the aim of fostering cooperation between NATO Allies in the face of possible missile threats. Exercise "Formidable Shield", which runs until 18 October, involves ships and aircraft from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. 14 ships, 10 aircraft and around 3,300 personnel will be involved in the exercise.

Formidable Shield will see Allied ships detecting, tracking and defending against a range of anti-ship and ballistic missiles using NATO command and control procedures. Drills will include sharing a common tactical picture, conducting joint mission planning and engagement coordination. The live-fire naval exercise will be the first time in Europe that Allies practice defending against incoming ballistic missiles with no prior warning.

Maritime patrol aircraft and NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft will provide aerial over-watch and ensure that the airspace is clear. Parts of Formidable Shield will overlap with the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise, which also take place in Scotland.

NATO decided to develop a capability to defend its European members from ballistic missile threats in 2010. NATO missile defence links Allied sensors and weapons together in a single system. Major components of NATO missile defence include four U.S. Navy destroyers with the ‘Aegis’ missile defence system home-ported in Rota, Spain and a U.S. operated land-based system in Romania known as 'Aegis Ashore'. Other key components include an early warning radar in Turkey. NATO's air command in Ramstein, Germany, commands the system.


UK at Heart of International Missile Defence Exercise

(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Sept 24, 2017)

US-led Exercise Formidable Shield has today begun in waters off the West Coast of Scotland.

A Royal Navy Type 45 Destroyer and two Type 23 Frigates will, alongside ships and crews from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the United States, join one of the most sophisticated and complex air and missile exercises ever undertaken in the UK.

Lasting a month, allies will work together to detect, track and shoot down both anti-ship and ballistic missile targets. 13 ships will fire on 12 live missile targets over four days, improving how allies work together in an air and missile defence environment.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “North Korean tests have shown the danger of rogue states developing longer range missiles. By hosting this cutting-edge exercise in anti-missile defence with allied navies Britain is at the forefront of developing a more effective response to this growing threat.”

Rear Admiral Paul Bennett, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Capability) said: “Formidable Shield is a terrific example of the leading role that the UK plays in development of maritime air and missile defence – protecting our people and working with our allies.”

Ahead of the exercise, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and QinetiQ recently invested £60 million into the Hebrides Range to modernise the equipment and facilities. A further £16.8 million will be invested in two new BAE Systems tracking radars, to be installed on St Kilda, and upgrade two existing radars at MOD Hebrides.

The new radars are part of the £95m Air Range Modernisation programme agreed in December 2016 with the UK MOD.

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[*] posted on 6-10-2017 at 01:23 PM

3-nation force in Europe can now join international missions

By: The Associated Press   9 hours ago

Polish soldiers are pictured prior the beginning of an official welcoming ceremony of NATO troops in Orzysz, Poland, on April 13, 2017. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images)

WARSAW, Poland — Defense ministers from Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine have authorized their 2-year-old joint brigade to take part in international missions for the region’s security.

The ministers marked two years since the brigade was founded in Lublin, eastern Poland, in response to security concerns after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.

The brigade was given a banner and was named after a 16th century military commander who fought against Russian forces. They also upgraded its role to allow it to take part in international military missions.

Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said from now on the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade will be able to take part in “all peacekeeping missions that are necessary in the case when peace is threatened” and guard the region’s security.
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[*] posted on 11-10-2017 at 07:40 PM

NATO’s battle groups instilled confidence on eastern flank during Russia’s Zapad

By: Jen Judson   20 hours ago

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, talks with soldiers from the U.S. and Germany at Bezmer Air Base in Bulgaria. (Spc. Taylor Hoganson/Army)

WASHINGTON ― NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence battle groups instilled confidence on the eastern flank of Europe during Russia’s large annual exercise Zapad 2017, which took place over the month of September, the commander of U.S. Army Europe said.

“Our allies now have a lot more confidence in the enhanced forward presence battle groups that were deployed in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland,” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told Defense News in an interview at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.

“In less than one year from the decision of the alliance at the NATO Summit in Warsaw last summer [2016], all of these battle groups were deployed and in place and these are real warfighting formations, each one capable of defeating a Russian brigade,” Hodges said. “And they were in place before Zapad, and so I think our allies really have a lot more confidence in what the alliance is doing as part of deterrence.”

Hodges said it’s believed the Russian exercise was much larger and began much earlier than Moscow claimed.

“Zapad wasn’t just in Belarus,” he said. “That was the Russian narrative.”

The Russians claimed it had 12,700 soldiers in Belarus exercising during Zapad, just below the 13,000 threshold required for them to report and have observers present, according to Hodges.

“But there were tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, sailors and airmen involved in this exercise,” he said, adding there was a collection of distributed exercises happening from the Arctic Circle down through Belarus and connected exercises happening in the Southern military district over in the Caucuses.

The final piece of the exercise is underway now, which is a nuclear portion, Hodges said.

The intelligence sharing across NATO and multilateral arrangements across Europe as well as the United States and Canada, “is better than we have ever seen because we were all really focused on doing what we could to understand what the Russians were going to be doing,” Hodges said.

The Army and its allies and partners will be “looking at the forensics” of Zapad for several months, Hodges said, but based on what has been learned, the Russians demonstrated the ability, yet again, to move people “real far, real fast.”

The Russians also demonstrated they have really effective electronic warfare capability. They also demonstrated a lot of activities with drones, Hodges said.

Additionally, it was confirmed that the core of how they fight is still with long-range fires, rockets and artillery, Hodges said. “That was definitely on display.”

Hodges noted the Army has to start getting creative on solutions and that long-range precision fires development has to be a top priority given what Russia has displayed in terms of capability.

The Russians also tried some of the new command and control changes they have made, Hodges said, “and I think we will look at the forensics of that for a while to see how effective the new mission command structures are.”
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[*] posted on 11-10-2017 at 08:43 PM

The US and NATO’s ability to deter Russia is at risk, commander says

By: Kathleen Curthoys   12 hours ago

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment begin prepping their vehicles for offload at Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase, Romania, in February 2017. (Army)

The effectiveness of the U.S. and its NATO allies to act as deterrents against Russia is at risk because of shortfalls in capability, said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe.

There is a pressing need for NATO allies to share intelligence, but many products available to enable that aren’t suitable, Hodges told an audience at a panel Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting & Exposition.

“I have been walking the halls here and looking at exhibits and seeing the incredible products the defense industry produces, but I continue to be disappointed because everything is made for U.S. forces only ... and that‘s not how we’re going to fight,” Hodges said. “We’ve got to continue to put the demand on industry, but also get the policies right to allow us to share information and intelligence.”

Without that, the U.S. can’t do digital force missions with its allies, and the NATO countries are impaired in communicating with each other in a secure mode.

“We are taking great risk at our ability to be an effective deterrent, he said.

He emphasized the important of interoperability within NATO countries, and said the U.S. cannot act effectively alone in the region.

“We don’t do anything by ourselves partly because we don’t have the capacity,” Hodges “There is a need for interoperability. We are much more effective and stronger when we have our partners.”

Another factor necessary for deterrence is speed, he said.

The U.S. has to be as fast or faster than Russian forces, he said. U.S. forces have about seven days to get forces to the eastern side of the NATO region, given conditions and EU road laws.

“Speed of assembly is critical,” Hodges said, in case of impending conflict.

The U.S. presence in Europe is enhanced by the rotational heel-to-toe presence of brigade combat teams such as the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colorado, with its approximately 4,000 soldiers that deployed last winter in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The Russians’ huge military exercise in September, called Zapad, meaning “west,” conducted near the Baltics, was a “great example of the Russians‘ attempt to create a false narrative,” Hodges said. The Russians said they had fewer troops, fewer than 13,000, than they apparently had deployed.

There were three main takeaways after Zapad, Hodges said.

Within NATO was the best intelligence sharing ever seen, and “all kinds of walls came down, he said. Second was confidence in the Enhanced Forward Presence battle group concept, with battle groups fielded in less than a year.

The third, he said. was “nobody believes anything the Russians say anymore. Everyone knows there were more than 12,700 troops.”

That lack of clarity creates anxiety, he said, and makes people worried about what the exercise is about.

A member of the audience asked if there are enough U.S. troops in Europe to act effectively.

“There are response plans ... readiness forces ready to go, corps standing by right now, ready to go,” said Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, commander of Alllied Land Command, NATO.
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[*] posted on 13-10-2017 at 07:41 PM

The 2% Benchmark Is Blinding Us to NATO Members’ Actual Contributions

By Elisabeth Braw

October 12, 2017

Torbjørn Kjosvold / Norwegian Armed Forces

It is far more revealing to look at the forces and capabilities each country sends abroad on alliance missions.

Take a glance at NATO’s defense spending statistics, and Denmark looks like a mediocre member. Last year, the Scandinavian country spent 1.17 percent of GDP on defense, far below NATO’s 2-percent benchmark. But a closer look at the country’s military deployments reveals a rather different picture: Denmark is, in fact, a NATO starlet. Members’ contributions to alliance missions matter as much as their defense spending. We should encourage them to be more like Denmark.

In Mali, the Danish armed forces have a 62-troop C-130 Hercules detachment. They have 199 troops in Iraq and have smaller groups elsewhere, including Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base and Kosovo. Next year, Denmark will boost its contribution to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia from five troops to 200, and it’s about to increase its Afghanistan force to 150 men and women. Currently, 702 Danish troops are on foreign deployment, 389 of them on NATO missions.

Or look at Norway, which similarly does not qualify for NATO’s Two Percent Club: it spends 1.56 percent of its GDP on defense.

But Norwegian special forces played a crucial role in Afghanistan and are now involved in the fight against ISIS. Norway also has 200 troops in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania, and troops in, among other places, Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

“Norway contributes to the alliance both by having a strong national defense [and] by contributing to NATO’s collective defense and by participating in out-of-area NATO missions,” Norway’s defense minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, told me by email. “We’ll also host the high-profile exercise Trident Juncture 2018, which will be a very important opportunity for joint operations with our allies.”

Italy’s low 1.11 percent defense spending likewise doesn’t reflect its disproportionate contribution: currently, some 7,000 Italian troops serve abroad, including 1,037 troops in Afghanistan. Only the U.S. has a larger contingent there. Italy also has 551 troops in Kosovo — again, second only to the U.S.

By contrast, in 2014 (the latest year available) Greece deployed none of its 21,500 deployable troops on NATO missions, though it did spend more than 2 percent of GDP on defense. Poland, with 2-percent defense spending and a population of 40 million, deployed an average of 877 troops in 2014, and has just 198 troops in Afghanistan.

The Baltic states also make efforts that go beyond their spending, said Sir Christopher Harper, a former air marshal in the Royal Air Force who was, until last year, director-general of NATO’s international military staff. “They’re making huge efforts to beef up regional security, including working with [non-NATO members] Sweden and Finland,” Harper said. “They’re doing things that some larger members haven’t done.”

Yet NATO has no Alliance honor roll for countries whose contributions involve not just money but casualties as well. And while NATO does list the number of troops involved in each of its missions, there’s no sheet showing each country’s combined commitment to the alliance.

The 2-percent focus, a former senior NATO official told me, comes from U.S. legislators. “You can spend all the time in the world telling US legislators that a country that spends one percent may spend it more wisely than one that spends two percent, but US legislators take a very simplistic view,” he explained.

There’s another reason no NATO top-achiever charts exist and that members’ annual contributions are classified: member states would not agree to publish the information. NATO operates by consent, and it doesn’t do public naming and shaming. It also doesn’t list  members’ use of caveats – the practice by which they choose less-dangerous assignments. “Caveats are the bane of any operational commander’s life,” said Sir Christopher. “But it’s a political reality that sovereign nations apply their own rules of engagement to their troops.”

As things stand, the only performance metrics the public can see are defense spending and spending on equipment. By that measurement, the U.S., the UK, Greece, Estonia and Poland are the alliance’s star performers, all meeting the 2-percent benchmark. Luxembourg, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Norway, the U.S., France, Turkey, the UK and Italy meet the less celebrated equipment spending benchmark of 20 percent. On both lists, Denmark sits near the bottom.

NATO’s reporting won’t change, even though there’s general recognition that 2-percent-of-GDP is a blunt measuring tool.

And defense spending does measure countries’ commitment to their own security. There’s no doubt that Italy, Denmark, Norway and other stragglers should spend more on their armed forces. “Make no mistake: defense spending is important to assure preparedness and enhance capabilities in an increasingly unsafe world,” agreed Stefano Stefanini, a former ambassador of Italy to NATO. “Two percent is a useful term of reference, and there should be no complacency about lagging behind it. Yet it can’t be the only yardstick in ranking NATO allies.”

Exactly so. Neither U.S. legislators nor the rest of us should stare ourselves blind at 2-percent allegiance. Instead, we should encourage NATO governments to go beyond simply spending on defense and up their contributions to the alliance as well. Such contributions, Stefanini points out, can take place in security areas that don’t count towards the defense budget: domestic counterterrorism; intelligence; cyber-security of strategic civilian infrastructures. And, he added, “There’s risk-taking.

Countries like Denmark, Italy and Norway are risk-takers; witness their consistent availability. NATO knows very well that when it calls on Oslo, Copenhagen or Rome it will get a response: assets and, when need be, boots on the ground.”

Yes, the U.S. goes the extra mile for Europe, for example, by stationing some 30,000 Army soldiers here. But farther from the spotlight, so do countries like Italy, Denmark and Norway. Such overachievers should get credit for their efforts just as two percent spenders do. But praise is not enough. NATO shouldn’t have to rely on a few overachievers to assemble and run its missions. Much like the residents of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, all NATO members should be above-average contributors.
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 03:53 PM

Germany is ‘ducking military responsibility,’ says Belgian think tank

By: Martin Banks   15 hours ago

Armored infantryman of Germany's armed forces move through mud during a simulated attack during military exercises on Oct. 10, 2017, near Munster, Germany. (Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS ― Germany needs to make a “sustained investment” in defense and stop “leaving the dirty work” to others, according to a new study.

The study, called “Jumping over its shadow,” was published Thursday and calls for Berlin to stop “ducking military responsibility.”

Its findings come despite the majority of German public favoring only a modest increase in defense spending rather than a substantial step change.

The study, conducted by Friends of Europe, a highly respected, Brussels-based think tank, says Germany, as Europe’s most powerful economy, has the “biggest potential” to contribute financially and give “critical momentum” to a European defense union, alongside France.

Its publication is timely as the newly re-elected German chancellor, Angela Merkel, continues coalition negotiations with the liberal-right Free Democrats and the anti-nuclear ecologist Greens, in which defense is likely to be a bone of contention.

The study, which drew on interviews with senior NATO officials, politicians and security experts, concedes there is “little enthusiasm” among the German public for a substantial increase in the country’s military spending from the current 1.2 percent of gross domestic product.

But it goes on to say that the German armed forces have been “hollowed out by two decades of attrition.”

Paul Taylor, who authored the study, states: “Planes, helicopters, armoured vehicles and ships are cannibalised to keep a limited number running. Despite a turnaround in the defence budget since 2016, fully equipping the Bundeswehr will take 10 to 15 years. The defence industries are in flux due in part to incomplete reforms of the procurement system.”

To make itself more “europafaehig” (fit to work in Europe), the study insists Germany must “jump over the dark shadow of its past” and develop a “proactive strategic culture.”

“It must make a sustained investment in defence after two decades of continuous cuts, and adapt its institutional set-up to make itself a more effective partner, better able to exercise shared leadership in security and defence.”

The study says that for historical reasons, Germany has pursued a policy of diplomatic and military restraint but has also “begun to take greater responsibility” for international security as its strategic environment has deteriorated.

“Germans are right to criticise Western interventions in Iraq and Libya as short-term military solutions that left a catastrophic aftermath, and to advocate a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and resolution using all the tools of diplomacy, development and capacity building.

“But this cannot be a pretext for ducking military responsibility and leaving the dirty work to others.”

‘Insane’ budget allocation

The next German government has three choices of where to put its resources: mostly with NATO, though this would be at the risk of “preparing to fight the last war”; mostly in a European Union defense initiative, which carries the risk of “under-delivering and having to accept fiscal transfers for defence”; or a combination of both.

Publication coincides with a separate Friends of Europe survey of German and international policymakers that found that Islamic terrorism at home and in the Middle East as well as cyberattacks were perceived as the main threats to Germany, ahead of Russia or challenges related to climate change and migration, although Eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea were seen as Germany’s areas of greatest strategic interest.
Respondents were evenly split between NATO and EU defense cooperation as the main priority for Berlin.

The survey said a clear majority favoured only a modest increase in defense spending rather than a substantial step change.

Angela Merkel has repeatedly reaffirmed her commitment to raise Germany’s defense spending toward 2 percent of GDP by 2024 — as NATO countries agreed in Wales at a 2014 summit.

Given that it would be nearly double the 1.2 percent of GDP, or $45 billion a year that Germany currently spends, many in the country have questioned the wisdom of investing 2 percent of its annual economic output on defense. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel recently said this would be “insane.”

Further criticism comes from German Social Democrat leader Manuela Schwesig, who argued: “We don’t need rearmament, we don’t need to spend an additional €20 billion, [or U.S. $23.7 billion], a year on weapons. We want to spend that money instead on education and better equipment at our schools.”

Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, agrees: “Germans are against military interventions abroad and most aren’t interested in more defense spending as long as so many school buildings are in a state of disrepair.”

No one at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU was available for comment.

Only four of the 29 NATO members have met the 2 percent GDP target, with the United States leading the way with 3.6 percent.

Though it is one of Europe’s most prosperous countries and its federal government produces annual budget surpluses, Germany ranks 17th behind countries such as Romania, Poland, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal and Croatia.
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[*] posted on 22-10-2017 at 02:03 PM

German-French Cooperation on Air Transport

(Source: German Ministry of Defence; issued Oct 19, 2017)

(Issued in German; unofficial translation by

Vice-Admiral Joachim Rühle (R) and his French colleague, Admiral Philippe Coindreau, signed the basic document for the joint C-130J Hercules squadron in Berlin. (Bundeswehr photo)

Germany and France want to set up a joint air transport unit, and 10 Lockheed C-130J Hercules transport aircraft -- four French and six German -- are to be stationed at the French air base at Évreux, in Normandie. The Bundeswehr expects to contribute around 200 soldiers for this purpose.

German-French working group

The Bundeswehr's deputy general inspector, Vice-Admiral Joachim Rühle, and his French colleague, Admiral Philippe Coindreau, took another step towards the German-French air transport squadron on October 18, 2017 in Berlin.

Details of future cooperation

They signed a basic agreement between Germany and France. The document provides further details of the future German-French cooperation in this project, and was signed at the meeting of the Franco-German Working Group on Military Cooperation.

By the year 2021, the squadron should be ready for initial operations (Initial Operational Capability, or IOC), and in 2024 they should have achieved full operational capability (FOC).

C-130J personnel are trained in Évreux

From 2021, the staff of the Franco-German C-130 J Hercules squadron will be trained in Évreux. In this way, the flight training of the crews and the technical instruction of the maintenance personnel on this new air transport aircraft will be shared. To this end, both nations are building a joint training center.

Although the A-400M is the future backbone of German military air transport, this cooperation is intended to close a limited gap in our air transport capability, which is due to be open after the current C-160 Transall transports are phased out in 2021.

In fact, the purpose of the German-French air transport agreement is to share the use (and the cost—Ed) of the common air transport capability.

Parliaments deal with 2018

By mid-2018, detailed planning for the German-French air transport squadron will have been completed. At that time, it will be submitted to the German Bundestag for approval. Subsequently, the signing of a government agreement is planned.

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[*] posted on 25-10-2017 at 09:48 AM

Romania to pay USD700 million for first Patriot missile system

Radu Tudor - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

24 October 2017

Romania's new defence minister, Mihai Fifor, on 23 October revealed Romania’s plan to buy Raytheon-built Patriot systems and other priority equipment for the Romanian armed forces.

Fifor said Romania had allocated 2% of gross domestic product to defence in 2017, with 38% of the budget going to the Romanian armed forces’ procurement programmes.

He identified major procurement programmes approved by both the Romanian Supreme Defence Council and parliament starting this year. The first programme is the acquisition of the first Patriot missile defence system, for which Fidor said around USD700 million would be spent this year. Military sources told Jane's the total amount of the contract for Patriot missiles is USD3.8 billion.

(112 of 268 words)
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[*] posted on 25-10-2017 at 09:10 PM

US to question Zapad war games at NATO-Russia meet

By: The Associated Press   11 hours ago

Soldiers from the Army's 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, pass through Chievres air base, Belgium, Tuesday en route to a nine-month rotation in Illesheim, Germany, to support Operation Atlantic Resolve and other training missions across Europe. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

CHIEVRES, Belgium (AP) — The U.S. envoy to NATO says the United States will talk to Russia this week about its lack of transparency during major military exercises last month in Belarus.

U.S. Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters Tuesday that “there was a lack of transparency on Russia’s part about what they said they were going to do and what they were doing.”

Russia said it mobilized fewer than 13,000 troops for the Zapad war-games, the internationally recognized limit beyond which monitors should be invited.

Bailey Hutchison said the Sept. 14-20 exercises were “much more comprehensive than that.” Some U.S. estimates suggest 40,000 troops took part.

She will raise the issue Thursday at NATO’s talks with Russia in their format for discussing cooperation and airing differences, the NATO-Russia Council.
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[*] posted on 31-10-2017 at 11:55 PM

Ambitious Framework Nation: Germany in NATO: Bundeswehr Capability Planning and the ‘Framework Nations Concept’

(Source: Center for Security Studies; issued Oct 30, 2017)

What a crock of shit..............Germany will need to spend DRAMATICALLY more than it does to get ANY kind of leadership role, otherwise it's all talk and no substance!

Berlin is pursuing ambitious plans for security and defence, with significant potential for the Bundeswehr and European partner militaries. In the long-term, the Bundeswehr could well become Europe’s indispensable army, with Germany as a “framework nation” contributing decisively to NATO’s readiness. This will require the future German government to accept an unaccustomed politico-military leadership role. It will also be necessary to increase defence spending for the long term.

A stronger German role within NATO, as envisioned by the Federal Government, ultimately requires increased military capabilities. Over the last months, the German Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made significant progress in its force and capability planning with fundamental implications for both Germany and NATO.

First thoughts on how to operationalize the strategic aims of its 2016 White Paper were formulated in March 2017 by the MoD’s Director General for Planning, Lieutenant General Erhard Bühler (the so-called “Bühler-Paper”). In the absence of a new and comprehensive capstone “Concept of the Bundeswehr”, this document currently constitutes the effective planning basis for the armed forces

In this process, the German and NATO perspective are inseparable. The aim for current Bundeswehr planning is twofold: Together with the British and French armed forces, the Bundeswehr is to form the backbone of European defence within NATO. In addition, and primarily through the much-discussed Framework Nations Concept (FNC), the Bundeswehr is to contribute, directly and indirectly, to the future development of allied forces, and thus to Europe’s capacity to act as part of NATO.

The practical relevance of NATO policy guidance and capability planning targets is now the highest in decades and sets the basic parameters of Berlin’s capability planning.

Click here for the full report (8 PDF pages) on the ETHZ website.

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[*] posted on 11-11-2017 at 02:48 PM

Armed drones for Germany? Merkel’s would-be government sizes up defense priorities

By: Sebastian Sprenger   1 day ago

COLOGNE, Germany — Following Germany’s vote in September to give Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union another term as chancellor, parties continue to negotiate the objectives of the new government. Here’s a rundown of key national security topics that are up for grabs in a likely coalition of the CDU, the Free Democratic Party and the Green Party:

Military spending: Germany’s military spending in 2016 was roughly $41 billion, or 1.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The Merkel government has subscribed to the NATO goal of increasing that share to 2 percent, so there is little reason to expect a change in Germany’s position. The Greens, as the smallest coalition partner with 8.9 percent of voter support, have rejected a defense-spending target, arguing that nonmilitary expenses for crisis response are getting the short shrift in such an equation.

It’s likely that spending on United Nations and European Union defense projects will see a new emphasis in a final, binding coalition declaration, according to Christian Mölling, an analyst at the Berlin-based think tank German Council on Foreign Relations. That is because non-NATO initiatives are currently considered more palatable across the parties, he said.

Defense exports: Previous plans by German tank-maker Rheinmetall for something of a bridgehead facility in Turkey to the Middle Eastern market has renewed the discussion about exporting German weapons to regimes believed to commit human rights violations. The Social Democratic Party of Germany, now out of government, and the Greens are proving particularly vocal on this issue, advocating for a more restrictive policy. The CDU, which at 33 percent of votes in September’s election is the largest bloc, likely wants to preserve the status quo, while the Free Democratic Party (10.7 percent) could go either way.

Armed drones: War by UAVs remains a thorny topic in Germany. Berlin doesn’t like what it considers lax U.S. policies governing drone strikes to kill terrorists, and politicians are wary of a largely hostile public opinion on the subject. At the same time, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defence has said for years it needs those weapons to ensure the safety of soldiers during deployments.

Over the summer, lawmakers with the Social Democratic Party of Germany pulled a budget proposal from parliamentary consideration that would have funded a handful of Israeli Heron TP drones use by the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces. The lawmakers argued that the subject of lethal aerial drones had not been sufficiently debated.

Whether that debate will now occur is an open question. Some resistance in the negotiations can be expected from the Greens and potentially from the Free Democratic Party, while the CDU is expected to continue to pursue a deal for the weapons. In the end, the negotiators may shirk a public policy declaration altogether, putting the topic back on the agenda until the next time the Israeli drones come up.

Acquisition programs: The agreement reached by the governing parties, called the Koalitionsvertrag in German, likely will stay true to the age-old political preference for vagueness. So don’t expect to see details on specific military programs, noted Mölling. But, he added, it’s likely the document will endorse a re-energized alliance between Germany and France, which the two countries’ leaders have been talking up for months. Wrapped up in that, the analyst argued, would be a commitment to European-managed defense programs, including a new-generation fighter aircraft and tanks.

Nuclear weapons: The Greens have traditionally advocated for global nuclear disarmament, and it’s likely that a final agreement will contain some language to that effect. At the same time, the CDU and the Free Democratic Party have said they want to preserve Germany’s role in NATO deterrence by continuing to host U.S. nuclear weapons on German soil and by providing delivery aircraft for them. But the current fleet of Tornado aircraft is nearing the end of its life cycle, presenting yet another issue the new German government must tackle once it’s in place.
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[*] posted on 20-11-2017 at 09:16 PM

Over half of Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2 MBTs are not operationally ready

Samuel Cranny-Evans - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

17 November 2017

German media reported on 16 November that only 95 of the 244 Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) in service with the Bundeswehr are operationally ready. A further 53 vehicles – thought to be Leopard 2A6Ms – are being converted to the new Leopard 2A6M+ standard, and 86 are in a state of disrepair without any spare parts. The German report states that “the unavailability of the required replacement parts would be detrimental”.

Only 95 of the 244 Leopard 2 MBTs in service with the Bundeswehr are operationally ready, according to German media. (Rheinmetall)

Wolfgang Hellmich, chairman of the Bundestag’s defence committee, is quoted as describing the revelations as “incredible”, asking “who bears responsibility for this disaster”. He goes on to ask: “How should troops train, be ready to deploy, when one third of the fleet already fails during use, i.e., training and deployment, and cannot be repaired?”

This is not the first report of readiness issues among the German armed forces. In August, German forces deployed to Mali suffered from equipment shortages and a lack of spare parts. The issues were complicated by the heat and dust of the country, which damaged the helicopter fleet and resulted in the crash of a Tiger helicopter and restricted flying thereafter.

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[*] posted on 20-11-2017 at 09:29 PM

All coming home to roost. The German Armed Forces - neglected, ignored, under-funded and grossly-mismanaged by a number of Governments following the fantasy of the so-called Peace to destroy what was once Europe's premier armoured force, and turn it into a force of great despair...................
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[*] posted on 21-11-2017 at 04:48 PM

Denmark, Eyeing Russia, Likely To OK 20% Spending Boost; What It Means

By Robbin Laird

on November 17, 2017 at 4:01 AM

Denmark is a small country, but an important player in the NATO Alliance and the resurgent Nordic defense group of Norway, Sweden and Finland to deal with the rumbling Russia.

And it will grow more important as it implements an impressive 20 percent increase in defense spending over the next six years.

The increase was announced in mid-October 2017 when the Danish government released its proposed new six-year defense guidance and defense spending guidelines. The new agreement is for 2018-2023 and for six years and is expected to pass Parliament.The government is very clear about the threats facing Denmark, the importance of allies modernizing and of  effective interdependence in the defense of the North Atlantic and beyond.

Here is how the Danish government describes the country’s way ahead:

“Denmark faces more serious threats than in any other period following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The freedom and security we value so highly cannot be taken for granted.

“To the east, NATO faces a confrontational and assertive Russia. Instability in the Middle East and North Africa is fuelling militant Islamism, sowing the seeds for the threat of terror and irregular migration flows. Propaganda campaigns challenge our democratic principles and established rules, while in the Arctic, there is increased activity and military presence.

“These are challenges which we cannot afford to ignore. That is why the Government wishes to substantially increase military spending over the next six years.

“The substantial increase will be gradually phased in and ultimately result in the Danish Defence’s annual budget in 2023 being increased by DKK 4.8 billion.

This amounts to an increase of 20% compared to current military spending.

Threats in cyberspace have serious security and socio-economic consequences.”

During my visit to Copenhagen, which coincided with the release of the new defense guidance, I spoke with a number of Danes and various experts about Danish thinking and the approach they had in mind to deal with shaping a deterrent strategy. My discussion with Rear Adm. Nils Wang, former head of the Danish Navy and now head of the Danish Royal Military Academy, was particularly helpful in both characterizing the nature of the Russian challenge as well as a way ahead for the Danish forces.

Wang clearly argued that the Russian challenge has little to do with the Cold War Soviet-Warsaw Pact threat to the Nordics.

The Soviet-Warsaw threat was one of invasion and occupation, and then using Nordic territory to fight U.S. and allied forces in the North Atlantic. In many ways, this would have been a repeat of how the Nazis seized Norway during a combined arms amphibious operation combined with a land force walk into Denmark.

In that scenario, the Danes and their allies were focused on sea denial through use of mines, with fast patrol boats providing protection for the minelayers.

Aircraft and submarines were part of a defense in depth strategy to deny the ability of the Soviets to occupy the region in time of a general war.

He contrasted this with the current situation in which the Russians are less focused on a general war, and more on building capabilities for a more limited objective, controlling the Baltic States. He highlighted the arms modernization of the Russian military focused on ground-based missile defense and land- and sea-based attack missiles, along with airpower, as the main means to shape a denial-in-depth strategy which would allow the Russians significant freedom of maneuver to achieve their objectives within their zone of strategic maneuver.

A core Russian asset is the Kalibr cruise missile, which can operate off of a variety of platforms. With a dense missile wolf pack, so to speak, the Russians provide a cover for their maneuver forces. They are focused on using land-based mobile missiles in the region as their key strike and defense asset. “The Russian defense plan in the Baltic is all about telling NATO, we can go into the Baltic countries if we decided to do so. And you will not be able to get in and get us out. That is basically the whole idea,” the admiral said.

Wang argued for a reverse engineering approach to the Russian threat. He saw this as combining several key elements: a combined anti-submarine (ASW), F-35 fleet, frigate- and land-based strike capabilities, including from Poland.

The admiral’s position is based in part on the arrival of the F-35 and notably the F-35 as a core coalition aircraft designed to work closely with either land-based or sea-based strike capabilities. “One needs to create air superiority, or air dominance as a prerequisite for any operation at all, and to do that NATO would need to assemble all the air power they can actually collect together, inclusive carrier-based aircraft in the Norwegian Sea,” he told me.

“This is where the ice free part of the Arctic and the Baltic gets connected. We will have missions as well in the Arctic at the northern part of Norway because the Norwegians would be in a similar situation if there is a Baltic invasion.”

The rear admiral argued as well for a renewal or augmentation of ASW capabilities by its allies to deal with Russian submarines in the Baltic there to support operations, notably any missile-carrying submarines. He saw a focused Danish approach to frigate/helo-based ASW in the region as more important than buying submarines to do the ASW mission.

The importance of using the F-35 as a trigger force for a sea-based missile strike force suggests that one option for the Danes will be to put new missiles into their MK-41 tubes which they have on their frigates. They could put SM-2s or SM-3s or even Tomahawks onto their frigates dependent on how they wanted to define and deal with the Russian threat.

The ongoing work on Aegis integration with F-35 or the US Marines work on integrating their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers is suggestive of their approach.

And leveraging the F-35 as the flying combat system part of the overall strike and defense force is a key part of Danish thinking. During my stay in Copenhagen, I discussed this with the new head of the Royal Danish Air Force, Col. Anders Rex.

“When I talk with F-35 pilots, the same message is drilled into me – this is not a replacement aircraft; this is not like any aircraft you have flown before. The aircraft enables our air combat forces to play a whole new ballgame.

“And from my discussions with Australians, the Norwegians, the Dutch and the Brits, it is clear that the common drive is to shape a fifth-generation combat force, not simply fly the current 256 F-35s as cool, new jets.”

He clearly had in mind working on leveraging the introduction of the F-35 to trigger a broader transformation.  And this makes sense, because in large part the F-35 is not simply a fighter which you define but what it does by itself organically, but, rather by what it can trigger in the overall combat fleet, whether lethal or non-lethal payloads.

“We need to focus on the management of big data generated by the F-35 and other assets that will come into the force. How do we do the right kind of command and control within a rich information battlespace?”Rex wondered. “We need to build self-learning systems as well. The F-35 is a revolutionary man-machine system and sets in motion not only the challenge of new approaches to working information and C2, but new approaches to combat learning. How do we get there? That is what generating a fifth-generation combat force is all about.”

An American colleague who has worked in Denmark for several years at at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Military Studies highlighted the growing cooperation among the Nordics and how that cooperation was reshaping their operational approaches to dealing with the Russian threat. The Swedes are introducing conscription, the Norwegians are boosting their defense spending and the Finns are working new relationships in the region.

As Gary Schaub Jr. put it during our meeting in Copenhagen:
“The Nordics are looking for practical ways ahead on credible deterrence with regard to the Russians. In this collaborative environment between equal—but small—powers, the suggestions of a Britain or US could smooth over the small barriers that might keep these otherwise pragmatic nations from doing what is in their own, and their region’s, common interests.

“There is a huge opportunity for the new administration to shape a thoughtful proactive NORDIC agenda as the Nordics themselves seek a more regional approach. And as F-35s and P-8s come into the region, there is an opportunity to leverage common assets to shape a more proactive and common effort towards regional defense and security. The administration should seize it.”

Robbin Laird, a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors, is an international defense consultant, owner of Second Line of Defense website and a former National Security Council staffer.
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[*] posted on 28-11-2017 at 08:30 PM

Latvia’s defence spending to reach 2% of GDP in 2018

Beth Stevenson - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

27 November 2017

Latvia has for the first time increased its defence spending in line with the NATO-mandated 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), committing an additional EUR126.8 million (USD151.2 million) year-on-year into its 2018 budget.

The Saeima has increased the 2018 defence budget to EUR576.34 million, which means it is now among a handful of NATO members that have managed to commit 2% of their GDP on defence.

According to Riga’s Medium-Term Budgetary Framework for 2018, 2019, and 2020, the budget will subsequently increase to EUR600.55 million in 2019, and EUR634.11 million in 2020, ensuring that it will remain above the 2%.

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[*] posted on 13-12-2017 at 08:09 PM

France Increases Defense Spending Amid Heated Debate

France’s equipment spending will increase in 2018, but critics cite “smokescreen” numbers

Dec 13, 2017

Thierry Dubois | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Increase for Real?

In November, the lower house of France’s parliament passed the government’s 2018 spending bill, including an increase in the defense equipment budget, amid fiery debate about the adequacy of the funding, given the country’s ambitions.

The climax was reached in mid-2017 when, in an unprecedented move, Pierre de Villiers, the military’s chief of staff, resigned.

His departure on July 19 marked the end of his falling out with President Emmanuel Macron over a disagreement on a massive defense budget cut. The finance minister had just ordered an €850 million ($1 billion) reduction in defense spending for 2017, as part of an overall decrease in the government’s planned expenditure. Villiers had for months been advocating a steady increase in the defense budget, viewing the French armed forces as already strained to the limit at a time when new threats call for additional means. He eventually chose to step down. The crisis is over, but the episode is still weighing on the debate.

The bill was passed in early November, bringing the armed forces’ 2018 budget to €34.2 billion—an €1.8 billion increase. It is also planned to climb by €1.7 billion per year until 2022, placing it on a trajectory to meet the NATO requirement of 2% of the GDP by 2025.

Is French Defense Budget Increasing?
- Raw numbers show 5% growth
- Critics contend government is misallocating cost of operations abroad to military budget alone
- Accounting office reckons France already meets NATO’s 2% of GDP requirement

But opposition politicians point out that €700 million budgeted for this year is still “frozen” by the finance ministry.

Moreover, the government appears to have the ministry of armed forces paying all of the extra costs for military operations abroad. French forces have been involved in foreign theaters of operations under NATO mandates and in various coalitions, as well as on their own. Four Dassault Mirage 2000-5s participated in -NATO’s Baltic Air Policing effort for four months in 2016-17.

In Syria and Iraq, various aircraft from the French Air Force, including Dassault Rafales, are taking part in the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State group, and Reaper UAVs are being operated in Africa’s Sahel region.

Those costs, as Chief of Staff Francois Lecointre reminded only weeks after succeeding Villiers, are supposed to spread over the entire government’s budget and not specifically be borne by the ministry of armed forces. But a significant part is being paid by the latter—and the proportion is planned to increase. Hence the accusation, from the opposition and some in the French media, of a “smokescreen increase” in the defense budget. The Cour des Comptes, the French equivalent of the U.S. General Accountability Office, adds that the cost of operations abroad has been consistently and insincerely underestimated.

In parallel, delaying equipment deliveries to make both ends meet in the short term has a negative effect in the longer run, the Cour emphasizes. Renegotiating the deliveries of Airbus A400M transports, Barracuda submarines and multimission frigates has cost over €1 billion. Meanwhile, maintaining aging hardware contributes to spiraling costs.

The Cour also argues that France is already complying with NATO’s 2% of GDP standard, thanks to spending on research and development and military operations abroad.

The law approves plans for aeronautical equipment the air force, navy and army will all receive and order as part of their ongoing fleet and weaponry renewal. Equipment spending will actually increase in 2018.

President Emmanuel Macron could not quash criticism over the sincerity of the 2018 defense budget. Credit: Dassault

One of the most noteworthy deliveries will be the first of two light aircraft for surveillance and reconnaissance to be received by the French Air Force for intelligence services. Sabena Technics purchased the aircraft—Beechcraft 350s—and has been in charge of modification and certification. Thales will supply the mission system, sensors, communications equipment and ground stations for mission preparation and data gathering.

In transport and refueling, two Airbus A400Ms, one Lockheed Martin C-130J and one Airbus Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) will join the forces. Ten NH90 multirole helicopters will be spread between the navy (two) and army (eight). The air force will receive three Rafale fighters and the navy, one. In weapon systems, Thales will deliver four Talios targeting pods. The planned order includes three MRTTs and 10 Talios.
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[*] posted on 14-12-2017 at 08:35 PM

French lawmaker warns over judging the budget by its cover

By: Pierre Tran   15 hours ago

This picture shows a general view of the French National Assembly during a session of questions to the government on Dec. 6, 2017, in Paris. (Bertrand Guay/AFP)

PARIS ― Deep doubts loom over the French defense budget despite what appears as good news for future spending on the military, said François Cornut-Gentille, a member of Parliament in the lower house National Assembly.

“The defense budget looks positive, but in reality there is great uncertainty,” he told a defense journalists association on Dec. 13. Cornut-Gentille sits on the Finance Committee and specializes in the defense sector.

There is a €1.8 billion (U.S. $2.1 billion) increase in the 2018 defense budget, which creates a positive impression and helps offset the €850 million cut in this year’s spending announced in July.

But there is €700 million “frozen” in this year’s defense funds, and it is unclear whether the Armed Forces Ministry will persuade the Economy and Finance Ministry to “unfreeze” all or part of that, he said. Equipment orders cannot be placed as long as the funds are withheld.

“There is deep uncertainty,” he said.

There is uncertainty as the government is due to adopt a budgetary measure intended to cap public spending, he said.

Article 14 in the finance law requires the government to complete payment on an existing program before launching a new program.

Some €100 billion of civil and military expenditure will come under scrutiny, with the latter accounting for half that total amount. There will be a focus on €37 billion earmarked for defense equipment.

The new financial control will lead to delays in launching programs and hit the plan to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2025, he said. The requirement will also cast doubt over implementation of the next multiyear military budget law, due to be presented next year.

That fiscal control will slow program launches when technology is changing fast and the speed of delivery is seen as a key factor. Under the present system, a program may be launched with an authorized commitment to pay, allowing a number of projects to be pursued. Actual payment is scheduled over a number of years.

Defense is the third-largest government expenditure after education and paying national debt.

There is also uncertainty over what lies at the heart of French defense policy, Cornut-Gentille said. For former President Charles de Gaulle, it was a nuclear deterrent that granted France a place at the top table.

“What do we want to do, what do we want to tell the world?”
Cornut-Gentille said. His question goes beyond deployment in Africa and building a European defense policy, and calls for political clarity.

German lessons for France

“Germany knows better than we do,” he said. “For Germany, defense policy is an annex of its industrial policy. They have a policy of industrial strength, defense is part of that policy of strengthening industry.”

The uncertainty over policy could be seen in the lack of public debate over the French nuclear deterrent, which is treated as top secret, he said. Discussion is important as decisions are to be taken on next-generation weapons.

Financial constraints have pushed back decisions to the next administration on which type of nuclear weapons will be developed, he said. The previous plan was to decide around 2020 which systems to develop.

An annual estimated €2 billion-€4 billion is spent on nuclear deterrence, and that is expected to rise a further €2 billion to develop the next-generation system.

On leasing strategic airlift, France decided at the end of November to end a contract with Paris-based International Chartering Systems, the lawmaker noted.

The four-year deal required an annual renewal. France will now rely on NATO’s Strategic Airlift Interim Solution, which also relies on Ukrainian An-124 and Russian Ilyushin Il-76 transports, which raises questions over security, he said.

The role of legislators is to ask questions and hold governments to account, not to lobby for industry or the local base, he said.

The government has pledged to increase the annual defense budget by €1.7 billion after the initial boost in 2018, seeking to hit the NATO target by 2025.
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[*] posted on 17-12-2017 at 01:42 PM

Ground force: Half of France's military planes 'unfit to fly'

Rory Mulholland, in Paris

16 December 2017 • 11:02pm

French warplanes and helicopters may be battling jihadists in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, but the French Air Force on the whole is in a disastrous state, with 56 per cent of all its aircraft unfit to fly at any given moment, according to a senior minister.

“If I compare the current situation … of our planes with a car, it is as if I wanted to have a car every morning that works, I would have to own four cars,” Florence Parly, the armed forces minister, said during a visit to an air base in Evreux in Normandy.

She made the remark in a scathing speech about the state of the French fleet, where aircraft availability has gone from bad to worse despite a 25 per cent boost to the maintenance budget over the past five years that brought the total to €4 billion (£3.5 billion) in 2017.

Ms Parly went to Evreux last week to announce wide-ranging plans to cut soaring costs and free up more aircraft by streamlining the current maintenance programme, which is so complex that it can take 30 different contracts to get a helicopter repaired.

Britain’s Royal Air Force, whose aircraft have been in constant use for many years in Afghanistan and Iraq, was criticised earlier this year when it was revealed that on average one in three of its multi-role Typhoon fighters and Tornado combat jets was unfit to fly.

Overall figures for the air readiness of the RAF fleet are not publicly available, but the figures for its fighter jets suggest that it is in far better shape than its French counterpart. Eighty per cent of the French fleet is operational in the battle zones of west Africa, Iraq and the Middle East, according to official figures, but in bases in France the figure plummets to 30 per cent.

The overall figure for aircraft ready to fly is now 44 per cent, down from 55 per cent in 2000.

On average, just one Caracal - a long-range tactical transport helicopter - in four is ready for action, while just one or two A400M turboprop transport planes out of a total of twelve are ready to take to the air.

The Rafale, which is seen as one of the best multi-purpose fighter jets in the world, scores a respectable 49 per cent availability.

But the figures for a range of other aircraft are disastrous: 22 per cent for the C-130 transport plane, 25 per cent for the Tiger attack and reconnaissance helicopter, and 26 per cent for the Lynx helicopter.

“The consequences of this are that (flight) teams train less … and the cost of an hour of flight time has gone up,” Ms Parly said.

An hour of flight time for a Caracal, for example, rose from €19,000 in 2012 to €34,000 in 2016.

“This situation is no longer tenable, and I have therefore made it a personal priority,” said the minister.

She announced that a new aeronautic maintenance department would be set up next March but that there would be no increase in the maintenance budget as it was deemed sufficient if the process was properly reorganised.

The planned department, whose boss will report to the joint chief of staff, would make the company that makes the aircraft responsible for their maintenance “from start to finish,” Ms Parly said.

The aim is to avoid the case of the Tiger helicopter, whose maintenance is currently split between so many different firms or military offices that it requires more than 30 separate contracts.

Pierre Tran, a specialist on French military issues, said that in theory the minister’s plans were sound but that in practice there was a high risk.

“They (defence contractors) will likely be thinking that Christmas came early this year,” he said, noting that the huge sums involved meant that there was a high risk of taxpayers’ money being wasted.

The key to success for the government is to exert extreme caution when negotiating the new maintenance contracts with the firms involved, which include Airbus, Dassault, Thales and Air France Industries, said Mr Tran.

In a message clearly directed at aircraft makers, the Armed Forces Minister said she wanted results by 2020.

“We buy to fly, not to stock planes in hangars or parking spots,” said Ms Parly.
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[*] posted on 19-12-2017 at 09:51 PM

For NATO, True Interoperability Is No Longer Optional

By Hans Binnendijk & Elisabeth Braw

December 18, 2017

U.S. Army Europe

Here are nine ways to ensure That alliance members could fight together to defend Europe.

During a recent joint exercise in Poland, U.S. Army troops discovered that their fuel nozzles didn’t fit Polish armored vehicles’ fuel tanks. The solution was simple and inexpensive: the Americans quickly bought adaptor fittings. But without the exercise, both sides would likely have remained unaware their nozzles and fuel tanks were incompatible. Today, with NATO and its partners conducting more operations together, interoperability is more important than ever. And there’s good news: much can be achieved without great expense.

The need for NATO forces to be interoperable is, of course, nothing new. But during the Cold War, NATO land forces mostly operated side by side, each responsible for their own country (and in some cases, a chunk of Germany). With forces primarily conducting what one might call the military version of parallel play, there was no pressing need for them to be highly interoperable.

That changed with Afghanistan. Suddenly, NATO and its partners were fighting side by side in small units that didn’t have the luxury of, say, using eight different radios. Certainly, it proved impossible to settle on one single kind of radio, and commanders had to issue orders using several different types. Still, in Afghanistan, NATO made great strides in interoperability.

But Afghanistan was a war of choice. We now have to consider the possibility of a war of necessity – one in Europe. And today our forces are far smaller than during the Cold War, and they do far more together to compensate, often in units consisting of a small number of soldiers from each participating country.

NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia, for example, draws together some 1,100 troops from six countries, including 450 from Canada, 160 from Italy, and 18 from Albania. We can no longer allow ourselves the luxury of using equipment that doesn’t work together.

But two trends may be pulling the transatlantic partners in different directions. In Europe, 23 EU member states have agreed to join together in PESCO, the Permanent Structured Cooperation. Through PESCO they plan to, among other things, focus on combining capabilities either through small clusters of countries or through instruments like the European Defense Fund. That means focus on local interoperability, not the transatlantic kind. And in the United States, the so-called Third Offset seeks to launch a new revolution in military affairs through the use of artificial intelligence, autonomous fighting vehicles, and better man-machine interfaces. This effort could leave Europe behind.

In 2001, when European allies offered to help the United States fight the Taliban, they often didn’t have the right equipment or the right operational techniques. A repeat of that situation could devastate the Alliance. Now we urgently need to address transatlantic interoperability shortfalls.

Fortunately, achieving interoperability is not primarily a money issue; it’s an issue of coordination and political will. Here are several steps that will get us a long way towards trueinteroperability – and thus stronger collective European security.

1. We should use military exercises to identify interoperability gaps and implement fixes, just as the U.S. Army Europe did during the exercise with Polish forces. In addition, NATO should see how such non-standard equipment can be kept out of the procurement streams of allies to start with.

2. Defense ministers should participate in a dedicated table-top interoperability exercise. This would allow them to see the benefits of interoperability and the consequences of failure.

3. NATO and the EU should conduct a fully coordinated crisis management exercise involving their member states’ ambassadors to the North Atlantic Council and the Political and Security Committee, respectively. This would highlight numerous interoperability issues and focus efforts on concerted solutions.

4. NATO needs to enforce its standards. For example, in NATO evaluations of allied forces, interoperability compliance should be put at the top of the grading sheet.

5. Members’ levels of interoperability compliance should be graded in a stoplight chart. NATO leaders can then use the chart to persuade red-marked member states – or, put bluntly, the worst interoperability offenders — to implement NATO standards.

6. We need to strengthen the NATO Standardization Organization — and rename it the NATO Standardization and Interoperability Organization.

7. We should embed the lessons learned during the past 15 years of out-of-area operations, especially in Afghanistan.

8. Countries that are members of both NATO and the EU should push for the EU to adopt NATO interoperability standards. We don’t need two sets of standards.

9. NATO is considering building an innovation Center of Excellence in California. The European Defense Agency should be invited to join.

Hans Binnendijk is a senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies. He previously served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control.

Elisabeth Braw is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. She lives in London and frequently writes about European security for publications including the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and The Times (of London).
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[*] posted on 20-12-2017 at 12:13 PM

French military projects at risk under budget cap measure

By: Pierre Tran   8 hours ago

Correction: This story has been corrected to show read that French politician Jean-Charles Larsonneur abstained from the vote on Article 14.

PARIS — A new government measure to cap public spending has sparked deep concern over future orders for military programs, at a time when France has vowed to hit the NATO funding target, said a member of Parliament.

Article 14 “could have consequences,” Jean-Charles Larsonneur, a lawmaker who sits on the Defense Committee and specializes in military equipment, told Defense News.

The government adopted in the night of Friday to Saturday Article 14 of the public finance law, which sets an overall limit of €106 billion (U.S. $125 billion) to all civil and military expenditure. Defense spending accounts for half of that overall amount.

Article 14 effectively gives extra power to the Economy and Finance Ministry against the Armed Forces Ministry, with the former effectively winning power to decide which arms programs will be backed as a budgetary authorization needs funds.
There is a threat for “authorization funds” for the Rafale F4 upgrade and a successor to the Mica air-to-air missile, said Larsonneur, adding that those were two projects on which he kept a close eye.

The budget cap “sets a target” but is a bad fit for defense, which requires multiyear spending for large arms programs and funding for foreign combat deployments.

“We will need to be vigilant in each year,” he said.

Article 14 casts doubt over funding for the next multiyear budget, which is being drafted, and also the French pledge to boost defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2025, as requested by NATO, he said. That budgetary control also comes as France joins Permanent Structured Cooperation, a move by 25 European Union members to forge a European defense.

Larsonneur, a member of the centrist party Republic on the Move, abstained in the vote for the article. The political party holds a comfortable parliamentary majority.

“This is dramatic,” said a defense executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There are real concerns over the multiyear budget law and program 146.” The latter refers to the procurement part of the annual defense budget.

“This is a real attack from Bercy,” the executive added, referring to the Economy and Finance Ministry. Large programs for a next-generation submarine, a second aircraft carrier, a second step in the Scorpion Army modernization effort, a new tank and artillery, and nuclear weapons could be delayed.

The Armed Forces Ministry offered little resistance, even though programs could be delayed 10-15 years, the executive asserted.
The joint chief of staff and Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office declined comment, referring inquiries to the Armed Forces Ministry, which was not immediately available for comment.

Jean-Jacques Bridey, chairman of the Defense Committee of the lower house National Assembly, attacked Article 14.

“The government’s amendment presents a serious risk which calls into question our strategic ambitions set out with consensus in the recent strategic review, and which we will translate in the forthcoming debate on the military budget,” Bridey said in the Friday night parliamentary debate.

Parliamentarian François Cornut-Gentille, tweeted after the government adopted Article 14: “A huge defeat tonight for the Armed Forces Ministry from Bercy through the public finances law: LREM (Republic on the Move) majority removed all budgetary leverage from the future military budget law.”

There are fears new orders will be postponed until existing programs are completed, as the authorization of spending can only be made within the annual budget cap.

An example is the government foregoing a single order to renew the four-strong fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines and instead placing individual orders for each boat spread over time, Bridey said. The former would benefit from a lower price for a “bulk order,” while the latter would boost the unit price.

The new budget measure risks making it harder to manage arms programs, which often are late for budgetary, technological and industrial reasons, he said. A launch of a new program might be delayed because a company on another program was late, he added.

The budget cap puts defense spending at the mercy of the efficiency of spending in other government ministries, the lawmaker said. There is the risk of reviving the idea of setting up government-backed leasing deals to get around the spending limits.

Bridey, also a member of Republic on the Move, said he would not vote for the government amendment.

The defense budget relies on two elements, namely an authorization that allows work to be contracted, and the credit payment, which pays contractors and suppliers. The shortfall between the former and the latter leads to the amount to be paid, or a funding gap.

A funding gap of €39.1 billion is expected in 2019 for the defense budget, according to a parliamentary report on equipment and nuclear systems written by Larsonneur.

The public finance law sets targets intended to bring France into line with the European Commission’s target for cutting national debt to 3 percent of GDP. France expects to cut its debt to 2.8 percent next year.
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[*] posted on 21-12-2017 at 05:14 PM

German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen at a Crossroads

(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Dec 19, 2017)

Ursula von der Leyen is fighting on many fronts. Her Christmas visit to German troops stationed in Afghanistan highlighted her tension with the military and Berlin. DW's Udo Bauer reports from Mazar-i-Sharif.

During her visit to German troops stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen had soldiers singing Christmas carols. When she addressed several hundred of them in her characteristically cheerful manner, she expressed her utmost "respect and appreciation" and honored the soldiers' "exceptional service" to ensure Germany security at home.

Von der Leyen's talk, however, was met with tepid applause and derisive remarks quietly whispered by numerous soldiers. The relationship between the defense minister and her troops could certainly be better.

Many still haven't forgiven von der Leyen for accusing Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, of having an "attitude and leadership problem" on German TV back in April. She had made her remarks after news broke of a scandal surrounding a far-right army officer. Andre Wüstner, who heads the German Armed Forces Association, later responded to von der Leyen's remarks by saying she must have an attitude problem for leveling such sweeping accusations at the Bundeswehr.

A luckless minister

Despite these tensions, von der Leyen remains Germany's defense minister. She's held the position for over four years now — an impressive feat given that several who served as minister of defense before her soon saw their political careers falter. The driven von der Leyen evidently played her cards well.

Though recently, things haven't been going her way: the German parliament is not providing the kind of backing von der Leyen desires for the country's Afghanistan mission and its military engagement in Mali. Von der Leyen wanted parliamentary approval to send additional troops to Afghanistan. Currently, 980 soldiers are stationed there. German troops already on the ground are training Afghan soldiers. To do this successfully, however, the Bundeswehr wants more support.

Yet German parliament, the Bundestag, has rejected von der Leyen's wish to send additional troops to Afghanistan. The result is that German army instructors are unable to train their Afghan peers due to security concerns.

Orders alone don't suffice

Germany's Mali mission isn't without its share of challenges, either. The Bundeswehr recently took over control of Camp Castor from the Dutch in the dangerous city of Gao. This responsibility entails not just giving orders but also taking charge of the camp's administration and logistics.

Yet here, too, the Germans are short-staffed. And the Bundestag has brusquely rejected von der Leyen's request for additional troops to be sent to the African country. The Bundestag is loath to make major decisions before a new German government has been formed.

This prolonged uncertainty over what kind of government will lead Germany has irritated von der Leyen, who remains in office on an interim basis until a new government is agreed. It is unlikely Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) will favor bold steps when it comes to the country's military engagements — provided the party does in fact join the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to form yet another coalition government.

And a minority government could make matters even more complicated for Germany's military engagements abroad.

So, does this mean von der Leyen's political career is in danger? That remains up to Chancellor Angela Merkel alone. If Merkel wants to keep her ally in the next government, von der Leyen will stay on. Then, she will be able to keep alive her dream of one day becoming chancellor herself. If, however, Merkel does not want to retain von der Leyen, this could well spell the end of her political career.

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[*] posted on 22-12-2017 at 04:47 PM

French ministry troubled by budget cap law, possible harm to military

By: Pierre Tran   12 hours ago

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, center, flanked by Col. Francois Mariotti, left, visits a battalion Oct. 6, 2017, in Bitche, eastern France. (Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP via Getty Images)

PARIS ― The French Armed Forces Ministry has promised to closely track the effect a new budgetary rule could have on multiyear arms programs in the wake of Parliament adopting a law seeking to cap government spending.

“The Armed Forces Ministry, particularly the DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement), is a large investor, and the funding of military equipment often requires a multiyear approach,” the ministry told Defense News. “The ministry is paying close attention to the issue of the amount to be funded and to the consequences this new budgetary rule could have.”

The lower house National Assembly on Thursday gave a final reading of Article 14 in the public finance law, a legislative measure which seeks to rein in the national deficit.

Parliamentarian François Cornut-Gentille, a member of the conservative Republican party, expressed concern over the budgetary measure.

“How do we respond to this budgetary control?” he said, referring to a perceived lack of clarity on how the Armed Forces Ministry will respond to the spending restriction.

An increased financial control further boosts the importance of the president’s Elysée office, which has often played the role of arbitrator in funding disputes between the Armed Forces Ministry and the Economy and Finance Ministry.

“This is a centralization of democracy,” said Cornut-Gentille, who sits on the National Assembly Finance Committee.

Previously, the defense ministry had room to maneuver in presenting a budget for approval by the president, but now there is “zero margin,” he added.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has previously asserted Article 14 would pose problems for arms programs.

“Article 14 of the draft law on public finance holds all our attention,” she told the Finance Committee of the upper house Senate on Oct. 31. “Its consequences are different for a ministry in which a significant part of credit payment is set aside for investment.

“The management of long-term investment for military equipment will be difficult.”

The joint chief of staff, Army Gen. François Lecointre, told the Senate on Nov. 13 that he understands the public finance law seeks to bring government spending under greater control, but added that it such an effort may harm the military.

“However, the strict application of the funds to be paid seems to me extremely dangerous and counterproductive, even highly penalizing, in view of the contractual policy of the ministry,” he said.

The Article 14 budgetary cap will apply to €50 billion (U.S. $59 billion) of defense spending, of which €37 billion is earmarked for buying kit. The National Assembly adopted the measure in a Dec. 15 reading, which went on to complete the Dec. 21 legislative procedure.

The legal measure is a bid to balance the budget, requiring annual budgetary authorization for programs to match the annual amount for credit payments, which fund payment of contractors and suppliers.

There is concern the budgetary cap will push back the launch of production of large weapons programs, as these require heavy funding. Research studies could be stretched out, as they require lower funding rather than manufacturing contracts, which boost the arms industry and equip the services.
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[*] posted on 23-12-2017 at 11:42 AM

New Czech defence minister orders review of defence contracts

Jiri Kominek - Jane's Defence Weekly

22 December 2017

The new Czech defence minister, Karla Slechtova, who was appointed to her post on 13 December, has announced that she will order thorough evaluations of a number of key upcoming procurements for the Army of the Czech Republic (ACR), contracts for which were prepared but not signed by her predecessor, Martin Stropnicky. Both are members of the ANO party, which won the general elections in late October.

“Of course I intend to have everything fully verified before signing anything,” Slechtova told media on 18 December.
She added that she will seek to familiarise herself with the details of all upcoming large-scale purchases such as the procurement of light multi-purpose helicopters.

(134 of 375 words)
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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 05:34 PM

A wide cabinet re-shuffle by the Polish government has seen Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz removed from his post .

Macierewicz had been in the position since the right-wing populist Law & Justice Party (PiS) took power in 2015 and had been the face of Poland’s military modernization and the buildup of the local defense industry—resulting in his name appearing in the Rapid Fire more than most of his counterparts.

His replacement, Mariusz Baszczak had served as interior minister since 2015 and it is unclear whether other top defense officials, such as deputy defense minister Tomasz Szatkowski or Bartosz Kownacki, secretary of state in Poland’s Ministry of National Defence, will remain in place.
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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 10:42 PM

Mariusz Błaszczak Becomes the New Head of the Polish Ministry of Defence. Antoni Macierewicz Removed from Office

PUBLISHED AT: Wednesday, 10 January 2018, 16:22

Image Credit: PM’s Office


Mariusz Błaszczak, who up until now had been working as the head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration, was appointed the Minister of Defence on Tuesday noon. Antoni Macierewicz, now former head of the MoD, had been removed from office an hour before.

The new head of the MoD remains one of the closest associates of the President of the Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczynski. The political activities undertaken by Błaszczak were not related to the military up until now.

Mariusz Błaszczak is 48 years old. Since November 2015 he was working as the head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration. Within the period between 2005 and 2007 he was working as the Head of the PM’s Office. In March 2007 he became a member of the government. Since 2007 he is a MP of the Greater Warsaw electoral constituency.

In the past he was working as a member of local governments. Between 2002 and 2004 he was politically active as the Deputy Mayor of the Warsaw Wola District, later, starting from December 2004, he took on a position of Mayor of the Śródmieście District.

He graduated with a major in history from the University of Warsaw, also gaining a second degree from the National School of Public Administration. Additionally he also obtained postgraduate degrees with majors in Local Governments and Local Development, and in Management in Administration.

Throughout the two years during which Macierewicz was the head of the MoD we could have witnessed a conflict between the Minister and Andrzej Duda, the President and Supreme Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, especially in the recent months. It is not a secret that Duda was pushing towards removal of Macierewicz. The spokeswoman of the Law and Justice Party, Beata Mazurek, admitted that the President played a major role in removal of Macierewicz.

The Polish Ministry of Defence led by Macierewicz managed to carry out a Strategic Defence Review. The Polish Defence Concept based on the document was presented in May 2017.

Under Macierewicz’s guidance, the Polish MoD has also created a new branch of the Polish military, the Territorial Defence Forces. The defence budget was significantly increased.

According to the budgetary act signed by President Duda in October 2017 the expenditure is going to go up to 2.5% by 2030. The Polish Ministry of Defence also started to spend more of the funds available. Recently Macierewicz was stressing the fact, during a conference in Cracow, that the funds were spent, both in 2016 as well as in 2017, “almost to the last penny”.

The MoD led by Macierewicz also concluded a number of contracts related to the Technical Modernization Plan. The most significant deals are related to acquisition of 5 VIP jets (Gulfstream 550 and Boeing 737-800/BBJ2), JASSM-ER missiles and Kormoran II and Ratownik class vessels. The MoD also finalized a number of relevant procurements at the domestic companies, both belonging to the PGZ Group, as well as at private entities. The value of the procurement amounted up to PLN 4 billion in 2017. The Ministry is currently finalizing the negotiation procedures concerning the most important of the procurement processes, including Wisła medium range missile defence system, Orka new generation submarines and Homar long range artillery systems.

Macierewicz was also working as the head of the MoD when an important NATO Summit in Warsaw took place, bringing decisions on unprecedented reinforcement of the eastern flank of the alliance. Thanks to the summit several thousand US soldiers, as well as troops hailing from other NATO nations, are currently stationed in Poland.

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