Sunday, February 19, 2012

End of the line

This blog started as an experiment. I wanted to see if there were anyone interested in debating Swedish defence and security matters in English. There are many very good Swedish defence blogs, but for an outsider Google translate may not be enough.

Unfortunately most part of the debate since then has instead been regarding my lack of skill in the English written language! Unfortunately this is very often the case in the blogosphere. Instead of discussing the message in the article, the discussion is about the messenger. Debating on the Internet is difficult. Doing it in foreign language does not make it easier. Too me it is kind of sad and boring and this is also one of the reasons to why I will focus on other matters in the future.

Another reason to my decision to close down this blog is that the debate climate when it comes to defence and security matters in Sweden is a bit disappointing. Too much focus on the small details and very little regarding the big issues.

When even well-known politicians, such as Allan Widman focus on what engine the next generation Gripen shall have instead of thinking about if there in the future should be an air defence at all, how should "ordinary" people know how to think bigger.

One of Sweden's most well-known defence Blogger, Wiseman, noted the same thing in an previous article.

It works in a similar way in the defence debate. If one writes an article on a defence oriented blog about more general and long-term issues regarding defence and security politics it results in very few comments. If on the other hand the article is about combat vests, what a unit should be called, payments or experiences during an exercise 20 years ago it results in 20 times the number of comments.

The same thing can be seen in the public defence debate, even so in the Swedish Parliament where a very big part of the debate during the 2008 spring cut downs where about the Navy Music Coprs instead of more general and long-term issues such as Sweden's future capability in sub-surface warfare and such.

Is it so strange that the situation is at it is and becomes as it becomes regarding Swedish defence politics, when even the people interested in the defence is more interested in the color of the fence surrounding the house than fixing the soon to be broken roof?

Hear, hear!

What I would like to have is a Swedish defence Think Tank were it is possible to freely discuss different aspects about the armed forces without the discussion focusing on the wrong things. The Swedish forum SoldF is such a place. Maybe a blog becomes to personal and that is maybe the reason to why the debate climate is in too many cases too full of arguing instead of bringing up new ideas.

Well, the end result of my brief career as a defence blogger were 46 articles during a bit more than six months of time.

As one of my fellow Swedish defence bloggers said a few weeks ago, "Ugh, I have spoken". I will speak no more.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The gloves are off

I recently commented the hot competition between European military aircraft manufactures Dassaul, Eurofighter consortium and Saab. But now it has got beyond hot. The gloves are off and all methods are allowed!

In Swizz papers for the last week and now even in Swedish papers a classified report is circulating. To sum it up it says that Gripen ended up dead last in the Swizz evaluation compared to the Rafale, the Eurofighter and even the existing F 18.

First of all one can ask, who has leaked this report? Obviously there are two (three) candidates:

- A Swizz air force employee, that are not happy with the selection. The Swizz air force have for many years been very close to France. Major parts of Switzerland has natural close cooperation with France. One should not forget that about 20% of Switzerlands population are french speaking.

- Dassault, that want to spread as much negative press as possible on their competitors. Rumors are that French security organizations are supporting Dassault. There are indications that the air port police in Geneva have orders to search through Saab employees computers. It so happens that parts of the air port police and customs personnel in Geneva are French! This also goes for Basel where the airport partly is located in France. It wouldn´t be very surprising if these methods are used. They have so before. Remember Rainbow Warrior in 1985.

- Of course it could also be a tactical leak by the Swizz government to be able to negotiate an even better deal. It has according to rumors already worked on Dassault.

There are however many facts that the Swizz or Swedish papers do not grasp.

Many Swizz pilots are happy with the selection. The Gripen is affordable (both in buying and operating), easy to maintain and has a very quick turn around. This will give a high sortie per day capability (note the quote is run through Google translate).

- Can you stand as an expert in the Air Force after the final round for the Gripen, Type E/F?

- Yes, 100 percent. It meet all three tested types identified by the military requirements of Switzerland. It depends on what you need and how much you are willing to pay. There are Ferraris, who can not drive off-road, and trucks that are just too slow. The Audi quattro is fast and affordable. And in this case even more money for the army, which indeed still waiting on new purchases. The Gripen can be for the air policing and air defense used in all weather conditions. He can fight ground targets and be used as a scout. The Gripen C / D is robust, is for relatively low operating costs and has proven itself in the Swedish Air Force and the best international standards.
- Can you understand that there is now a media circus is coming?

- Partly. There are some who doubt whether everything is up politically and technically correct. Since I can only say that I am fully committed, even though I am no longer responsible. I put my hand into the fire, that's what I'm headed and what we did, was made possible. The three candidate countries have confirmed that we have the most challenging but also a fair evaluation conducted. The more it is now a mess, that recently reached an interim report to the public. This interim report is taken out of context and does not show the context of the overall evaluation. Finally, we were obliged to discretion. As someone has acted criminally. The report is subject to military Vertaulichkeit.

The evaluation in 2008 was done with the C/D version of Gripen. The E/F version of Gripen has a 30% more powerful F414 engine, more fuel capacity, more stores to carry external load, updated avionics, updated electronic warning system etc.

The Swizz air force has not officially decided which version they are going to buy, but there are a number of options.

- Buy Gripen E/F. This version is not yet finalized. The test aircraft "Gripen Demo" has been flying for a number of years and was also sent to India during their evaluation. Compared to Rafale, Eurofighter or F 18E/F the Swizz air force will have much more impact on the design on the Gripen E/F. This due to the fact that they together with the Swedish Air Force will be the first customers. Most likely there will be a lot of cooperation between Switzerland and Sweden in the development. The Swedish Air Force is also looking for a new trainer aircraft and Pilatus PC-21 is a likely candidate.

- Buy Gripen C/D and then upgrade to E/F. This is exactly what the Swedish Air Force has done. Their first Gripen A/B are now being converted to C/D standard and if there is a new international customer on the E/F version the Swedish Government has already decided to upgrade at least 10 Gripen C/D to E/F standard. Most likely there will be more aircraft upgraded in the future since Gripen C/D today is planned to be used until 2040.

- If the financial budget is not big enough there is an option to buy a slightly upgraded version of the Gripen C/D. Note that if the Swizz Air Force cannot afford to buy the Gripen they will not be able to buy the Rafale. Even though Dassault has offered the Rafale at a prize well below what it will cost them to produce the aircraft it will in the end be more costly. Nothing is free and a aircraft with two engines are always at least twice as expensive to operate than an aircraft with only one engine.

When evaluating aircraft and only taking into consideration thrust-to-weight ratio and maximum speed a two engine aircraft will in most cases win over a single engine aircraft. If one should ask the basic squadron pilot he will of course want the most powerful aircraft that is available. In this case, why not the F 22? What one should ask is what can the Swizz air force afford?

The Rafale and Eurofighter won (in the 2008 evaluation) against Gripen C/D when comparing climb performance and maximum speed. At first this would indicate that they are more optimal for defending Swizz airspace, since they would react quicker and reach a target at high altitude in shorter time. But even if an aircraft is on high alert it is not only climb performance and speed that is the factor. Quick power up and short turnarounds are also very important. As I have described earlier the Gripen is designed to be handled by conscripts (very much as i Switzerland), to start on road bases (very much as in Switzerland) and has a turnaround time (time between landing and taking off again at around 10-15 minutes with a minimum of support personnel.

The Swizz minister of defence is publicly stating that Gripen is the optimal choice for the Swizz Air Force. He has earlier stated that Gripen fulfill all requirements (maybe not being the best) and this to a prize well below the French bid. Most likely the industrial cooperation was also part of the evaluation and to Gripens advantage. The Swedish minister of Defence Mr Tolgfors is supporting Saab in this business case since it will be of great importance to the Swedish Air Force. The rumors in the press has lead to two official statements saying that Switzerland is still going for Gripen (here and here).

Well, the fight is on. Unfortunately the Swedish press is (willingly or not) part of the propaganda organization that is controlled by Dassault.

Read the press release from the Swizz Minister of Defence. Read also a report from the press conference with the Swizz Minister of Defence.

DI, Defence Talk

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The heat is on

France, Dassault and Rafale (the holy trinity) won the MMRCA evaluation. How will this affect the other major European military aircraft producers?

The Eurofighter consortium is getting desperate. Lack of money in the European customers defence budget has cancelled the Tranche 3B upgrade. But now UK is on the offensive in order to support the Eurofighter (and BAE). Previous classified details about the RAF mission in Libya has been released. This of course to stop all rumors about the Eurofighter lack of air-to-ground capability.

Royal Air Force Typhoons flew a total of 3,035 hours and 613 missions during NATO’s Libyan operations, during which they dropped 234 weapons.
Carrying up to 4x air-to-air missiles, 4x 1,000 lb bombs, a targeting pod and two under-wing fuel tanks, Typhoon can fly at 40,000 feet and at speeds of over 500 knots while using relatively little fuel.

Only the future knows what will happen with the Eurofighter. First the consortium have to deliver the ordered aircraft to Saudi Arabia. After that they can re-focus on developing the Eurofighter. One big problem is that the major Eurofighter users UK and Italy is also in the process of getting their F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This will add on the economical stress and even further reduce the available money to continue develop the Eurofighter.

What about Saab and the Gripen?

There has not been any more news about the Swizz evaluation. Before Rafale won the MMRCA evaluation Dassaul lowered the offered price to a level well below the Gripen. How they can do that with a two-engine aircraft is beyond my understandings. But Dassault was at that time desperate to get their first export customer. Saab will probably have to reduce their offer as well.

As i see it there are two possible outcomes of the MMRCA decision when it comes to the Swizz evaluation.

- Dassault will focus on the MMRCA evaluation and leave Switzerland for Saab. There are also rumors that UAE are still interested in Rafale so maybe three business cases at the same time will be a bit too much to handle even for Dassault?

- But, most likely Dassault will continue with the Switzerland business case. The MMRCA contract will result in most of the work being performed in India and Dassault need a gap-filler for their plant in France. The money from the MMRCA contract will also result in more financial margin to if needed even further lower the prize to Switzerland.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The wind turbine war

During the last year there has been a debate in Sweden regarding wind turbines and their effect on doppler radars. The Swedish Air Force does not approve the power industry to build wind turbines within 40 kilometer radius from military and civilian airbases.

The Swedish Government has requested the Defence Research Agency, FOI to together with the Armed Forces, the Defence Material Administration, the Bureau of Energy and the Transport Authority to investigate how other countries are handling wind turbines.

The investigation has been completed and presented to the Government (part 1, part 2). The comparison has been between Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Germany.

In Finland and Norway the wind industry has not been fully established, so there are no conflicts. In Germany and Denmark the Air Forces has always been very restricted to perform low level flying due to very dense populated countries. Denmark is a small country and there are not many alternate solutions. But, in Germany no wind turbines are allowed within 50x30 ("Nichtbebauungszonen") from the airports.

The power industry focus their analysis of the FOI report on low level flying and forgets about the affect on radar stations and communication. Anyway, the Chicaco Convention states that within 55 kilometer radius of an airfield the clearance must be 300 m between an aircraft and any obstacle. Since most airfields use 600 meters as instrumental approach height this would require that no wind turbine (including whatever hill they are located on) is no higher than 300 meter. But there must also be a possibility to perform a low level circling procedure if the wind is not in the right direction. Circling is normally done at 150 meters, with visual contact of the ground.

The report points out three specific conditions for Sweden:

- Sweden is still neutral and must therefore keep a national capability.

- All basic flying training and basic tactical training of pilots are done in Sweden. Even if the basic training should in the future be moved to another country, the Gripen tactical training will still be performed in Sweden. This, not only for Swedish pilots, but also for Hungarian and Czech Republic pilots.

- Low level flying is an essential part of the Swedish tactics. During the last years the Swedish Air Force has changed focus to NATO tactics and medium altitude flying. But since many Swedish politicians are starting to understand that there are a need to be able to defend Sweden, there will also be a need to return to the old tactics that has served Sweden well. Not only is Swedish pilots interested in this training. Many other countries use the RFN test range in Vidsel to perform low level flying, since it is difficult to do so in most parts of Europe.

Unfortunately the debate has been a bit one-sided with the public making fun of Gripens inability to handle the effect on the radar. Even some Swedish politicians have been duped. This is however not a problem specific to the Gripen, but to all doppler radars, both airborne and stationary.

The civilian radars are mostly not affected since most of them uses SSR - Second Surveillance Radar techniques. This requires all aircraft to have a transponder and to use it. In case of smuggling, broken transponders or a military attack the civilian radars will see nothing at all.

Sweden is not the only country where the armed forces object to wind turbines. In the UK there are talks about letting the power industry replace radar equipment that is affected by wind turbines.

One of the problems with wind farms is the effect of their turbine blades on air traffic control and defense radars. Wind turbine blades have extremely large radar signatures, especially when grouped in a farm, and their movement creates doppler effects. The net effect is to create massive amounts of radar “noise”, and a “shadow” region behind the wind turbines. “2D” radars that don’t use multiple vertical beams are especially prone; unfortunately, many air traffic control radars fit that profile.

Britain is especially interested in wind farm power, and this drawback posed a significant problem. They’re beginning to respond by buying new long-range radars from Lockheed Martin, for emplacement near wind farms. These moves follow a 2005 report [PDF] that concluded:

“Flying over or in close proximity to a wind turbine can significantly hamper the ability of an ATC (Air Traffic Control) operator to maintain the identity of his own aircraft and is also unacceptable in the context of the safe provision of ATS...”

Some air defense radars were also affected, and until recently, the UK Ministry of Defence has objected to wind farms located near Air Defence Radars. After some research, however, they concluded that Lockheed Martin’s widely-0used AN/TPS-77 long-range air defense radar was likely to be “wind farm friendly.” A contract was issued to Serco, who installed a TPS-77 radar near Cromer, on the Norfolk coast. UK MOD Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), and the Department of Energy and Climate Change were also involved, and following tests, the UK MoD has dropped its objections to 5 proposed wind farms in the area.

With their concept proven, a follow-on agreement was signed with wind farm developers, who will be funding the emplacement of another 2 AN/TPS-77 radars in Northumberland and Yorkshire, as part of their project’s installation cost.

The TPS-77 is a transportable version of the L-Band FPS-117. Like its counterpart, it offers secondary air traffic control capabilities, and can be stationed at fixed sites within radomes. It can also be moved, however, using trucks or even a C-130 Hercules aircraft, if redeployment becomes necessary. The antenna array and electronics shelter are both standard ISO packages. When set up, the TPS-77 works at ranges out to 280 miles and at elevations up to 100,000 feet, providing 360 degree azimuth coverage for 24 hours a day, through weather and clutter, even with no on-site personnel.

I wonder why the power industry is focusing on the 10% of Swedish territory that the Armed Forces does not want them to build wind turbines. What about the other 90%? What is also forgotten in the debate is that the Armed Forces have always been an approving authority when it comes to building masts in Sweden due to the effect they can have on low level flying. But in these cases the power industry has forgotten to get this approval before building (knowingly or not). The Armed Forces have approved building 21.300 wind turbines. So far only 1.655 of these have been built. According to the Government there is a need for 3.400 turbines.

The argument that the Swedish Air Force has been operating unaffected out of Sicily, where there are plenty of wind turbines, during the Libya operation is not a very good one. There were no tactical flying over Sicily. The enemy were in Libya, a 1000 mile away.

But maybe the solution would be, as is suggested in the UK, that the power industry at their own cost replaces radar stations that are affected by the wind turbines? If this would be the case, then the power industry can choose to build at almost any location, but take the cost for it.

SVT, Ny Teknik

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Band-Aid Defence

Professor Wilhelm Agrell, a well known Swedish defence analyst, criticize the Swedish Armed Forces for the recent transformation. There is a lack of balance between national and international focus. The cancellation of the conscript system can result in a non-existent connection between the civil society and the armed forces. Without a strong hand to guide the direction of the armed focus this will only lead to disaster.

I agree with his analysis. The change has been too quick and forced by lack of money, not grand strategy. If nothing is done there will be many separate pieces of the armed forces, but no cohesion.

There are many examples:

- Archer artillery units. The Army has ordered 24 units. They will be delivered to the only existing artillery regiment in the Army. Together with Excalibur GPS munition it is one of the best systems in the world. But what can Sweden do with 24 units? Where will they be used? The system is too political aggressive (for Swedish politicians) to be sent to Afghanistan or other international missions. 24 units are also too few to be useful for the national defence. The only reason in my view to buy Archer is to keep the artillery knowledge in-country for possible future needs.

- Rbs 23 "Bamse" air defence system. This is only a "demo"-system and has been delivered to the only existing air-defence regiment in the Army. Today Sweden lack a qualified air-defence system. There are of course the upgraded Rb-97 Hawk system, but as everything else too few and no-one realy knows if the missiles are still working. After all they have been used for the last 30 years and upgraded many times from Rb-66 "Hawk" to Rb-77 "Improved Hawk" to Rb-97. The reason for the lack of interest is that air defence is not needed in Afghanistan. Today Sweden there is no capability to defend even the Swedish capital in case of an emergency. The UndE 23 radar unit is very good and should be bought in higher numbers in order to fill the gaps in the Swedish radar network.

- Visby corvettes. The future or end of the Swedish Navy? When they were developed they were technical advanced with composite hulls and stealth design. This was a typical example of the Government supporting the Swedish defence industry. Unfortunately, delays and lack of money has resulted in ships only. There is no attack capability (no torpedos and no Rb15 MkIII missiles). There is no defence capability. The Bamse Air Defence system has not been integrated and most probably never will. The Visby corvettes are too small to be used on international missions in high seas and their capability is not good enough to be used in the national defence.

- Gripen air defence data-links. When the Gripen system were upgraded to international capability with Have Quick and Link 16 someone forgot to upgrade the national air defence system. This resulted in the infamous "capability gap" (in Swedish "förmågeglappet"). The Gripen C/D aircraft is a very good aircraft, but without support from the ground based radar network the situational awareness degrades. Fortunately the public debate has forced the Swedish Government to set aside money to implement HQII and L16 in the two, soon to be one, air defence centrals. International communication capability is good for international missions, international training and also to receive international help in case of an emergency. The Swedish supreme commander want a focus on the nordic military cooperation. But Denmark and Norway are part of NATO and Finland still want a strong national defence due to their close neighbor Russia. However, one thing that has not been solved is the cryptos that are to be used with HQII and L16. Sweden is not a member of NATO. Who will deliver these cryptos? If Sweden can develop crypto keys of our own, will NATO and USA be able to listen to swedish national secret transmissions?

There are positive signs with upgrades to the equipment being used. But it is still a question of to what use the upgrades has been ordered:

- HKP 16 - UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters. The Armed Forces has ordered 15 units. This is a very good helicopter that has a lot of combat experience. But the reason for ordering the helicopter is the big delays of the HKP 14 - NH-90. The system is planned to be sent to Afghanistan in 2013. But the Swedish unit in Afghanistan is planned to leave the country in 2014! What will they be used for after that date? My hope is that the Armed Forces will cut down on the planned number of systems. Sell HKP 15 - Augusta A109 and keep HKP 15 and 16. Upgrade HKP 14 to naval warfare capability, which is needed due to the very long Swedish coastal line.

- Patria AMV. 113 units has been ordered. When Sweden begun to lose troops in Afghanistan due to IED there was a public debate on how to protect the soldiers. BAE Hägglunds SEP was seen as advanced and not field tested. The Army instead selected the proven Patria combat vehicle. Personally I totally agree to this decision. But, during the Cold War it was important to the Swedish national security to have a defence industry of their own. The experiences from WWII is that when one needs to build up the defence, it will almost be impossible to buy from other countries since they also need vehicles, aircraft, ships etc. The Swedish Government has changed the policy from supporting local industry to buying COTS on the international market. The problem is that the new combat vehicles will arrive to the Army after they have left Afghanistan! Well, at least the Army have something for the next international mission.

- UK-owned BAE Hägglunds has received a contract on Bvs-10 to the Swedish Armed Forces. The IED threat and the bad roads in Afghanistan has resulted in that Sweden is leasing dutch Bvs-10 to be used in Afghanistan. Personally I am a little bit worried about this strategy. It has been tested by UK units with their Bvs-10 "Viking". The result was further loss of soldiers since the mine protection in a Bvs-10 is not as good as in a Combat Vehicle 90. These new units will most probably not reach the Army before they leave Afghanistan. But, they will be very useful in the national defence of Sweden since they have very good capability in cold climate and deep snow. When the next winter storm reaches Sweden, the Army will be able to help the civilian population in a better way. The Army used to be good at this, many of the old Bv 206 were sold when the Cold War equipment was thrown away on the second-hand market a few years ago.

As I see it the Swedish Armed Forces has bought a lot of new equipment and changed the personnel system to be more adaptable to support international missions. Each system has been bought with good intentions, but there is no strategy behind the combined use of the systems. What will the equipment that has specifically been bought to be used in Afghanistan be used for if there are no future missions a la Afghanistan? Also, after USA a few weeks ago announced that they will reduce their European forces and instead focus on the Middle East and Asia, there is a possibility that Europe on its own will not be able to lead operations such as Unified Protector in Libya or ISAF in Afghanistan. What will Sweden do with our professional soldiers? Sweden has focused on increasing the alert status of the Armed Forces and cutting down on the size, but to what use? The armed forces is to big for international operations and too small for national defence.

Every recent upgrade of the Swedish military capabilities can unfortunately be seen as a band-aid to cover the wound, not to heal the sick body.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The cost of transformation

Saab AB has received a contract to perform maintenance on the Swedish Air Force new HKP 16 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters. Good for Saab, but how come Saab ended up with he contract? Their main profession is after all building Gripen fighters, or...?

First some background.

The Swedish Armed Forces is undergoing a painful transformation process. From a force of 800.000 men based upon a conscript system to a force of some 60.000 based upon professional full-time or part-time soldiers.

As a part of this process the Armed Forces Headquarters forced every officer to change their contract. It used to be voluntary to apply for international service, but with the new contract it is mandatory. This at no increase in the salary. The choice were between getting fired or accepting the new contract.

Unfortunately for the Armed Forces some of the most specialized officers (and trained at a high cost for the Swedish tax payers) choosed to leave their employment. Among them many helicopter engineers at Malmslätt AFB outside of Linköping. Specialists on HKP 15 and HKP 14.

This resulted in a lack of knowledge and manpower during a very hectic period of training. The HKP 15 - Augusta A109 was ready to deploy as part of the EU Battlegroup (is was later changed when a Croatian helicopter unit was contracted), the HKP 10 - Super Puma was deploying to Afghanistan as part of ISAF MEDEVAC and the HKP 14 - NH-90 was slowly being delivered to Sweden.

At this critical moment the Air Force lost their most experienced helicopter maintenance engineers! Their new employer became Saab AB. It is after all only some 10 kilometer between Malmslätt and Saab AB.

The result of this was that the Air Force needed to buy the competence back from Saab AB. During 2011 Saab received a contract to perform maintenance on the HKP 15.

Since helicopters has been a major focus in the Swedish Armed Forces due to the delays of NH-90 and due to the need of MEDEVAC in Afghanistan, the Swedish industry has prepared for future needs of support to the Armed Forces.

Helicopters is after all not a new competence at Saab AB.

- Saab was already a sub-contractor in the NH-90 contract. The main task was to deliver the tactical planning system, TMS. Unfortunately this contract has resulted in a huge financial loss for Saab. The contract was worth 2 Bn SEK. Saab has, according to Swedish news, so far lost approximately 600 MSEK on that contract and the system is still not combat ready.

- Saab has been cooperating with Heli-One in Norway (part of the planned Gripen sales to Norway.) Heli-One was the company involved in the MEDIVAC modification of the Swedish Super Puma.

- Saab is also cooperating with Finnish Patria regarding maintenance of helicopters.

Saab is also not the only Swedish company with a sudden interest in helicopters. Volvo has been preparing to perform maintenance on helicopter engines by cooperating with Norwegian Astec.

So, the result for the Swedish Armed Forces is that they lost some experts on helicopters at a critical moment and needed to buy them back from the industry. Most probably at a higher cost. The Armed Forces will loose the capability for heavy maintenance on helicopters and will depend on the industry to support them on international missions. It will be very interesting to see how the industry will support the UH-60 when they deploy to Afghanistan during 2013.

The Swedish Armed Forces has a plan to use more civilian contractors for work that is not part of the combat missions. In Sweden this is is called OPS - Public Private Cooperation. Unfortunately they have not examined in detail the experiences from USA and the UK where the Governments has changed their ideas. It is not cheap to let the industry do the work and it can also be difficult to use civilian contractors at a front-line unit. Unfortunately in this case there were no other choice than buying back the competence that the generals did not want to keep. Cooperation by necessity rather than by choice.

It is not only the Armed Forces that has problem with helicopters in Sweden. The Swedish government has sold out medical transports and sea rescue to a civilian company, Norrlandsflyg. Unfortunately the cost for this service increased and the govenrment had to add extra money outside of the contract. The contract was therefore revoked.

There has been a number of investigations (report "Helicopter Support to civilian society" in Swedish)in the Swedish Government to find the reason behind all delays and increases in cost. But so far not very much has happened. None has taken the blame for the situation becoming what it is.

Summary: The Swedish tax payers has lost a lot of money on the helicopter "affairs". So far the Armed Forces has received very little capability. Hopefully this will change with the introduction of the UH-60. But the Armed Forces will as a result of loosing much of the competence regarding maintenance of helicopters be very much in need of continuous support from the industry. At a certain cost of course!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Sweden = Switzerland

A lot of people around the world (mostly in the big country on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean) has big problems in knowing the difference between Sweden and Switzerland. Well, to be honest, it is easy to mix the two countries up.

Both are democratic, neutral countries that avoided both the first and the second world war. Both are outside of NATO (even though Sweden is getting closer and closer and Switzerland takes part in NATO PfP).

During the Cold War, Switzerland was a buffer zone between East and West, much in the same way as Sweden. As a result Switzerland together with Sweden still are considered to be neutral enough to supervise the armistice line between North and South Korea.

But there are also differences.

Switzerland is not an member of EU and therefore does not take part in the plans for a common European defence. Sweden on the other hand is very active in EU since the lack of a NATO-membership has resulted in the need to seek protection from another organisation. Much in the same way as Finland and Ireland, Sweden is instead very active in the EU Battlegroup koncept.

Switzerland is a new member of the UN (Sweden has since Dag Hammarskjöld been very close to the UN), but has like Sweden taken part in peace keeping operations. So far Switzerland has stayed out of peace enforcing operations such as Afghanistan or Libya. Sweden on the other side is planning to use its professional corps in a more aggressive way in the future. Libya might just be the start of it.

Switzerland has build its defence capability on a large conscript force numbering some 600.000 men. Sweden has recently changed its armed forces structure from a conscript system of about 800.000 men to a professional soldier force of full and part-time soldiers together with full time officers and NCO. There are some ideas about doing the same in Switzerland, but I think it will take a long time to switch the system since it has been a part of the Swiss tradition for many years. On the other hand, never say never. It took the Swedish government just a few years to change the system in Sweden. Only the future will show if it is successful or not.

Now the close connection between Sweden and Switzerland are about to get even closer. Switzerland has announced that Sweden and Saab is the favourite in the process of buing the replacement aircraft for the F-5 Tiger. 22 aircraft is planned. No contract has been signed yet and it is not even clear if it is the C/D-version of the Gripen or the future E/F-version.

Why Gripen? How could Gripen beat the Rafale (Switzerland has close ties to France) or the Eurofighter? The Rafale and the Eurofighter are both twin-engine aircraft with a lot of power and a capability to carry a lot of ordnance.

The minister of defence in Switzerland, Mr Ueli Maurer stated that Gripen was maybe not the best aircraft, but that it was good enough for Switzerland and the price was about 33% less than the competitors. The maintenance cost per flight hour is about 1/10 of that of Rafale or Eurofighter.

But the low prize and high bang-per-buck factor might not be all.

Switzerland might get more cooperation from Sweden than from France or UK. There will most likely be a lot of industrial cooperation or off-set affairs. I would guess that the assembly of the aircraft will be done in Switzerland. Companies like Ruag and Zeiss will be sub-contractors. There are also rumors about Sweden buying Pilatus PC-21 as the future lead-in trainer for the Swedish Air Force to replace the ageing Saab 105 (SK 60) fleet. Since Saab is providing training by the hour to the Air Force this might be a very fast transition into new aircraft without the need of Swedish Government approval or a need to follow EU regulations regarding keeping the bidding process open for everyone.

Gripen is also ideal for the Swiss tactics.

The A/B-version of the Gripen was designed for specific Swedish tactics. The C/D-version has been re-designed for NATO-tactics with among other things Link-16, Have Quick, Air-to-Air refueling etc.

Since Switzerland is not an NATO-member, the later capability might not be on top of the wish-list. Surprisingly the previous capability might be so.

Switzerland has a tactic of using road-bases for aircraft operations in war-time. It is a tactic that was developed by German Luftwaffe during WWII when the fixed airbases was bombed and instead the Autobahn was used for aircraft operations. The Gripen is designed in a similar way to take-off and land on 800 m short strips that was part of the Swedish dispersed base system BAS-90.

The F-5 is today mainly used by the Swiss Air Force Reserve. Pilots and maintenance personnel that on a day-to-day basis work in civilian airline companies but during parts of the year fly and operate the F-5. The Gripen is designed to be very easy to fly and maintain. In the Swedish Air Force the aircraft usually were maintained by conscripts with some 6 months of training. All aircraft equipment have self-diagnostics and can easily be replaced on the flight line. Replacing the engine can be done within a few hours on the flight line or in maintenance tents.

From a training point of view Sweden has one very unique capability. That is the vast and sparsely populated areas in the northern part of Sweden. The training ranges are among the biggest in the world. Here low-level flying can be trained without any complaints from the locals. At the Vidsel firing range all type of AA/AG-weapons can be used (including AIM-120 AMRAAM). Switzerland has previously deployed to Sweden with their Mirage fighters for this type of training. My guess is that Swiss aircraft will be a frequent flyer to Sweden in the future. When Switzerland use the same aircraft as Sweden it will also be much easier since a lot of the needed infrastructure (ground support units, generators, fuel, spare-parts, consumables etc) are already in place at the Vidsel Airbase.

But first of all the contract need to be signed. My guess is that the Dassault and Eurofighter consortium will do their best to interrupt the negotiations. There are talks about a national vote in Switzerland. But this will not be to select a more expensive aircraft instead of Gripen. It will be a choice between buying a new fighter or cutting down on the Swiss Air Force to only F/A-18 and in the future nothing at all. But the Swiss people still remembers WWII when they were very close to be annected by Germany. Therefore I doubt they will cut down on their defences.

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