The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 5.10.18
On May 4, the US approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to Germany for the acquisition of three C-130Js and three KC-130Js worth up to $1.4 billion. The ongoing delays of Airbus’ A400M transport aircraft, of which Germany is acquiring a total of 53 aircraft, has led the country to acquire the C-130s as a stopgap measure since the Luftwaffe’s fleet of C-160 transport aircraft is set to retire in the early 2020s. As of now, only 15 of the 53 aircraft have been delivered. This is one of several acquisitions planned by the Ministry of Defense for 2018, but the 18 contracts Germany is looking to approve hang in the balance due to a potentially underfunded defense budget.
Avascent Analytics previously reported on the debate surrounding the defense budget and Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen’s push for an additional $3.5 billion to be added to the 2018 budget. The Bundeswehr has faced increased scrutiny this year as German media has reported on the chronic underfunding of the armed forces, adding that operational readiness is at peril if nothing is done to reverse the trend. Despite pressure to bump up the defense budget, the Ministry of Defense hinted that the acquisition of the C-130s could be canceled if sufficient funding is not secured.
On May 3, Dutch Secretary of State for Defense Barbara Visser announced a major plan for naval investment that will likely cover the next decade and will be worth over $7.5 billion. The plan involves replacing the current Walrus-class submarines ($2.9 billion earmarked), replacing the two M-class frigates (estimated $2.9 billion), replacement of six Alkmaar-class minehunters through a joint program with Belgium, construction of a logistics vessel to serve alongside the logistic support ship Karel Doorman ($300 million-$1.2 billion), and a series of smaller purchases. The logistics ship is expected to enter service by 2023, the frigates by 2024, and the minehunters by 2025. Large Dutch defense suppliers, particularly Damen and Thales Nederland, will likely receive much of the work on this major recapitalization. Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy Rob Kramer stated that these procurements were crucial for the survival of the Dutch military-maritime industry. Besides the desire to support local industry, buying domestically may avoid trouble with the European Commission, which in January called out the Netherlands as having imposed unjustified offset requirements when purchasing defense equipment from abroad.
On May 7, France confirmed that it would acquire a fifth Barracuda nuclear attack submarine. The announcement adds to the 2018 Military Planning Law, which requires that four Barracuda-class submarines be delivered by 2025. Naval Group won the original contract for six boats worth $11.3 billion. Delivery of the first Barracuda submarine, the Suffren, has been delayed two years and is now scheduled for 2020. A sixth and final boat is scheduled for delivery by 2027. The Barracuda-class will replace the French Navy’s fleet of six Rubis-class nuclear attack submarines, which will begin retiring by the mid-2020s.
Swiss officials are displaying increased interest in passive radar as part of a larger effort to modernize the country’s air-defenses. The modernization program, called Air 2030, is geared towards enhancing Swiss defenses against a range of threats, including stealth aircraft, and acquiring new aircraft and ground-based sensor systems. Swiss defense officials are exploring passive radar as means of detecting stealth aircraft, although the technology remains unproven this far. Including passive radar systems as part of Switzerland’s modernization program was suggested by outside experts advising the Swiss government in 2017, stating that passive radar equipment “offer much greater survivability” compared to immobile military radar stations.