NewsFeed n°60

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 weeks. Keep track!
In our brief of the last weeks, you will find a focus on the EU Defence Ministers meeting in Stockholm, a high-intensity exercise of the French Armed Forces, deliveries of fighter jets to Ukraine, the common purchase by European countries of ammunition, and more!
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Focus: EU defence minister meet in Stockholm and EU space strategy

On 7–8 March, Swedish Minister for Defence Pål Jonson, together with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, hosted an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Stockholm. The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, also attended.

The meeting focused on the EU’s continued military support to Ukraine. The discussion was based on an EU document presented last week by the Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell. The paper proposes a three-pronged plan to fill existing gaps, boost ammunition production across the EU and support the replenishment of member states’ stocks.

Specifically, the document: Proposes to use an additional €1 billion in common funds to incentivise member states to draw on their stocks, particularly of 155mm artillery shells, and deliver them immediately to Ukraine (FEP); Provides for the development by member states of an agreement for the joint purchase of 155mm shells by the European Defense Agency, with a view to signing the first contracts as early as next month, “for a period of seven years; Provides for a long-term increase in European ammunition production and to support the production of the defense industry to ensure the continuity of deliveries.

A few days before the meeting, Commissioner Breton argued he had the plan to boost Europe’s weapons production capacity, « turbocharging a little-known program that encourages home-grown defensive investments ». His message centered around how to make EDIRPA more muscular (the European defense investment programme, or EDIP), incentivising collaboration among EU states on defense purchases.

Few days after the meeting in Stockholm, on the 10th of march, the European Commission (EC) and the High Representative presented a Communication paper on a European Space Strategy for Security and Defence. This initiative, requested by Member States as part of the Strategic Compass will: Strengthen the resilience of European space systems and services ; Support space services for security and defence by ensuring that security requirements are taken into account; Contribute to the EU’s non-dependence by protecting supply chains and developing critical technologies, thus strengthening the competitiveness of the EU’s industry.

This initiative reflects the growing importance of the European Union’s space systems and services and shows how space has become a strategic area for the EU.

In part, the strategy proposes to launch two pilot projects. One to test the provision of initial space awareness services based on Member State capabilities. The other to test a new government earth observation service as part of the evolution of Copernicus. The Communication also stresses the role of synergies in research: better linking space, defence and security at EU level and ensuring synergies and cross-fertilisation, notably in terms of research and development.

The Commission and the High Representative will soon present to Member States initial steps for the way forward in implementing the strategy.

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The Rafale released in its latest version, with the next steps already planned out

All military aircrafts are developed in increments, or “blocks”, starting with the basic flying and combat functions and then updated regularly. This is both for initial budget constraints and to ensure their capacities follow the latest technological developments.

The French fighter jet, the Dassault Rafale, has now reached its F4-1 “standard”, first step of the F4 standard launched in January 2019 for a €2b budget. 4 years later, the first aircraft has been delivered to the French Air Force by the industries: Dassault for the overall integration, Thales for the communication and sensors, Safran for the engine and together with MDBA for the armaments. They will validate and test the new standard to pronounce its operational qualification.

The main step up expected from the F4 standard is connectivity, with satellite communications (SATCOM), the new joint radio module CONTACT and an additional calculator E-SNA to manage communication and data security on multiple levels. It also brings new radar and ESM functions, a helmet-mounted display and a 1000kg Air-To-Ground weapon AASM. The second step, F4-2, is expected in 2024.

In the meantime, F5 is already in preparation. This mid-life upgrade to wait until the SCAF is operational is also made necessary to adapt to the new airborne nuclear missile ASN4G which will be bigger than its predecessor ASMPA. The aircraft’s shape will very likely be modified, opening the way to heavier modification in the systems.

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Military cooperation and external operations

The French Armed Forces just finished their larger scale exercise in 20 years

After Polaris in 2022, mainly focused on the French Navy capacities, the French Chief of Staff, General Buckhard, had initiated a larger-scale high-intensity exercise called Orion 2023. Gathering 7000 soldiers, from mid-February to mid-March, the scenario simulated an amphibious campaign with a naval blockade, a landing of troops from the sea and the assault of a city.

From his entry in office, General Buckhard has been willing to prepare the French Armed Forces to high-intensity combat that has come again in Western countries’ strategic environment after years of asymmetric combat. To that aim, all aspects of the fight have been integrated in the scenario: communications, space means, cybersecurity, and even influence, the new strategic axis defined in the latest French strategic review, through a dedicated social network created for the occasion.

After a first naval phase, with a breach of a blockade from one force facing the other, a heavy landing operation took place in the Montpellier area, West from Marseille, supported by troops parachuted from A400M aircrafts.

The key activities will now be processing operational feedback to adapt the process and doctrines to this new strategic environment.

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First joint Air Policing missions in the Baltic States for German and British Eurofighters

A British unit has recently joined the German deployment of Eurofighters in the Baltic States, with the target to perform for the first time joint armed intercept flights.

To protect the Baltic States which do not possess fighter jets but are confronted to regular flights of Russian military aircrafts over the Baltic Sea, testing NATO defence reactions, a NATO mission has been implemented to ensure the air policing in the area by rotating countries. The Bundeswehr has endorsed the responsibility since August 2022, and will forward it to the Royal Air Force from April. In the meantime, 3 British Eurofighters will operate alongside the 5 German aircrafts.
This has required several years of preparation, on an operational level but also on the technical and regulatory side to foster the highest interoperability and therefore reduce the logistical effort of such missions. A similar level of integration was also achieved with Italy in Romania in 2022. 

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Fighter jets for Ukraine – Poland and Slovakia will deliver MiG-29s to Ukraine

On the 9th of march, the Polish government promised the delivery of a number of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The serious possibility of these deliveries had been put on the table only hours prior at a press-conference and came in the long continuity of Ukraine demand for fighter planes, preferably the American F-16. The MiG-29 is considered as roughly equal the F-16 in terms of capabilities and has a huge advantage: Ukrainian pilots are already trained on this type, due to it being a soviet manufacturing product. It can be expected that minor adjustments are needed, but none that necessitate long training periods. (Since the delivered aircraft have all been put on NATO-standard the type does defer to some extent from the MiG-29 the Ukrainian air force knows.)

While blaming the Slovakian government for not delivering, following the pull back of Slovakian MiG-29 deliveries in September 2022, Polish president Duda announced on the 16th of March the concrete delivery of 4 MiG-29 in the following days. Knowing that the fighter planes originally come from the GDR (German Democratic Republic) and were transferred to the German Air Force before being “sold” for 1€ the piece to Poland, Berlin had to acknowledge the delivery, which it did. Duda also announced that more aircraft are being checked to be sent to Ukraine as well.

The following day, Slovakia went along with Poland and also announced the concrete delivery of 13 MiG-29s to Ukraine. Of these aircraft, 4 have already been delivered to this day (March 27th 2023).

Though thankful, Kiev still demands the delivery of F-16s, most notably from the United States.

In reaction to Poland’s delivery, the UK has offered to protect their airspace for them by deploying Eurofighter Typhoons. Since Poland’s eastern border is a direct border to Ukraine the security and consistency of that airspace is more than important to NATO.

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International Relations

Mali Update: Further anti-French developments and approach towards Russia

Mali’s opposition to France, a former colonial power, and to all Western nations in general is becoming more adamant. The West African nation’s government has asked the UN Security Council to stop interfering with France, a permanent member with veto rights over Malian affairs.

Last year, the Bamako government continued the process of normalizing relations with Russia while also expelling all French troops from the nation. Just over a week ago, Mali joined Russia and five other nations in voting against a UN General Assembly resolution that demanded, among other things, that Russian military forces leave Ukraine.

Abdoulaye Diop, the foreign minister of Mali, wrote a letter to the UN Security Council on Wednesday that contained additional demands that amounted to the removal of one of the body’s five permanent members:

The Malian achievement occurs at a time when Mali’s relationships with Western nations and the UN are both steadily deteriorating. The German debate over whether a new mandate with a withdrawal plan until May 2024 will be maintained as planned or whether there will be a faster withdrawal is just a side note; for the foreseeable future, the future of the entire MINUSMA blue helmet mission will also be at stake.

With MINUSMA, about 1,100 German troops are currently stationed, the majority of them in Gao in the nation’s north. Their employment options have been limited for months as a result of Mali’s failure to grant a launch permit for drones, including the smaller Aladin and Mikado drones and Heron 1 reconnaissance drones.

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European policies

Women in the forces

The history of women in the US military spans over 200 years, with women having served in various roles since the Revolutionary War. Despite facing significant barriers and discrimination, women have persisted and made significant contributions to the military. Women’s roles in the military expanded during World War II, with the creation of the Women’s Army Corps, which enabled women to serve in non-combat roles. In 1976, the first women were admitted to the military academies, and in 2015, the Pentagon opened all combat jobs to women. Today, women make up approximately 20% of the US military.

Despite progress in recent years, women continue to be underrepresented in defense and security worldwide. NATO ambassadors recently published a report stating that only 11% of military personnel are women, and there is a lack of women in senior leadership positions. This under-representation is due to systemic issues, including cultural barriers and gender bias. Women face challenges in career progression and recruitment, and the military culture is often not inclusive of women. To address these challenges, NATO and other organizations are working to promote a more diverse and inclusive military culture and increase the representation of women in defense and security. This includes initiatives such as increasing recruitment of women, providing training on unconscious bias, and promoting women to leadership positions.

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155mm Artillery Ammunition delivery – The EU clears a 2 billion Euro package

Since multiple weeks now, the focus of deliveries from Western States to Ukraine has considerably shifted from supplying vehicles, weapons and equipment to supplying ammunition. As the Ukrainian military shoots between 10.000 to 20.000 artillery rounds per day, NATO’s industry cannot keep up with producing at the same speed as Ukraine spends. Kiev states that a supply of 350.000 rounds per month would be needed to keep them in the fight.

In order to unite individual ammunition-buying, the European Union took this matter to the table on 21st of March and signed an accord over €2B to fill up the member states ammunition reserves and to provide €1M artillery shells to Ukraine. With the stated number given from Kiev, this would be enough firepower for almost 3 more months. The focus relies also on providing these rounds quickly, therefore it is not clear yet where the entirety of it will come from. While the European industry would represent the preferred choice a quick delivery demands that all options are on the table.

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