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.