In our selection of the last two weeks, you will find a focus on a EU cyber exercise, Croatia’s choice of Dassault Rafale, EU reaction to Belarus plane diversion, and a lot more!
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Focus : The EU Cyber Rapid Response Teams engaged in an operational exercise
Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania are part of the EU Cyber Rapid Response Teams, (CRRTs) dedicated to assist EU Member States, Institutions and missions to prevent, deter and respond to cyber threats and cyber incidents. Suggested in 2017 and finalised in March 2020, this PESCO project is coordinated by Lithuania. It is constituted of national experts, civilian and military. It also allows common intervention and therefore information and HR sharing.
End of May, the CRRTs engaged in an exercise in Poland and Lithuania. This allowed to test their response time, decision making process and effectiveness in mitigating a complex cross-border cyberattack on government institutions in both countries. The Polish government stated that the success of the operation “emboldened their trust in their capacity to respond” and that all 6 countries reiterate their commitment to invest in the project.
There are currently 7 other ongoing cyber-related PESCO projects, among which:
• ESSOR for European Secure Software defined Radio
• EHAAP for European High Atmosphere Airship Platform, for persistent ISR capabilities
• A Cyber Threats and Incident Response Information Sharing Platform
• A Tactical Command and Control Command Post for small operations
• And Strategic Command and Control Systems for CSDP missions
Industries: Croatia chooses Rafale, the Netherlands sell radars to Norway, A400M
Croatia chooses Dassault Rafale as its new fighter jet
On May 28th, Croatia officially announced the purchase of 12 Dassault Rafale fighter jets for €1 billion. This is the final step of the acquisition process of the Croatian Ministry of Defence that saw in competition new General Dynamics F-16C, new SAAB Gripen C from Sweden, second-hand Dassault Rafale and second-hand Israelian F-16C. The new aircrafts will replace the current MIG-21 fleet that will retire in 2024.
The Prime Minister stated that it would “reinforce Croatia’s position as an NATO ally and a EU partner.” This highest defence spending since the Croatian independence in 1992 will also allow the country to reach for the first time the NATO 2% GDP requirement for defence spending.
Croatia becomes the third European and NATO user of the Dassault Rafale fighter jet, after France and very recently Greece. The aircrafts will be collected in the French fleet in 2024 and will not be replaced. Instead, the sell will be used to modernise the remaining 90 French units and 28 still to be delivered.
The Netherlands sell multi-mission radars to Norway to enhance operational cooperation
The Norwegian Procurement Agency announced the purchase of five Ground Master 200 multi-mission radars to its Dutch counterpart, in a government to government agreement. Conceived by Thales Netherlands, these Ground to Air systems could, according to the Dutch Procurement Agency, create a platform on which both nations’ Armed forces could further jointly develop doctrines and systems. The Norwegian Defence Material Agency deputy director general saluted as a “very important milestone in the close military cooperation between Norway and the Netherlands”, while the Thales Netherlands CEO pointed out “the strong bilateral strategic defence cooperation between Norway and the Netherlands.”
Trilateral meeting on A400M roadmap for a joint capability
On May 21st, the Commander of the European Air Transport Command, the EDA Chief Executive and OCCAR-EA director hold their yearly trilateral meeting on the A400M roadmap, aimed to facilitate the joint optimisation and development of the transport aircraft capability. The centerpiece of the project is the participation of a commonly operated A400M contingent to a highly valuable international air mobility exercise in 2023. The 2021 roadmap lists activities such as collective training, and cross-servicing and cross-maintenance, including employment of technicians in a multinational environment.
European Union military cooperation and external operations
Meeting of the EU Military Committee
The EU Military Committee (EUMC) met for their first 2021 physical meeting on May 19th.
At this occasion, Josep Borrell stressed among other EU defence initiatives the role of EU Battlegroups to act as initial entry forces in rapid response situations. However, the EU Chiefs of Defence acknowledged hat the lack of contribution in the EU Battlegroups roster may hamper this role and urged for a solution to give them more appeal.
Briefed on Strategic Compass latest developments, they expressed their satisfaction about the way the EUMC is providing military inputs and expertise to the political discussions.
The Committee also chose the Austrian Chief of Defence Staff, General Robert Brieger, as the new Chairman of the EUMC, to replace General Claudio Graziano.
Germany commits in Indo-Pacific region
Germany announced the deployment of the Bayern frigate in the Indo-pacific region. This follows a visit from the German Defence Minister, Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer, in South Korea, to show that Germany will protect its interests in the region. The frigate, during the second half of 2021, will travel to Australia, East Asia and will pass by the South China Sea.
Danish Parliament confirms the country’s participation to TF Takuba
Two months only after the announcement, the Danish Parliament, the Folketing, approved widely the sending of 105 soldiers in Mali, 60 of which for the Task-Force Takuba, for the beginning of 2022.
International relations : Belarus plane diversion, EU Defence ministers meeting
United and quick European reaction after plane diversion to Belarus and opponent’s arrest
On May 23rd, an Ryanair air liner flying from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land at Minsk airport, in Belarus, after a bomb alert. During this stop, an opponent to the Lukashenko regime was identified and arrested. This was unanimously interpreted by western countries as a trap organised by the regime, and condemned as a violation of EU sovereignty, the aircraft serving two EU capitals for a EU airline company.
The High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell called for the immediate release of the arrested journalist. The European Council, gathered on May 24th, the day after, condemned the event and called for sanctions. It asked every airliner established in the EU to avoid flying over Belarus air space, and Member States to take measures to forbid the access to EU air space to Belarus airline companies.
This last sanction has not been put into place harmoniously by Member States, leading to some unplanned route changes or flight cancellation.
Informal meeting of Defence Ministers in Lisbon, under Portugal’s presidency of the EU Council
On May 27th and 28th an informal meeting gathered Defence ministers (MoDs) of the EU. Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting, highlighted the main points in a press conference.
On missions and operations, he said he informed the MoDs of the ongoing preparation for a possible CSDP military training mission in Mozambique, and that a fact finding mission had already been sent. Developments in Mali were also addressed: after recent events, the situation “remains volatile and unclear.” But activities continue for CSDP missions in Mali.
Main dish was Strategic Compass, on development and capabilities, with a focus on emerging and disruptive technologies. Josep Borrell pointed out the need to have less fragmented military capacity, to foster defence innovation to remain at the cutting edge of technological development, and to be leader in promoting and defining standards.
The very good results of the Coordinated Maritime Presence in the Gulf of Guinea, where the piracy moved from Somalian coasts, were also pointed out.