The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 9.26.19

 In Weekly Wire

Germany

The pressure is on for Germany to replace its aging Tornado fighter aircraft fleet, as Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that a decision will need to be made in 2020.

Germany is currently deciding between Boeing’s F/A-18 and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 was ruled out due to potential conflicts with the Franco-German Future Combat Air System.

However, as a NATO requirement, Germany’s fighter aircraft need to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons and neither the F/A-18 nor the Eurofighter Typhoon have this capability. Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer met with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on September 23 to discuss this nuclear capability issue, though experts believe the F/A-18 is years away from being certified to carry nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, Defense Secretary Esper called on Germany to increase its defense spending which currently stands at 1.2 percent, far below NATO’s 2 percent threshold.

While the NATO alliance agreed for all members to increase defense spending to 2 percent by 2024, this is not a binding agreement. Germany is currently on course to increase defense spending to 1.5 percent of GDP in the same timeframe.

Switzerland

On September 19, the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection, and Sport selected the Thales Skyview as a new airspace and air operations monitoring system for the Swiss Army.

This acquisition is part of the C2Air project to replace the FLORAKO system that has been monitoring Swiss airspace since 2005. The acquisition will need to be approved by the Swiss Parliament for inclusion in the 2020 defense budget.

The C2Air project itself is part of the broader $8 billion Air2030 program that includes new fighter jets, new radars, and new air-defense systems. While the C2Air and radar acquisition projects are separate, Skyview is typically connected with the Ground Master series of radars, which will likely strongly position ThalesRaytheonSystems going forward.

Thales is also part of EuroSAM, which makes the SAMP-T air-defense system that is competing with Raytheon’s Patriot for the air-defense system portion of the Air2030 program. A victory for the ground-based SAMP-T would be significant here, putting an end to the series of major contract wins for Patriot in Poland, Sweden, and Romania. SAMP-T is currently operated by France, Italy, and Singapore.

Poland

The US and Poland have signed a joint declaration that will increase the number of US forces deployed in Poland and establish permanent facilities for a larger US presence.

The agreement would see US forces in Poland rise from 4,500 to 5,500 in the near-term. In addition to some battalions likely being deployed to support Baltic nations, the increase of new US military facilities indicates there will be substantial supporting and enabling forces deployed to the region.

This includes the establishment of a Division Headquarters and an area support group in Poznan, a new Combat Training Center in Drawsko Pomorskie, an aerial port of debarkation in Wroclaw-Strachowice, and a remotely piloted aircraft squadron (likely MQ-9s or MQ-4s) in Lask.

Special operations facilities would be Powidz and Lubliniec, with Powidz also hosting a combat aviation brigade and a sustainment force.

Thailand

On September 24, the US State Department announced that it approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of eight AH-6i light attack helicopters to Thailand for $400 million.

The deal included a substantial weapons package with

  • 50 Hellfire Missiles;
  • 200 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) rockets; and
  • 500 Hydra rockets alongside the associated M134 Mini guns;
  • M260 and M299 launchers for rockets and Hellfire; and
  • GAU-19/B .50 caliber machine guns to equip the helicopters.

A training package with aircrew trainers, desktop trainers, virtual maintenance trainers, additional peculiar ground equipment for training support, and a logistics and technical support package was part of the deal as well.

The purchase of AH-6i helicopters would replace Thailand’s aging fleet of seven AH-1F Cobras and be used to support special operations and reconnaissance missions. However, the sale has not yet been finalized and may change before being approved.

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