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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

02 February 2016

A New European Military Order?

Europe’s current approach to fighting terrorism, after two deadly assaults carried out by Islamic militants in Paris last year, represents a shift from the austerity mantra that has dominated the region since the debt crisis in 2010. While countries are not abandoning their fiscal discipline, leaders are encouraging a more flexible approach to give them financial firepower to counter the growing threat.
France, Germany, the UK, and neighbouring countries sharply curbed military outlays while austerity was enforced. Since 2007, Western European military spending has slumped more than 13%, accelerating a decline that began earlier in the decade. As of last year, only four European member countries in NATO met the mandated military spending target of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Security has been ramped up after the vicious attacks in Paris late last year, and mainland Europe sees increased heavy weapons in public life, a sight, e.g. Israel sadly is all too used to.  

Germany is hiring more police and intelligence officers, and in January, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen proposed increasing military spending by €130 billion over 15 years. The government may also divert part of its €12.1 billion budget surplus to managing the wave of refugees flooding into the country. France is also expanding its military equipment arsenal, troops and police, as well as increasing surveillance and spending hundreds of millions of euros on new programmes to counter radicalisation among Muslim youth. In Belgium, where militants planned the Paris attacks after training in Syria, nearly half a billion euros will be spent jailing returning jihadists, reinforcing borders and keeping hundreds of troops on the streets, while the UK recently authorised £12 billion in new spending to purchase Boeing P8 MPAs, increase fighter squadron numbers, and create new strike brigades.

Total Western European military spending, led by France, Britain and Germany, is expected to jump by an extra €50 billion through 2019, to €215 billion. Europe’s security spending, though, will still pale in comparison to that of the US. Even so, the shift could prove a windfall for security, military and arms manufacturers.

France, Germany, and the UK are furthermore hiring thousands of new intelligence officers and upgrading surveillance equipment and software for monitoring communications, especially on the so-called darknet of encrypted networks that terrorists use to communicate and recruit. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who is now reversing years of military cutbacks, has authorised the UK’s creation of a new National Cyber Centre to track jihadists. At the same time, private corporations and big cities alike are ramping up surveillance spending.

The UK’s latest Security and Defence Strategic Review (SDSR) sees a total of £178 billion will be used to buy and maintain equipment for the UK Armed Forces over the next decade, which will include doubling of investment in equipment support for UK Special Forces and other specialist units. Highlights in the SDSR include plans to extend the number of expeditionary force elements from 30,000 to 50,000 personnel, comprising a land division, maritime task group and expeditionary air group. The so-called Joint Force 2025’s land division will include two armoured infantry brigades and two new “Strike Brigades,” each of which will comprise 5,000 personnel and equipped with a total of 600 AJAX armoured vehicles. An undisclosed number of infantry battalions will also provide specialist military assistance and counter-terrorism training capabilities to international partner nations.

The UK continues to advance its Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) programme, in 2015 pledging a £390 million support contract in July for the General Dynamics (GD) AJAX (formerly SCOUT) Specialist Vehicles (SV) fleet, following a £3.5 billion deal announced ahead of the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales to buy 589 of the vehicles. The contract will run until 2024. Thales secured the contract to supply sighting systems and ancillary equipment for the SV production phase – consisting of a primary sight, local situational awareness (LSA) camera system and smoke dispenser, while Rheinmetall Defence received the contract to manufacture its turret structures, alongside Lockheed Martin UK, Curtiss-Wright is adding its turret drive servo system (TDSS), and CTA International 40mm Case Telescoped Armament System (CTAS) cannons will provide advanced firepower and an airburst ammunition capability. (Photo: DPM)

The RAF will receive an additional two squadrons of TYPHOON aircraft as well as 24 F-35 LIGHTNING II aircraft instead of the eight originally planned. Additionally, the UK’s major capability gap of a maritime patrol aircraft will now be filled with the acquisition of nine P-8 surveillance aircraft, which will be tasked with protecting the country’s nuclear submarine fleet; anti-submarine warfare and maritime SAR.

The Royal Navy’s River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels will be replaced with a newly designed variant, while the MoD will procure an additional eight Type 26 frigates, due to enter service in the mid-2020s.

Finally, it was confirmed that the UK’s nuclear deterrent would be maintained with procurement of an additional 4 ballistic submarine as well as plans to procure PROTECTOR tactical UAVs and ZEPHYR high altitude long endurance UAVs.

Germany has been conducting a sustained drive to implement a more militarist foreign policy by sending troops to North Africa and Syria, while academics and media outlets carry out an ideological push to revive the plans for German domination of Europe and the world that had such disastrous consequences in the first half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, von der Leyen has pledged a greater role for Germany in international crisis fighting.

German forces are currently engaged in the international alliance against the so called Islamic State (IS), including by arming and training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and flying reconnaissance missions over Syria with Panavia’s TORNADO jets.

German lawmakers in December authorised the deployment of up to 1,200 personnel for the operation, which also includes an A310 aerial refuelling plane and the F122 AUGSBURG (BREMEN-class) frigate to help guard the French aircraft carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE in the Mediterranean.

Berlin also plans to send an additional 500 troops to Mali to relieve French forces in the west African country, where Germany is already part of an EU military training mission.

In November 2015, Germany also decided to increase to 980 its troop strength in Afghanistan to train and support national forces.

These engagements come as the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) has been plagued by a series of equipment failures. To help the military cope, parliament has approved raising its budget from €33 billion in 2015 to €35 billion annually over four years, which still only equals 1.07% of GDP, far below the NATO-member goal of two percent.

On 27 January, von der Leyen presented a major defence equipment procurement and MRO package for the next 15 years to German parliament at €130 billion, an average yearly investment of some €8.6 billion up until 2030, compared with the current level of €4.7 billion; identifying about 1,500 individual measures the MoD wants to take by 2030.

This plan calls for an immediate increase of land systems numbers, including 320 LEOPARD 2 MBTs (from 225); 248 FENNEK reconnaissance vehicles (from 217; operational in Afghanistan; and beginning in May, also to be used in the Bundeswehr’s next combat mission in Mali); 402 BOXER 8x8 APCs (from 272) to 402; and 101 PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers (from 89). Additionally, up to 192 MARDER IFVs could be retained in service, alongside the already planned 342 PUMA IFVs. The planned upgrade to the fleet of armoured vehicles is breath-taking. Von der Leyen aims to acquire a total of 1,300 BOXER and FOX heavy armoured transport vehicles, a number which could still go up. Included in this are close to 900 older FOX transport vehicles and the 402 aforementioned newer BOXERs.

Germany plans to increase its heavy land systems numbers, including 320 LEOPARD 2 MBTs (from 225). (Photo: Bundeswehr)

Companies benefiting from this are mainly Kraus-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), Rheinmetall, their joint ventures ARTEC and Projekt Systems and Management (PSM), and their sub-suppliers.

There is also talk of additional marine and transport helicopters and ships. 36 new NH90 NTH Sea LION marine helicopters (by NHIndustries/Airbus Helicopters) will be purchased, six more than previously planned. The plan also sees, for the first time, 59 new heavy lift helicopters to be purchased. In the running are Sikorsky’s CH-53K and Boeing’s CH-47F CHINOOK as potential successors to the Bundeswehr’s aging fleet of CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters. A selection should be made by the end of this year, according to the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).

A Military Aviation Strategy Paper (MASP) published by the German MoD mid-January stated that the conclusion of a contract is expected for 2018 and helicopter deliveries should start in 2022. According to the paper, the multirole helicopter should increase the air mobility of the ground forces and contribute to MEDEVAC, as well as support of SOF and to personnel recovery missions.
This MASP also highlights that a next-generation weapon system (NextGenWS), complementary to the Eurofighter TYPHOON, will be developed as successor to the TORNADO, which is specialised for ground attack. The NextGenWS might be unmanned, manned or optionally manned, the paper states. A more precise definition will be carried out after further analysis.

In order to preserve the warfare capabilities of the Luftwaffe, the NextGenWS should enter service no later than when the TORNADO is taken out of operations, which, according to current planning, will fly until the middle of the next decade. Sidenote: Mid-January, the Luftwaffe was hit with a software bug that causes its TORNADO's cockpit lighting to shine too bright, which is blinding pilots and preventing them from flying at night. Since the start of 2016, six TORNADOs have been used on reconnaissance missions to Syria in the fight against IS, just not at night after being hampered by a software update issue. Ever since the planes were upgraded to its new ASSTA-3 software, pilots have complained that at night the cockpit reflects so much bright light they cannot see, according to media sources. A spokesperson for the Luftwaffe revealed they are working on a timely solution. End Sidenote.

Also in planning is a so-called Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which the MASP describes as a system-of-systems, incorporating capabilities of existing aircraft, such as EUROFIGHTER, TORNADO, and the combat helicopter TIGER, but also future weapon systems, such as a MALE UAS and the NextGenWS.

The MoD intends to define conceptual ideas and operational requirements for an FCAS and a NextGenWS in 2016. These are to serve as a basis for multilateral cooperation and the examination of common requirements and technological feasibility.

According to the paper, the realisation of the NextGenWS and the FCAS has to be made with partner nations in a European context, because a purely national approach to develop weapon systems of this complexity is deemed impossible. The ministry wants to initiate a dialogue in Europe soon on common objectives, lines of development and options for action.

In German planning sees a so-called Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which is described as a system-of-systems, incorporating capabilities of existing aircraft, such as Eurofighter TYPHOON (shown), TORNADO, and the combat helicopter TIGER, but also future weapon systems, such as a MALE UAS and the NextGenWS.  (Photo: Eurofighter)

TYPHOON Tranche 1 aircraft are to be operated as long as economically viable to meet national and international commitments, with delivery of the later Tranche 2/3A aircraft to be complete in 2018. Spiral upgrades with air-surface armaments (including GBU-48 in the near term, a short-range ground-attack missile by 2020, a medium-range ground-attack missile from 2020, and new effectors for maritime anti-surface warfare [ASuW] and suppression-of-enemy-air defences [SEAD] roles from the 2025 time frame) and sensors (including an active electronically scanned array radar and enhanced targeting pod) are envisaged at this stage.

Other programmes and platforms referenced in the MASP include the Airbus Defence & Space (DS) A400M ATLAS; the Airbus DS A310 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT); the Lockheed Martin P-3 ORION; the Northrop Grumman MQ-4 TRITON; the European MALE UAV 2020; the tactical UAVs KZP and LUNA; naval vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAVs for K130 corvettes; stratospheric UAVs and/or satellites; Westland Sea LYNX; as well as the NATO-operated Boeing E-3 AWACS.

While the European MALE UAS project is still awaiting action (the Euro-MALE project is proving so slow to take off, various European countries are opting for interim solutions: Spain opted for four General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Block 5 REAPERs and two mobile ground control stations (GCS) valued at $176 million, and France ordered a third REAPER system comprising three Block 5 RPAs plus two GCS, for delivery in 2019), the Bundeswehr has recently favoured leasing three to five Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) HERON TPs in 2018, costing them about €580 million. The lease contract with IAI (Airbus D&S operates and supports the HERON 1 for the Bundeswehr, and is likely to expand this arrangement to include the HERON TP as well) will provide an interim solution until 2025, when a new European combat UAV is expected to enter service (a joint effort of Germany, France, Italy, and Spain).  There are considerations of integrating the HERON TP with MBDA BRIMSTONE missiles, where parliament would decide on a case-by-case basis when and if the UAS can be armed.

The HERON TP will be used to support German forces operating with international contingencies overseas, in a similar manner the HERON I has already operated in Afghanistan. The leased UAS will initially be stationed in Israel for training and, potentially, in support of operational deployment, while operational control and simulator based training will be maintained in Germany.

According to anonymous political and industry sources, the PREDATOR RPA, which Germany was also going for (RUAG is teamed with GA-ASI to offer the PREDATOR B to Germany), would have cost the same to buy as the lease option Germany went for. Go figure.

An European Union (EU) maritime security strategy, adopted in 2014, calls for new responsibilities in the maritime domain – both regionally and globally. In doing so, major European countries are in the process of implementing new naval capabilities.

The German Navy – ranking fourth among the European fleets with respect to fleet warship tonnage – plays an important role within this scheme; but, there are additional investments needed to provide the fleet with new surface combatants, underwater warfare weapons and equipment, and aircraft. Presently, the German Navy’s main construction project is the four-ship Type F125 (BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG-class) frigate built by ARGE F125 consisting of thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Fr. Lürssen Werft. With a full displacement of 7,300t, the new ships provide staying power in littoral crisis zones with graduated lethality; equipped with Airbus DS’ newly-developed TRS-4D NR (Non Rotating) AESA radar, and delivery planned to be completed by 2019. However, the German Navy aborted its plans for two Joint Support Ships (JSS) last January, with Navy Command now considering cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Navy over their amphibious/strategic transport assets.

Type F125 frigate BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG (F 222) during outfitting, to the left her sister ship NORDRHEIN-WESTFALEN (F 223). (Photo via NAVAL FORCES)

Berlin gave green light for the Navy’s next large procurement programme – initially four examples of the MKS 180 multirole combat ship costing €3.9 billion. Offering mission modularity at its best, the German Navy, “wants to have a large ship,” German Flotilla Adm. Karl-Wilhelm Ohlms said on 1 October 2015, capable of meeting all the requirements of 3D naval warfare completely. The ship’s displacement stood at 9,000t in mid-October 2015. A unique process in German Navy history, the MoD invited international bidders (DCNS, Damen Group, Navantia, and Fincantieri) for construction contracts. First delivery is expected to be in 2023. The two new surface ship classes will facilitate on the Navy’s Long-Term Development Plan (LTDP) for 2020 and beyond, according to which Germany’s naval forces are in transition, with the great bulk of major surface and underwater warfare assets being optimised for ‘open ocean’ or ‘blue water’ operations. Currently, some 50 percent of the fleet’s surface und underwater combatants are optimised for shallow-water operation.

The reason for this build-up of military power is not the allegedly desperate condition of the military, but rather the turn in German foreign policy proclaimed by President Joachim Gauck, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Von der Leyen herself more than two years ago at the 2014 Munich Security Conference. Germany was, “too big just to comment on foreign policy from the sidelines,” and would have to, “be prepared to intervene earlier, more decisively and more substantially in foreign and security policy,” they declared at the time.

Von der Leyen recently went as far as saying: “If we do not pay attention to Syria and Iraq, if we do not pay attention to Afghanistan and Africa … if we do not do our part there, then the problems will come to us and it will be even worse and that is exactly what we do not want. We want to take on our share of the responsibility and, for that, the troops must be well equipped.”

Amidst all this, there are urgent calls for the establishment of a European military organised independently of the NATO alliance.

Under provisions in the Lisbon Treaty adopted in 2009, EU member states agreed on potential cooperation with the establishment of a common security and defence policy. The treaty contained a mutual defence clause for the first time, which obligated member states to assist a state if it faced a major attack. This was the clause invoked by France in the wake of the 13 November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks to secure EU military assistance.

On 27 December 2015, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told German media: “We will have to spend a lot more funds for joint European defence initiatives... [as] ultimately our aim must be a joint European army.” He cited the Middle East and Africa as key locations for military operations.

The promotion of a “European army” coupled with rhetorical pledges to be creating a united force to secure peace and stability, is seen as a necessary propaganda cover for a vast expansion of military budgets.

Moves towards a European military confirm that the period in which the unity of a capitalist Europe was hailed as the guarantor of peace, freedom and democracy is at an end.