The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 2.15.19

 In Weekly Wire

Franco-German Defense Cooperation

Luke Penn-Hall, Research Associate

France and Germany have been making efforts to facilitate better military cooperation. This renewed emphasis on collaboration has many origins, ranging from concerns over Brexit to declining confidence in the United States, but the result has proven to be a boon to the defense industries in both nations. For example, Nexter and Rheinmetall will be working together to develop the main ground combat system, with the contract expected to be announced in mid-2019 worth at least EUR 30 billion (USD $33.8 billion). Additionally, both countries are also partnering to develop a new Future Combat Air System (FCAS). On February 7, Airbus and Dassault were awarded a $74 million contract for the initial concept study for the FCAS program. Beyond joint development projects, there is also the potential for mergers between firms. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Nexter established a consortium dubbed KNDS (KMW – Nexter Defense Systems) in 2016 with each defense firm having a 50% stake in the merger, and is considered to be the third largest defense land systems firm in the world.

However, this greater degree of cooperation has also created some problems for both countries. Center-left elements of the German government recently prevented MDBA from selling Meteor missiles to Saudi Arabia due to human rights concerns. The Meteor missile contains several German components which enabled Germany to veto the sale. This has led to a great deal of frustration on the part of the French. Similarly, the German government is having trouble deciding on which new fighter aircraft to purchase. The German Air Force prefers the American-made F-35, but France has made it clear that if Germany were to select the F-35 over a European-made platform, then they may pull out of the FCAS development project. This type of friction is not new, but the increasing cooperation between their militaries means that they will need to develop better ways of working both with and around each other in order to pursue their respective agendas without damaging these new partnerships.

Canada flag


On February 8, the Canadian government officially selected the Lockheed Martin Canada-BAE Systems bid for the country’s CAD $60 billion (USD $45 billion) surface combatant program. Dubbed “Canada’s Combat Ship Team,” the Lockheed Martin Canada-BAE Systems proposal put forth the Type 26 Global Combat Ship which was chosen as the preferred bidder in October 2018 over Alion Canada offering the De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate and a team led by Navantia offering the F-105 Alvaro de Bazan-class frigate. Alion Canada has since challenged the Canadian government’s decision to choose the Type 26. The Lockheed Martin Canada-BAE team includes L3 Technologies, CAE, MDA, and Ultra Electronics Maritime Systems Inc. The Type 26 is currently being developed by BAE Systems for the British Navy, though the Canadian version will include Lockheed Martin’s combat management system, CMS 330. The combat ship’s Integrated Platform Management System is being developed by L3 Technologies, while Ultra Electronics is offering its S1250 hull-mounted sonar. Canada’s Irving Shipbuilding remains the prime contractor on the surface combatant program, in which 15 ships will be built under the program to replace the Halifax-class frigates and Iroquois destroyers and is the largest program under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Australia flag


On February 11, Australia and Naval Group signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), marking a major milestone in the SEA 1000 project to build Australia’s future Attack-class submarines. The primary component of the SPA is the contract to build 12 submarines for $35 billion (A$50 billion). While this appears to be an exorbitant price for 12 conventionally powered attack submarines, the other parts of the SPA point to the reasons for the high cost. The SPA addresses the transfer of advanced technology and manufacturing capabilities, supporting Australian aspirations for developing its naval shipbuilding industry. The SPA also acts as a planning framework for Australian industry involvement in the project, allowing these firms to better plan investments in support of the SEA 1000 project. While this is certainly an important event in the progression of SEA 1000, work had already begun with an early design contract signed in September 2016, and the ground-breaking of the submarine construction yard last December. The first submarine begin construction in 2023 and is expected to be operational by 2034. The last Attack-class will enter service as late as the 2050s.

India flag


On February 10, the Indian Air Force received the first four of 15 total CH-47F Chinook helicopters. Boeing plans to deliver the remaining eleven rotorcraft by 2021. The contract for the helicopters was awarded in 2012 as part of a larger $3 billion deal that also included 22 AH-64Es. Two days later, Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, cited the sale of the helicopters in a Congressional testimony as an example of expanding defense ties with India, a strategic partner in the region. Davidson also highlighted India’s inventory of U.S. platforms, including P-8s, C-130Js, C-17s, AH-64s, CH-47s, and M777 howitzers, and promoted the potential purchase of the F-16 and F/A-18E aircraft, additional P-8Is, and Sea Guardian UAS.

Norway flag


According to Norwegian sources, 11 Russian-based Su-34s simulated an attack towards Norwegian territory, turning away just before the fighter aircraft entered Norwegian airspace. The mock attack took place in the most northern regions of the country, where Norway has several Globus-II radars set up and are operated under Norway’s intelligence agency. The primary purpose of the radars is to monitor activity in space, but Norwegian sources speculate that the radars potentially keep track of Russian ballistic missiles. This mock attack will further strain Russian-Norwegian relations, which are already low. In November 2018, Norway along with its neighbors hosted NATO’s Trident Juncture 18 exercise which was called out for being the largest NATO military exercise since the Cold War and included the participation of 31 countries. Russian officials expressed anger over the military exercise in which the scenario focused on an unnamed Scandinavian country’s sovereignty being threatened by an aggressive country. Furthermore, Norway has been building its military presence in the northern regions of the country which contradicts its claim that the threat to the Artic remains low.

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