NewsFeed n°56

Published by Elias Ricken on

The NewsFeed is a press review with a summary of a selection of articles and events that occurred in the past two weeks. Keep track!
In our brief of the last weeks, you will find a focus on the last agreement for deliveries of Western weapons to Ukraine, the 5th anniversary of the launch of PESCO, and various news on German military equipment!
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Focus: Weapon deliveries to Ukraine – AMX-10, Marder, Patriot and Bradley

After ten months of combat in Ukraine, first France (04.01.23) and then the US and Germany (05.01.23) declared to breach a political line and to send for the first time in the war of Ukraine armoured fighting vehicles, mobile AA-batteries and light tanks over to Ukraine. France will send an undesignated number of AMX-10 RCR six-wheeled tank destroyers (classified as “light main battle tank” in France). In service with the French ground forces since the 1980s, these amphibious, 12 ton-vehicles are equipped with a 105mm tank gun and a 7,62mm coaxial machine gun. Their frontal armour can withstand small arms fire up to 20mm from point blank range. In the French forces, the AMX-10 is currently in the process of being replaced by IVF Jaguar in the process of modernizing the equipment.

Germany will send over 40 Marder IFVs – enough for one battalion of mechanized infantry. The Marder IFV started its service in the 1970s and is armed with a 20mm cannon. As IFV, it can carry up to 6 soldiers that can dismount quickly if needed to fight alongside the tank and protect it from infantry attacks, such as flanking manoeuvres. On the other hand, the Marder can support the infantry with its armour and cannon to fight difficult to knock-out targets. Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has requested the delivery of Marder vehicles, but has until now always been denied.

Alongside with the US, Germany has also declared to send an unknown number of MIM-104 Patriot mobile Anti-Air missile Systems over. These operate in small groups of mostly four-six vehicles (including lead, radar and launch vehicles). Two of these systems are already stationed in Slovakia, where they protect the border line to Ukraine from possibly diverted incoming missiles, three more are planned to be stationed in eastern Poland with the same purpose. The Patriot is one of the costlier systems, with one missile costing well beyond €1M, therefore it will mostly not be used to counter small drones, but rather aircraft and cruise-missiles from bombing/hitting critical infrastructure.

While also delivering a number of Patriot systems, the US declared to be willing to send over 50 M2 or M3 Bradley IFVs. In contrast to the German Marder, the Bradley is combat proven. It can also hold six infantry men and is equipped with a 25mm cannon. The possibility to mount anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) is given, as on the Marder.

This newest deliveries of IFVs pose the consequent question of the delivery of Main battle tanks, as the German Leopard 1 and 2 or the American M1 Abrams. After the French Leclerc has been definitely denied by the French Minister of Defence last December, the Leopard 2 remains the only European MBT that could be send to Ukraine in sufficient numbers: Apart from Germany, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal use it and could theoretically (that means foremost with enough political will) arrange a Leopard 2 delivery. The Leopard 1 is the predecessor of the Leopard 2 and, in the German Army, fully replaced by the later model. However, there still is a certain number in industry holdings. The M1 Abrams is used by the US ground forces and is therefore available in great numbers as well.

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German Gepards in Ukraine: the weapon against small drones

The Ukrainian military has used a German-made anti-aircraft gun system called the Gepard to shoot down as many as 80 Iranian drones during a surprise attack by Russia over New Year’s Eve. The Gepard system fires 35mm rounds from two guns mounted on a tracked vehicle, providing Ukraine with a mobile air defense system that has helped to destroy Russian drones and missiles. The country has used a range of expensive anti-aircraft missile systems, including older Soviet-era weapons and newer radar systems and missile launchers sent by Western allies, to combat the volume of drone and missile threats.

However, the Gepard system is facing a shortage of rounds due to the Swiss government’s refusal to allow Germany to re-export Swiss-made rounds to Ukraine. In October, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht requested that the Swiss government provide 12,400 rounds of Swiss-made ammunition to Ukraine, but this request was denied. In response, German manufacturer Rheinmetall announced in December that it would establish a new production line for 35mm ammunition, though the first rounds will not be ready until later in the year. The lack of domestic industrial capacity has caused concern among Western governments, leading the US and its European allies to consider ways to pool resources and utilize older stockpiles as the conflict in Ukraine continues to deplete NATO’s supplies.

The US is also working to address Iran’s production of drones through sanctions, export controls, and discussions with private companies whose parts have been used in drone production. Spain has pledged to send Ukraine HAWK missiles, which will be paired with several launchers. The HAWK system is still in use in Europe and elsewhere, but was retired by the US Army in the 1990s in favor of the Patriot system. As a result, the US must refurbish the existing HAWK missiles in its warehouses.

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Germany purchase of the F35 – planning and procurement details

As announced some time ago, the German Air Force is planning to purchase the F-35, a stealth multirole fighter aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin, to replace its outdated fleet of Tornado jets and make a technological leap into the 5th generation, as a means of modernizing the German Air Force’s capabilities. The first eight of 35 total planes will be stationed in the US for the training of pilots and ground staff, with the rest to be stationed at the Büchel airbase in the Eifel region for nuclear participation in case of emergency starting in 2027. 

The F-35A, the variant that will be acquired for the German Air Force, is equipped with stealth capabilities and internal weapon bays, making it difficult for radar systems to detect, and is already certified for the use of nuclear weapons (unlike the Eurofighter). It is being acquired as part of a package deal with the US that includes weapons, spare parts, and maintenance for five years, similar to the acquisition of the McDonnell F-4 Phantom 50 years ago, in a move that supreme chief of the Air Force explained in a statement on the decision to procure the F-35 as a “decision without alternative” when it comes to securing unity within NATO and deterring Russian aggressions, along with updating Germany’s defense capabilities to the current state of international relations in Europe.

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Military cooperation and external operations

Disaster before take over in VJTF with Germany’s Puma IFV

Every semester, one NATO member provides a Brigade-size unit as NATO VJTF (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force). The provided contingent must be ready at all times and deployable in a matter of days, better hours. In the second half of 2022, France took over and was ready to give the role to Germany for the first half of 2023. Only that on the 18th of December, the mechanized infantry battalion that was planned for this duty lost all of its 18 Puma IFVs, that were participating in a shooting exercise, to mechanical failure. German officials reacted promptly, reassuring NATO that VJTF-duties would be met, if necessary with older Marder-IFVs instead of the recently modernized Pumas, which has now occurred.

Originally planned for the Netherlands and Germany in numbers up to a thousand, the Puma has for a long time been an example for the failure of the German army to provide functional and war-capable equipment to its soldiers. The reasons for this specific incident were quickly repaired by the industry in a matter of days, but under combat conditions, such a failure can be critical. If it is not for the ruin of the Pumas reputation as an IFV, the refinement process of this incident shows the general disharmony that exists between the German Army and the industry: While Kraus Maffei Wegmann said that almost all of the damages on the Pumas were “bagatelles”, the German MOD spoke of “small to mediocre damages”.

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Half a Mali Update: Mission Gazelle in Niger has come to an end

After the European Training mission Mali was declared finished in 2022, a portion of it continued to exist in form of another training mission of much smaller scale in Niger, were German naval special forces trained future Nigerian special forces as part of operation Gazelle. Some of the EUTM personnel were thereby transferred to Niger, when EUTM Mali was stopped. Roughly one week ago, on New Year’s Eve, the Gazelle-mission now also ended and went into record as a small success, without much political interference and much public knowledge.

However, already in May 2022, a visit of the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz revealed that plans for future military cooperation exists and has been made reality mid-December 2022: European Military Partnership Mission Niger (EUMPM Niger) will be the next training mission that steps into Gazelle’s shoes. It will count a 250-men strong force and is to exist for three years, until the end of 2025.

European policies

The PESCO celebrates its fifth anniversary

The PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) celebrated its fifth anniversary in December 2022. The initiative was activated by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission at that time, but it was in fact a disposition from the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union from 2009.

It consists of 20 commitments that are legally binding for the Member States, in 4 main pillars: Invest, Plan, Develop and Interoperate together. In particular, lie the commitments to increase defence budgets, joint and collaborative defence projects, and enhance the interoperability of their current Armed forces.

The other side of the coin of this framework are the so-called PESCO projects. Coordinated by the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European External Action Service (EEAS), the selection is in the hands of the Defence Ministers of the participating States. A wave is launched every year from 2019, reaching 60 with the 2022 selection, and 20 are expected to be complete by 2025. However, it does not come without difficulties, as delays have been identified for 21. Beyond the Covid-pandemic, reasons raised are both the difficulty to comply with decades of fragmented landscape and weak planning and financial commitment on the projects. The question of the cancellation of low-progress projects has been opened.

Projects are fairly equally distributed between all 7 domains (Air, Maritime, Cyber, Training, …), and have to be developed by more than one country. The main interest is to support the development of capacities identified in the Capability Review (CARD) as needed but however lacking capabilities in the EU. No budget is allocated but the projects are eligible to the European Defence Fund.

As of today, 25 out of the 27 Member States are participating. Denmark, following its recent integration of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) could join very soon, while Malta sees it as violating its neutrality clause. Third States can also participate since 2020 under conditions.

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Sweden takes over the EU Council presidency

As per the 6-months rotation of the EU Council presidency, Sweden has taken since January 1rst over the Czech Republic. With France, they were part of the traditional “trio” which coordinates on a programme to ensure a longer-term action. 

From July to December 2022, the Czech Presidency has dealt with the response to the war in Ukraine, with the 7th, 8th and 9th sanction package implemented, the reduction of the dependence on Russian gas and oil, the Ukraine training mission and the continuation of the equipment support via the European Peace Facility. It also set up the EDIRPA regulation to reinforce the common procurement in EU defence. The political climax of the Presidency was the Prague Summit in October with the first European Political Community meeting, launched by France in early 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine to foster dialogue on security and diplomatic issues. 

On its side, Sweden has identified 4 priorities. Among them, Security & Unity, with the target to continue the EU support to Ukraine by reinforcing the consensus around the European defence policy, and the rule of law. 

On general affairs, it will follow up the application of Ukraine and Moldova to the EU and the integration process of the Western Balkans countries. EU crisis preparedness and management capabilities will also be further developed. In addition, Sweden is determined on foreign affairs to use all available EU tools to strengthen the EU role as a global actor. 

However, these remain abstract objectives that will require to be put into concrete steps in the EU timeline and framework.

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