The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 7.26.18

 In Weekly Wire

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On July 23, the US House and Senate reached an agreement regarding the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Avascent Analytics has highlighted some of top stories stemming from the NDAA agreement.
Congress reached an agreement on the NDAA, which now looks poised to pass before the start of the fiscal year for the first time since 1996. The passage of the bill was aided by the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act in February, and a rising consensus surrounding growing national security threats. The bill authorizes a base defense budget of $639 billion and $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. For the Navy, the biggest changes in the NDAA come from the construction of two additional Littoral Combat Ships and the accelerated construction schedule of the fourth Ford-class carrier (CVN-81) as well as exercising additional options for Virginia-class submarines in 2022 and 2023. The Naval Non-Commissioned fleet is also receiving a boost as the bill funds the replacement of the Navy’s cable-laying vessel, retains a Hospital ship capability, encourages recapitalization of the auxiliary fleet, and authorizes six polar icebreakers. While most Air Force procurement programs remain stable, Congress has barred the replacement of JSTARS aircraft until the Advanced Battle-Management System reaches maturity. The Army, meanwhile, received over $313 million for additional Strykers and Paladin howitzers in addition to $253 million for six AH-64Es and four UH-60Ms. The bill also adds $424 million for Missile Defense programs, $150 million for hypersonic strike weapon development, and $868 million in additional infrastructure sustainment.

Turning its focus to international purchases of US-made platforms, the NDAA includes a provision temporarily blocking the transfer of various defense platforms, including the F-35 fighter aircraft, pending a report on Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system. Under terms of the NDAA, the US Department of Defense will need to submit a report within 90 days that will address relations between the two countries and the impact of Russian defense imports on Turkey, among other topics. There are concerns within the Department of Defense that this delay could cause the price of the F-35 to increase due to supply chain disruptions. Turkey has agreed to buy 100 F-35s, and several components of the fighter are manufactured by Turkish companies.

The NDAA also includes a waiver that will exempt India, Indonesia, and Vietnam from sanctions for buying Russian defense equipment. The legislation modifies section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which would apply sanctions on those who buy equipment from Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors. The move is a win for Defense Secretary Mattis and other supporters of U.S.-India ties, who argued that CAATSA sanctions on India would alienate an important partner in the Indo-Pacific. Russian firms, long dominant in the Indian market, have seen their market share reduced in recent years, accounting for just 8.7 percent of Indian defense investment in 2017. However, a $3.2 billion contract for four S-400 surface-to-air missile systems will bolster its position through 2023.

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On July 20, the US Department of Defense announced that it will continue to support Ukraine by providing $200 million in security assistance to the country. The funding will cover “training, equipment, and advisory efforts” to continue building Ukraine’s defense capabilities. Additionally, the funding will also go towards developing Ukraine’s C2 capabilities, situational awareness systems, communication systems, vision enhancement, mobility, and medical treatments. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine has received approximately $1 billion in security assistance from the US, most of which has gone towards non-lethal aid. However, in March 2018 the US approved the sale of Javelin missiles worth $47 million, making it the first potential sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine. Under the Obama Administration, officials hesitated to sell lethal weapons to the country out of concern that the situation could deteriorate further.

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The UK Ministry of Defence posted a contract notice stating that it may expand its purchase of Boxer infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) by 900 vehicles over 20 years. The additional 900 vehicles, together with the 400-600 already ordered, could cost the UK more than $15 billion over 24 years. Despite the hefty price tag, the additional vehicles could allow the army to completely replace the roughly 900 FV430 Bulldog armored vehicles that have been in service since the 1960s. An expanded order would also mean more security for British jobs, as the Boxers will be built in the UK. Apart from the Boxer acquisition, the UK is projected to spend about $5.6 billion over the next decade on several other ground vehicle acquisitions, including the Multi-Role Vehicle (Protected), six variants of the Ajax armored vehicle, and a future all-terrain vehicle.

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