By Avascent Analytics team
A quick look at the biggest stories of the week
Spain • Turkey • India • Finland
Avascent Analytics introduced a segment to the Weekly Wire called “Beyond the Headlines.” Each week, we will provide an in-depth look on various defense topics, ranging from country-specific defense news to emerging technologies impacting defense.
Key Takeaways from NATO Secretary General’s “The Cold War is over, but big challenges remain”
Jessica Di Paolo, Senior Market Analyst
On December 10, Defense News published an analysis by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the biggest challenges the NATO alliance faces in the near-term. As the headline of the article suggests, NATO’s primary concern continues to be ongoing Russian aggression in the region. Secretary General Stoltenberg wasn’t afraid to call out Russia’s various attacks on sovereign countries – cyberattacks, election interference, disseminating false information, the continued occupation of Crimea in Ukraine – and he doesn’t see Russia letting up while Vladimir Putin is in control. Secretary General Stoltenberg goes on to outline NATO’s response to Russian aggression in the region, focusing on the alliance’s new readiness initiative, command structure, and improved cyber capabilities to deter and defend against Russia and other challenges the alliance might face.
In NATO’s new readiness initiative signed by allies on June 7, 2018, the alliance agreed to have 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 naval combat vessels to be ready within 30 days notice – also known as the Four Thirties. NATO is aiming to fulfill this initiative by 2020. This new initiative is meant to boost the current readiness state to be able to deploy throughout Europe and across the Atlantic within the maximum allotted time of thirty days. As Secretary General Stoltenberg puts it, the current political climate is unpredictable and requires the alliance to be ready should another country’s sovereignty be threatened. That was largely the theme during this year’s Trident Juncture military exercise, where the alliance acted out a scenario of a Scandinavian country coming under attack by another country.
The alliance is also looking to adopt a new command structure that was first outlined in 2017. The focus of the new command structure is the establishment of two NATO joint force commands located in Norfolk, Virginia and Ulm, Germany. The command in Norfolk will be key for maintaining secure communication and passage across the Atlantic, while the command in Ulm will focus on logistics within Europe. The current NATO command structure consists of the Allied Command Operations (ACO) and Allied Command Transformation (ACT). The ACO’s primary responsibility is the “planning and execution of all NATO military operations” while the ACT is “the forefront of NATO’s military transformation.”
The last plank of NATO’s response to Russian aggression is a plan to build on its current cyber capabilities. This is far from a new initiative for the alliance, though certainly one that needs to be constantly maintained and enhanced to defend NATO networks against dynamic cyberattacks. In 2017, NATO agreed to establish a new Cyber Operations Center, which is expected to become operational by 2023. Officially recognized as an operational domain in 2016, NATO has begun to solidify its efforts to defend and deter attacks in cyberspace, with the hopes of agreeing upon rules for engaging in cyber warfare in the near term. Deciding on the rules of engagement in cyberspace will take some time though as the alliance works out how to determine what aspects of cyber warfare would invoke NATO’s collective defense clause.
On December 14, Spain announced a EUR 7.33 billion ($8.2 billion) modernization plan focusing on three key naval, land, and air requirements. Five new frigates are to be manufactured by Navantia under a EUR 4.3 billion ($4.8 billion) deal while General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas is to receive EUR 2.1 billion ($2.3 billion) to develop and produce 348 VCR 8×8 vehicles based on the Piranha platform. The remaining funding is to be used to modernize Spain’s Eurofighter Typhoon fleet. While these programs have been planned for some time, the funding commitment by Spain’s Socialist Government is significant because it allays fears that planned increases in defense spending would be curbed due to the prioritization of non-defense spending. Instead Spain is justifying its investment in defense equipment by focusing on jobs creation, with Spanish companies benefitting from these programs.
On December 18, the DSCA announced that Turkey requested the possible sale of Patriot air-and-missile defense batteries under a deal worth $3.5 billion. The notification states that Turkey has requested four AN/MPQ-65 Radar Sets; four Engagement Control Stations; 10 Antenna Mast Groups (AMGs); 20 M903 Launching Stations; and five Electrical Power Plants. This suggests that four batteries could be fielded. A mixture of interceptors has also been requested, specifically 80 PAC-2 GEM-T and 60 PAC-3 MSE missiles. The request could signal that Turkey is now willing to abandon its plans to procure the S-400 system, with the United States threatening to block its sale of F-35 aircraft.
Turkey’s efforts to field a long-range air-defense system have been underway since 2007 when an initial Request for Information under the T-LORAMIDS program was issued, with a proposed FMS sale of Patriot first announced in 2009. The program has been complicated by bids from China (FD-2000) and Russia (S-400) with the Chinese system being selected in 2013 before Turkey cancelled the original program in 2015 under pressure from NATO. Turkey’s intent was to field and interim solution while an indigenous solution is developed with the support of MBDA. The fact that Turkey opted for the S-400 system in 2017 to provide this interim capability has caused concern within NATO and the United States since Turkey would be fielding a Russian air-defense system while also acquiring the F-35. With the United States threatening to block the sale of F-35 aircraft to Turkey despite its industrial participation in the program, the new request for Patriot batteries is an indication that Turkey could be moving away from its planned S-400 procurement.
On December 17, local press reported that the Indian Navy may cut a potential $2 billion order of MQ-9B Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from 22 units to ten. The decision, though not officially confirmed, is a function of a tight budget environment for the Navy. Even a smaller order will add to the service’s suite of aerial surveillance platforms, which includes eight P-8I, five Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft, and roughly 30 Do-228s. India submitted a formal letter of request for the MQ-9B in 2016, and the State Department approved the sale the following year. This summer, the US permitted the sale of the armed MQ-9B variant to India, reflecting the Trump administration’s more aggressive approach to arms sales and its assessment that a strong India acts as a check on China.
On December 17, Finland’s Sisu Auto won a EUR 200 million ($227 million) competition to supply the Latvian Army with 4×4 armored tactical vehicles. Sisu Auto will supply its GTP 4×4 vehicle under a ten-year contract, following its selection over AM General’s HMMWV, Paramount’s Marauder, and Otokar’s Cobra. AM General and Otokar are reported to have lodged a protest over the decision with Latvia’s Public Procurement Monitoring Bureau.
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