Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Innocence Lost

11 December 2010 some say that the Swedish innocence was lost when Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly detonated two bombs in central Stockholm. Maybe so, but 22 July 2011 all the Nordic countries innocence were lost when Anders Behring Breivik killed more than 80 people in two attacks in Oslo and the small island Utøya, just outside of Oslo.

The last ten years a number of new political parties have evolved in all the Nordic countries. "Sverigedemokraterna" in Sweden, "Sannfinnländarna" in Finland, "Fremskrittspartiet" in Norway and "Dansk Folkeparti" in Denmark. The one thing in common is that they are all against immigrants moving to their countries. Well, maybe not all immigrants. They mostly focus on one category of immigrants, the Muslims.

One common mistake that these parties are doing is mixing up a number of different issues into one.

- Problems with the integration of immigrants in their respective country. This is a real problem, but not only in the Nordic countries. It is also common in many of the western countries. The immigrants does not speak the language properly, many of them are lacking proper education and their cultures differs from the one in the country they are living in. The lack of work leads to that may immigrants live in poor neighborhoods and the rate of criminal activities are higher than in the surrounding areas. But on the other hand even the well educated immigrants have a hard time finding a job. In Sweden public investigations has shown that if two people, one with a Swedish name and one immigrant with a non-Swedish name, with the same academic training apply for a job, then the immigrant will not even be called upon to be interviewed.

- Threat of Islamist terror actions. The global war on terror has had an impact on the Nordic countries. All countries have troops in Afghanistan and daily there are reports in the papers about suicide bombers n the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. What many do not understand is that most of the people who die by the hand of Islamist terrorist are other Muslims. The deeds also mostly take place in Muslim countries.

- Expansion of Islam. Since Islam is not one of the major religions in the Nordic countries, many people have no knowledge about the reality of this religion. Instead they read in the papers about honor killing of daughters, women being forced to wear Burka, public killings in the streets enforced by Sharia courts etc. The anti-immigrant parties add to this fear by quoting the Quran, "You shall kill thy enemy", "You shall spread the word of good by Holy War" etc. What they don´t mention is that the same writings exist in the Bible and the Torah. But since people can see what happens in the streets in some Muslim countries they connect this to the Quran in itself and not the local culture. One of the major Muslim countries is USA. As far as I know there are no Sharia courts and no public killings on the streets in USA?

The anti-immigrant parties in the Nordic countries are mixing these three categories into one with the clear message, "Islam and Muslims are evil and we don´t want them in our country". They can stay if they become native, shave their beards and act like "normal" people. The political propaganda mix the fear of the unknown Islamic threat, the threat of Islamist terror with the actual problem of immigrant integration.

In the Nordic countries there are very tolerant laws regarding the freedom of speech and the freedom of spreading information in writing. These tolerant laws has for many years been abused by different categories. Neo-Nazis has spread their propaganda about the Nazi activities during the second world war. Palestine groups have spread antisemitism in order to attack Israel (e.g. radio Islam in Sweden). Even different kind of pornographic material that is not legal in many countries has been tolerated in the Nordic countries. Today the freedom of speech is used by the anti-immigration parties and groups related to these parties. Many Nordic Internet sites are focused on Anti-Islam, Anti-Jihad, etc.

Anders Breivik wrote a manifest that has been spread on the Internet. He also e-mailed it to many people with whom he felt close relationship. As of now the Security Police in the Nordic countries is looking into this manifest to see if it holds any future threats to the Nordic countries. Who knew about Breiviks plans? Where there any people supporting the terror act? It will be very interesting if the mail-boxes of the politicians connected to the anti-immigrant parties were investigated by the police as part of the criminal investigation. Breivik has had meetings with the English Defence League (EDL), but what about the anti-immigrant parties in the Nordic countries?

When a hate message is allowed to be publicly spread it can results in three things:

1. It raises the lower threshold of what is allowed to say about other people and other religions. Sooner or later even the people on the streets will believe the message, since there is no one stopping it.

2. It can push immigrants out of the normal society and into the hands of Islamist terror groups. By not allowing people to become part of the society we therefore risk to increase the number of possible future terrorists. This is further increased by bullet no 1. Breivik clearly believes he is part of a "war". But, who started the war? The same rhetoric used by Breivik is also used by Nazis in Sweden.

3. A few of the followers of the anti-immigrant parties (as was the case with Anders Breivik who was for a number of years a member of Fremskrittspartiet in Norway) can feel the need of taking action themselves. Either against the immigrants or against the government who allow the immigrants to stay.

Bullet 2-3 clearly shows that the agenda used by the anti-immigrant parties do not decrease the threat to the society. On the contrary it will most likely increase it!

In Sweden some of the politicians with connection to the Swedish Democracy Party (Sverigedemokraterna) has gone public saying that Anders Breivik did the killing because a lot of people were against his political ideas and condemned his party. basically it is all the Muslims fault!? The message is "If you don´t feel the same way as me there is a risk that one of my followers will kill you"? Is this democracy? Now, Jimmmy Åkesson tries to clear this stain on his party by denying that this in fact is what the party believes. But why then can this message be read on anti-immigrant blogs that are linked to from SD politicians home-pages?

What is needed now is to stop the anti-immigrant rhetoric on Internet blogs with connection to political parties and in public political speeches. The anti-immigrant parties need to cut the links from them to the anti-immigrant blogs. The Nordic countries need to focus on the real problem and that is the lack of integration of the immigrants. Not Islam or not even Islamist terrorists. Otherwise this "war" risk to escalate. For too long, the message has been all hate. Now it is time to love. The people in Norway has sent this message to the rest of the world! "If one man can show so much hate, how much love couldn´t we all show together?"

SvD1, SvD2, SvD3, SvD4, SvD5, SvD6, SvD7, SvD8, SvD8, SvD9, SvD10, SvD11
DN1, DN2, DN3, DN4, DN5, DN6, DN7, DN8, DN9, DN10, DN11

Thursday, July 21, 2011

All is Well for Saab

At this moment, the stockholders at Saab Defence can be very optimistic about the future of the company. The latest six months financial report showed a major increase in profit compared to last year.

Operating income was MSEK 1,065 (402), corresponding to an operating margin of 9.4 per cent (3.5). 2011 included capital gains of MSEK 253, whereas the Group in 2010 had structural costs and negative results from divestments of MSEK 110 and costs related to a terminated contract of MSEK 310.

Saab has also reported the sale of C3 Technologies. A spin-off 3D mapping company. In the short term this will increase the income for the third quarter 2011.

The cash consideration for the divestment amounts to approximately MSEK 1,009 and the transaction will generate a capital gain of approximately MSEK 906. It will have a positive impact on earnings per share fully diluted of approximately SEK 8.1 in 2011.

Unfortunately Saab is, as most other major companies on the stock market, focusing on making the stock holders happy and sharing the income with them rather than re-investing the money into the Gripen NG program. Of course it is always good to make the investors happy and maybe earn some short term money by increasing the value of the Saab stocks. But the aircraft industry is a long term business and need money today. As most other European military aircraft manufacturers, Saab is at this moment very vulnerable. The ongoing production will end in a few years when the last aircraft on order for the Thai, South African and Swedish Air Force has been delivered. There are a number of possible customers for the Gripen C/D with the RTAF - Royal Thai Air Force as the most probable.

But the next version, the Gripen NG or Gripen E/F has yet to find a customer. The Swedish Armed Forces will wait another year. The Brazil Air Force are doing the same and the Indian Air Force are at the moment focusing on Eurofighter or Rafale. How will Saab find money to develop the Gripen NG on their own? Maybe by keeping some of the earnings and reinvesting them into the Gripen NG instead of spreading the all of it to the stock-holders.

But maybe there is another financial possibility around the corner. The civilian production has long been a slow goer. Saab is delivering part to both Airbus and Boeing, but the Boeing Dreamliner is delayed and the Airbus 380 has not sold as much as expected. But now American Airlines is going to buy 460 aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus. Not the new fancy aircraft, but the Airbus 320 and the Boeing 737 in their latest development versions. Airbus has already presented plans on how to speed up the production rate to 60 A320 per month!

Saab is manufacturing parts of the wing structure on the Airbus 380. The knowledge on building these kind of structures come from the military Gripen project. This clearly shows the symbiosis between the civilian and the military production. But up until now maybe the technical advanced development has been on the military side of the production. But maybe this is to be changed?

And Saab also have some very promising technologies that might be part of the updated Airbus 320. As part of the EU project Clean Sky in the sub-project SFWA - SMART Fixed Wing Aircraft, Saab has developed a turbulence "free" wing where major parts are made in one single composite structure with a very smooth layer. In 2014 this new wing will be tested on an Airbus 340. If these tests goes well it is very likely that Saab will manufacture the wings of the next generation Airbus 320, the A30X. The first prototype of the wing was presented in April 2011.

"The production of the integrated wing panel is groundbreaking. The material being used is the latest carbon-fibre composite available on the market. There are stringent, if not extreme demands on the surface quality in terms of permitted steps, play and waviness, and this was the biggest challenge we faced with regard to the composite items," says Thomas Hellström, project manager at Saab for SFWA.

Saab's expertise within aerodynamics has been essential in the development of the wing panel and the team has worked hard to improve the wing's aerodynamic properties in order to maintain the laminar flows so that the air resistance and fuel consumption can be reduced by at least 5 %.

The US DoD is also studying fuel efficiency. Not only to be "green", but also to increase the range of aircraft while decreasing the need for vulnerable fuel transports to operations. Maybe this civilian technology also will be valuable on the military market?

"In addition to traditional performance parameters such as speed, range and payload, we will now consider system energy performance parameters in the requirements and acquisitions process," deputy defense secretary William Lynn said during his speech.

The last years it has been the military sales that has saved Saab civilian production, but maybe it is now time for the civilian production to save the military?

American Airlines is not the only airline company that need to buy new aircraft to replace their ageing fleet. SAS has bought 30 Airbus A320neo, Indian GoAir has bought 72 Airbus A320neo, Indian IndiGo has ordered 180 Airbus A320, China buys 88 Airbus A320 and so on...

Maybe it is not a few big business opportunities that will make the big money for Saab, but many small?

Saab is not the only Swedish winner. American Airlines and the other new orders will also make life good for Volvo, since they are delivering parts of the engines for almost all possible engines that will be delivered with both Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

SvD1, SvD2, Corren

Sunday, July 17, 2011

ANSF Taking the Lead

The build-up phase is now over and it is time for ANSF - Afghan National Security Forces to take the lead in protecting the civilian population from the Taliban.

Nato has handed over control of the central Afghan province of Bamiyan to Afghan security forces. It is the first of seven areas to be passed to local forces under a plan announced by President Karzai in March.

Bamiyan is one of the country's most secure provinces but it is a poor region, heavily reliant on foreign aid.

The handover is seen as a critical step in a transition of power before foreign troops end combat operations in 2014.
However the quality of Afghan police and soldiers is patchy and correspondents warn of fears that they will be unable to withstand a renewed summer offensive from the Taliban.
Analysts say Nato will find it difficult to effect a successful transition without an end to the war and some kind of political settlement with the Taliban.

Bamiyan is the first out of seven regions to be handed over to ANSF. The other six are Kabul province, Panjshir province, Herat city, Mazar-e Sharif city, Lashkar Gah city and Mehtar Lam town. This will affect the Swedish/Finnish PRT in RC North, since Mazar-i Sharif is in the middle of the four provinces (Balkh, Samangan, Jowzjan and Sar-e-Pul) that are part of the PRT. There will be an increased need for cooperation when operations are at the border of the city. There is a risk that Taliban units use the city for protection and hiding if ANSF is not up to the task of keeping the city safe. The Swedish main base is at the edge of the city, but the civilian aid personnel work inside the city.

See this BBC report from Bamiyan. The locals do not seem so sure about ANSF capabilities as NATO is. If Bamiyan is not safe enough, what about the other provinces? In the UK, the Prime Minister receive a lot of warnings regarding the plan to withdraw before 2014.

Pulling British troops out prematurely from Afghanistan could "dangerously weaken" remaining forces, MPs said.

The Commons Defence Committee said David Cameron's plan to withdraw by the end of 2014 could undermine the international coalition's strategy.

And the MPs said they were still not yet convinced the troops now in Afghanistan had sufficient helicopters.

The 2014 timeline now forces all nations to withdraw their troops. maybe the pace is too fast? Are ISAF really following their own Shape, Clear, Hold and Build doctrine? President Obama was very clear in December 2010 that this strategy would be continued. The US and UK forces in the south has focused on the Clear and Hold phases.

The goal of the surge is to "clear" key population centers of insurgents, then "hold" them to prevent insurgents from returning. The next step is to maintain law and order to allow Afghans to "build" normal lives. This is called a "clear, hold, build" strategy, which US forces also used in Iraq.

But has there been enough focus on the Shape and Build? I am afraid that many Taliban fighters have just moved ahead of the coalition forces. It reminds me very much of the US cavalry war against the Apache Indians during the 1850-1900. The big difference is that our troops are not here to stay. Time is on the Taliban side.

My opinion is that more focus should be at the village or Tribal level, not at the national level. But this has not been president Karzais goal, since he risk to loose his power over the population.

The Pentagon has been pushing the small triumphs of its Local Defense Initiative, which attempts to leverage tribal militias into anti-insurgent "neighborhood watches."

But Kabul has pushed back against the initiative, fearing that the arming and promotion of local militias could lead to a civil war similar to the one that engulfed Afghanistan after the Soviets left and which led to the rise of the Taliban.

The problem with the US strategy is that i relies heavily on Pakistan continuing to support ISAF. But after the Usama Bin Laden raid, the US relations with Pakistan has gone sour.

I have seen very few comments in Sweden about when to realistically pull out the Swedish troops. Of course the opposition parties (s), (mp) and (v) all want to pull out the troops as fast as possibly, but no one has any better plan then to start pulling out in 2011 (which has not yet begun) and leave all the provinces to ANSF by 2014. Instead the Swedish unit has been reinforced with MEDEVAC helicopters. HKP 10 Super Puma until 2013. They will then be replaced with HKP 16 Blackhawk. There are also plans to send a UAV unit with the new Shadow 200 that is being delivered from the US.

With a future tactic, starting 2014, to have very few troops on the ground and then support them with UAV and CAS, I would say that the "armed nation building" and Counter Insurgency will soon be back at pure Counter Terrorism. That is if ANSF is not ready to take up the responsibility for security and safety in Afghanistan.

SvD1, SvD2, DN

India Getting Closer to France

Only Eurofighter and Rafale are left in the Indian MMRCA evaluation. Who will win? Who knows, but in the battle-proven aspect, Rafale is clearly in the lead with one tour of duty in Afghanistan and now doing all kind of missions in Libya. The Eurofighter has dropped a few bombs in Libya, but RAF mostly let the Tornado do the mud-moving and leave the Eurofighter to do the top-cover. The Eurofighter is not yet fully ready for air-to-ground missions.

The first part of the MMRCA evaluation was about fulfilling the Indian Air Force technical requirements. To get the best aircraft possible. The second part of the evaluation is about economy and industrial cooperation.

Technically the Rafale may be in lead, but what about the cooperation between French and Indian industries?

France has sold a number of aircraft to India over the years.

Besides the Russian aircraft (Su-30 MKI, Mig-29 and Mig-21), the main fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force is the 51 x Mirage 2000H, which will now be updated to Mirage 2000-5 standard.

India has approved a $2.4-billion proposal from French defence groups to upgrade its fleet of 51 ageing Mirage fighter jets, a military source said on Thursday.

"The defence secretary has agreed to the proposal put forward by French defence majors Dassault and Thales and (European group) MBDA for the Mirage-2000 retrofit," the source in the Indian Air Force (IAF) told AFP.

The upgrade is expected to include advanced navigation systems, mission computers, electronic warfare systems and radars.

The deal was signed in 2010, but put on hold since France also made some business with Pakistan and were almost on the way to sign a contract to deliver avionics to PAF JF-17. France however decided that the Indian contract, including the chance of selling Rafale, was worth more than the deal with Pakistan.

Note: One very interesting aspect of the Pakistan deal was that the Rafale was out of the MMRCA evaluation for a while, but when France started cooperating with Pakistan they were back in again...

Russia may be the main partner in the Su-30 MKI deal, but there are a number of companies delivering western avionics to the aircraft, many of them French.

- SAGEM Sigma-95 integrated global positioning system and ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system.

- Thales Topsight-I Helmet Mounted Sight is used in Indian Mig-29. A modified version will be integrated in Su-30 MKI by Indian manufacturer SAMTEL and HAL. Thales did also deliver the displays in the SU-30 MKI, but now they are delivered by SAMTEL in cooperation with Thales.

France do have some ongoing business with India. We will soon know if this will be enough to win phase two of the evaluation.

The Rafale has one other big advantage over the Eurofighter and that is the Rafale-M naval version which could come as a bonus for the Indian navys new carriers. This is however a requirement that is not included in the original specification used during phase one. But both Eurofighter and Gripen are looking into developing a naval version of their aircraft.

This review of the Rafale by a British pilot is worth reading.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Threats

In Afghanistan the Swedish PRT Mazar-i Sharif has become more violent the recent year. The number of attacks has doubled since last year. Now the US and the French troops have starting their withdrawal. All according to Obamas timeplan to start the withdrawal in 2011 and let the ANSF be fully in charge of the security in Afghanistan in 2014.

But the focus seem to be more on the time plan than on actual achievements. Is there an increased security to motivate the withdrawal or is the presidential election in 2012 more important? Obama need to show progress in Afghanistan before the election rally starts. Maybe thee has been improvements in Helmand, but then the Taliban has moved to other regions e.g. RC North. This could be bad news for the Swedes in the so far relatively "calm" PRT Mazar-i Sharif.

Can we protect the civilian population in Afghanistan? This is one of the main reasons for being there. Well, the number of civilians that has been killed due to attacks by ISAF or the Taliban has increased by 15% the last year. Even the most protected afghans have difficulties to avoid being killed by the Talibans, which was clearly shown by the killing of Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother to president Kharzai. If he civilians feel that ISAF can not protect them, then they are more ore less forced to support the Taliban.

There are also new threats that could seriously change the safety of the ISAF troops.

The Taliban has been using IED to attack convoys on the roads and suicide bombers to attack civilians in the cities. All to show that ISAF can not guarantee the safety of the population. But now snipers have appeared. They seem to have been trained outside of Afghanistan.

Toolan, who runs NATO’s Regional Command Southwest, said many of the snipers attacking his troops speak Farsi or Arabic, meaning that the fighters likely come from Iran and other neighboring countries. Other U.S. officials in Afghanistan say Iran has significantly escalated its support for militants there, providing long-range rockets, money, and technical assistance. Tehran denies the charges, but Toolan said some of the snipers appear to have been trained outside of Afghanistan.
Snipers have killed approximately 20 troops in Helmand this year, according to a military official at the Pentagon familiar with the data. Coalition forces have lost 84 troops in Helmand in 2011, according to icasualties.org.

Up until now there has been very few attacks on ISAF aircraft and helicopters using MANPADS - hand held missiles. A few attacks have been done using RPG volley attacks, but the Stingers and SA-7 that were used during the Afghan-Soviet war are too old and could not be used. But the war in Libya might change that. In the same way as the Iraq war released a lot of former Saddam Husseing government weapons to the black market a lot of Colonel Gadaffis weapon can reach the wrong hands. In Ghadaffis weapon stores that are in the hands of the rebels are among other things fully working SA-7, and there are also rumors about more modern SA-24 in Libya.

On a recent day, 43 emptied wooden crates — long, thin and painted in dark green — had been left behind on the sand inside the entrance. The boxes had not been there during a visit to the same spot a few days before, and the weapons were gone.

The stenciled markings showed each crate had contained a pair of lightweight missiles called SA-7s — early Soviet versions of the same class of weapon as the better known American-made Stingers, which were used by Afghan fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was not clear who had taken them. The rebel guards variously blamed Qaddafi forces and misinformed opposition fighters.

During more than four decades in power, Colonel Qaddafi’s often bellicose government is thought to have acquired as many as 20,000 of these missiles, known as Manpads, for Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, in arms deals with the former Eastern bloc.

If these missiles reach Afghanistan int would change the threat scenario for ISAF. Helicopters are the prime targets since they are slow and flying at lower altitudes. This could also affect the Swedes since there are Swedish HKP 10 Super Pumas in RC North being used for MEDEVAC. They will be replaced in 2013 by the new HKP 16 Blackhawk.

More Taliban attacks in the north, Taliban snipers and possibly SA-7 in the country. 2011 can be a very tough year for ISAF and the Swedish unit in RC North.

Friday, July 15, 2011

More Money is Needed

At the same time as president Obama is struggling with the US finances, most ongoing military projects are reporting cost overruns. The KC-46 program recently reported cost overruns of $1.3 bn. Now the F-35 program reports cost overruns of $1.15 bn, on the first 28 aircraft alone!

A major Twitter-fight is now taking place between representatives of Lockheed Martin and US senator McCain.

Sen John McCain first revealed the $771 million figure in a tweet on 12 July, calling the cost overrun "disgraceful".

On 13 July, Lockheed Martin tweeted that the F-35 is showing "significant progress", which drew a quick response from McCain via the same online medium.

"To most observers, a $771M cost overrun for 28 F-35s doesn't qualify as 'significant improvement.' Taxpayers deserve better," he wrote.
The dispute could set up a clash in final negotiations over the Fiscal 2012 budget. The Department of Defense has asked for another $264 million to pay the initial overage costs. If McCain succeeds in blocking the additional payment, the money would have to be found somewhere else or F-35 orders could be reduced.

The first rumor stated $771 million in overruns, but that estimate has now been almost doubled.

The $771 million reflects the impact of the 2004 weight reduction redesign on Lockheed's production system, the company said. The redesign carved off thousands of pounds of excess weight, but suppliers could not keep up with the flow of design changes. That led to late delivery of parts, then extra labour hours to install them outside of the normal manufacturing sequence, it added.
"The F-35 team is focused now on any opportunity to reduce the concurrency estimate and improve the final cost-to-complete on these early production lots," Lockheed said.

$771 million yesterday, $1.15 bn today. And this for the first 28 aircraft. What will happen in the future for the next 2.443 F-35 expected to be bought by US Armed Forces? Obama has a hard time with the budget and the Republicans. He will be forced to make some cut downs. But where?

Rather, the president appeared to be preparing for the ongoing debate on the issues of the debt, spending and taxes in next year’s presidential election.
Even before Mr. Obama’s news conference, Republican House leaders told reporters that they planned a vote next week on a plan that would increase the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.4 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years and the passage of a balanced budget amendment.

This crisis may be over soon, but president Obama might be forced to make some serious cuts starting next year. 2012 is the presidential election and it will be up to the voters where the cuts will be performed. Do a majority of the voters prefer spending their money on the ongoing war in Afghanistan, buying new aircraft, paying the salary to government employees or letting their war veterans get their pensions?

My bet is that the F-35 program will have a hard time getting more money for future cost overruns. Most probably there will be reductions in the number of F-35 bought by the US. I also believe that US will keep one of the teen-series of fighters as an alternate aircraft program for European countries with bad economy if they can not afford the F-35 for a number of years.

DN1, DN2

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bad or Worse

The Swedish defence industry is at a cross road. During the Cold War the defence industry was supported by the Swedish Government. Experiences from WWII tought the Swedes a valuable lesson. When military equipment is needed, everyone need it at the same time. During a war a small country is at the very end of the list of customers who will receive what they have already ordered and in some cases even paid for.

There were a number of incidents:

- J 9. Sweden bought 120 Seversky Republic EP-106 in 1939. In US service known as P-35. However the war came before they were all delivered and the US decided to keep 60 of the aircraft. Some of the went to war in the Pacific against the Japanese, still wearing Swedish national insignias. Read more at LAE, here, here and here. Also see this video. 144 x Vultee P-66 Vanguard, designated J 10 were also not delivered to Sweden. Read more here. Sweden were forced to buy whatever aircraft they could find on the international market.

The outbreak of war greatly affected Sweden's military buildup, as the USA stopped deliveries of hundreds of new US aircraft to Sweden (among them 60 P-35A and 144 P-66 Vanguard). Only 62 other airplanes had been delivered before the embargo took effect. To complete its war preparations, Sweden searched for other sources, eventually ordering 84 of the Caproni Ca.313S, 72 of the Fiat CR.42, and 60 of the Reggiane Re.2000, an order totaling some 90 million crowns.

The Italian aircraft were not of the highest quality, resulting in many airmens death during the neutrality watch over the Baltic.

- Italian destroyers. In 1940 Sweden needed to enhance the Navy capability to be able to protect the Swedish coastal transports of Iron-ore from northern Sweden from attacks by Russian submarines. Four destroyers were bought from Italy. During the transport back to Sweden the four ships were taken into custody by the Royal Navy. Protests from the Swedish government resulted in that the destroyer could continue to Sweden. The were attacked by RAF on the way to Sweden, but without damage. The Swedish navy were humiliated and many Swedish officers were pro-Germany at the time.

During the Cold War it was important to have a strong Swedish Defence industry in order to truly be neutral and not depending on the west or east block. But nowadays the political ambitions are to buy on the global market at the lowest possible price. EU regulations state that all government purchases should be done by a public bidding process inviting every European manufacturer. The problem is that not all other countries are as willing to follow European laws as Sweden. In most countries the local defence Industry are supported by their government. It is no surprise that e.g. France buy their fighters from Dassault and UK from EADS/BAe.

In Sweden some politicians still believe that there are a need of a strong local industry and that they will need support by the Swedish Government. Otherwise they will have problems to compete on the international market against other manufacturers who get support be their governments.

But there are other possibilities. E.g. for the aircraft manufacturer Saab, there are today a number of very interesting options.

- Sell Gripen to Iraq. At the moment the Iraq government is planning to buy 18 x F-16 from the US. Of course it would be very difficult to compete with the Americans, since they have all the political and military contacts in Iraq. Sweden also avoided getting involved i the Iraq war. Selling military material to Iraq could result in major public outrage in Sweden.

- Work more closely with other aircraft manufacturers. To avoid being absorbed by bigger companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAe and Dassault the best option might be to cooperate with smaller countries. One very interesting partner is the South Korean company KAI. They are at the moment starting a partnership with Indonesia to manufacture a generation 4.5 fighter.

Established through a merger of three companies in 1999, KAI has a modest experience of developing the indigenous KT-1 Wong Bee trainer, license-producing F-16K and joint-developing T-50 advanced trainer as well as making parts for F-15 (forward fuselage and wings).
The KFX will be developed from T-50 Golden Eagle, a supersonic advance jet trainer jointly developed by KAI and the US Lockheed Martin, with the latter provided the avionics system, flight control and wings. In addition to the US, it is possible that Israel also contributes through an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that will be built domestically in South Korea.

But South Korea is in a hot zone with a troublesome neighbor. Sweden has always been neutral in this conflict and as such part of the NNSC - Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission at the Korean border. A lot of thankful people who were treated at the Swedish UN hospital in Pusan during the Korean War has commented on this page. Sweden´s EU membership and the close cooperation with NATO, including fighting with NATO in Afghanistan and Liberia, is on the verge of kicking Sweden out of the commission. A Swedish company cooperating with a South Korean to build a fighter could be the final step for North Korea to ask NNSC to remove Sweden from this task, which would be a political setback.

Both these opportunities are of course just fantasies. But if the Swedish defence industries are forced to find international cooperation and business opportunities there will be a risk for political problems for the Swedish government.

During the years there has been a number of political incidents related to international arms deals.

- During the Vietnam war, the Swedish Prime minister, Mr Olof Palme publicly condemned US involvment in the conflict. At the same time Swedish companies sold weapons to both US and Australia that were used in Vietnam. Loved by US soldiers were the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle and the 9 mm submachine gun was used by US Special Forces.

- Well known is the Bofors scandal where a employee of Bofors leaked dokuments showing that Bofors bribed key politicians in the Indian government when the bought Bofors Howitzers.

- Saab has problems in South Africa due to the cooperation with BAe to sell the Gripen. Saab president Mr Håkan Buskhe has denied all involvement in any bribes to the South African government and put the blame on BAe.

"A person emplyed by BAE Systems has without Saab’s knowledge signed a for us unknown contract, signed for us up until now unknown transactions as well as signing the audited and apparently inaccurate financial statement for 2003.

The investigation and assembled materials have been submitted to the attorney Tomas Nilsson, who has been asked to comment whether, in his view, the investigation material supports Saab's conclusions. All investigation material has been handed over to Chief Prosecutor Gunnar Stetler at the National Anti-Corruption Unit on Saab's behalf. Saab will be at the complete disposal of the Chief Prosecutor in this case, should such a need arise.

"Saab has a zero-tolerance policy towards irregularities. Our internal investigation and openness in this matter demonstrates how seriously we regard this," says Håkan Buskhe.

Most likely what Mr Buskhe says is true. BAe has been involved in other shady affairs where there are rumors about bribes, e.g. the Eurofighter sales to Saudi Arabia. But wouldn´t it be best for everyone if the lid was kept on? Why do we Swedes always keep digging into our own dirty laundry?

This clearly shows that if the Swedish government does not support the defence industry, they are forces to work on the international market using the same methods as their competitors. These methods are not compatible with Swedish law and traditions. Mr Buskhes acknowledge to the money transaction might be honorable in Sweden, but in international business it might be a financial disaster. International companies might in the future avoid cooperating with Swedish companies since they too often leak information. International customers might avoid Swedish companies since there can be no bribes which unfortunately is what many customers are used to.

Supporting Swedish defence companies might be bad for the Swedish Government since this requires Sweden not to fulfill each and every EU regulation regarding public purchases. On the other hand Swedish companies getting involved in shady business might be even worse for the Government.


Monday, July 11, 2011

All Means Available

Michael Yon has a post on his Facebook page about "respecting the enemy and then beat them down". Obviously he is talking about the Taliban. He also posted a link to the Youtube video below.

I think it is very interesting to see the responses from Michaels "friends". Some of them believe there is a difference between Kamikaze pilots during WWII and suicide bombers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Todays suicide cowards have nothing on these guys. Kamikaze pilots went full on after hard, military targets, can't say the same for the suicide cowards."
"Kamikaze attacks are a legitimate military tactic. Suicide bombing of civilian targets is a criminal tactic."
"If these kamikazes are so "honorable", as so many here claim, then where are the great American suicide warriors? What is the deal w/ our propensity for patronizing certain groups of people who do awful things? The way American blacks have been "compassioned" into functional oblivion comes to mind."

But what is the actual difference between the two ways of waging war? Is there any targets more legitimate than others during a total war? Can a war be kept at a "just" level?

First of all, the Kamikaze pilots were not seen as "honorable" during WWII by the US, but as crazy lunatics in the same way as Taliban suicide bombers are seen today. For the Japanese the Kamikaze was a final drastic tactic to stop the Americans from reaching Japan. The "Divine Wind" was a reference to a legend when the Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274 and 1281 was stopped by typhoons. One reason for the Kamikaze tactics was the lack of trained pilots. Japan could build new aircraft, but could not replace all the pilots that were killed in air battles such as the one during Midway or the "Great Mariana Turkey Shoot". A Kamikaze pilot did only get some very brief lessons on how to start his aircraft, follow his leader, a seasoned pilot who knew how to navigate and then dive onto his target. (Does this reminds anyone about the "pilots" that flew the passenger aircraft into the Twin Towers during 9/11?) The lack of skill resulted in that most pilots missed their targets completely and the Kamikaze tactics was in reality to very little effect. But the US seamen feared the Kamikaze. The psychological effect was much larger than the actual physical effect. This was maybe what the Japanese wanted. One final effort to make the Americans understand how costly it would be to attack the mainland Japan.

For the Taliban, suicide bombings is the only way to engage the US and ISAF troops with any chance at all of winning. Asymmetric warfare per definition. And yes, they are killing more civilian Afghans than western military troops. But their goal is not to kill all ISAF troops, just to spread fear in the same way as the Kamikaze. They do not only want ISAf to fear the Taliban, but also the population at home to fear more killed soldiers (and loose the political will to continue the war) and the local Afghan population to fear supporting ISAF. In a way the are using the "Hearts and Minds" tactic, but not as we in the west are used to.

Unfortunately killing civilians is a reality in war. Accidentally or intentionally. During WWII the allied used terror bombing against Germany. "Bomber" Harris preferred night time bombing since the German fighters were less of a threat at night to his bombers. Unfortunately the only targets that could be hit from high altitude at night was entire cities. The tactics was then changed into "frighten the civilian population and make them want to end the war". Exactly as Douhet had once predicted was the perfect mission for Air Power. Did it work? Maybe in the long term after years of bombing, but it also made the population want to defend their country more. The US dropped not one, but two nuclear bombs over Japan. It was to "save american lives since a invasion of Japan would be very costly". Maybe they were right about that. The invasion of Okinawa showed the Americans how hard the Japanese soldier fought for their home land. The resistance of the Japanese (including Kamikaze tactics) ultimately led to them being hit by atomic bombs. But I doubt the west will see the atomic bomb as the final solution in Afghanistan.

Even with precision weapons a lot of civilians die today in Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Libya. The Taliban are clearly killing more civilians and so are colonel Gadaffis troops. But are we morally any better than them? We have a just cause and therefore it is a just war? Maybe, but we do accept civilian casualties to reach our objectives, even though our politicians will never admit to that. In Sweden we have a saying about this, "the end justifies the means".

One reason to why the Taliban suicide tactics might work in Afghanistan is because every Afghan know that the west will leave them in 2014. President Obamas promise to withdraw his troops by that date has given the Taliban a timeline. A classic saying is that "You (the west) has all the watches, but we (the Taliban) has all the time".

How has fear been used in historical wars?

One example is during the US Civil War, when general Sherman brought havoc to the south during his "March to the Sea". Modern analysts like Liddel Hart states that Sherman was the first modern general who declared total war on the south. The north won the war, but in the south they still remember the torching of Atlanta, known from the movie "Gone with the wind".

Machiavelli once said that "A Prince can choose to be loved or to be feared by his people. But, there will always be another Prince that is more loved and therefore more preferred by the people to be the next leader. However, there will be no other Prince that is more feared and at the same time more preferred by the people. That is why it is wise to use fear to rule the people". Today the west always try to be loved and therefore have a hard time competing with those who rule the population by fear.

One of the very few wars that can be used as a role model for a successful COIN - Counter Insurgency campaign is the one in Malaya 1948-60. The British soldiers gave birth to the tactic known as "Hearts & Minds". Unfortunately too many believe that this means being nice to the population and winning their friendship. In reality, the British soldiers used some very harsh tactics including moving entire villages in order not to be able to support the guerrilla. There is a very fine line between this tactic and the concentration camps used during the Boer War.

What we want in every COIN-campaign is winning the support of the population. But since everyone know that we will be leaving Afghanistan there is no support to win. Everyone know the Taliban will return to power when ISAF leave and they rightfully fear the Taliban more than they love us.

I am not trying to defend the Taliban tactics. It is clearly not morally acceptable from a western point of view. But we need to understand how this type of tactics have been used historically to be able to win the war. The Malayan campaign took 12 years. The British then had the advantage of the colonial background with knowledge of the population and the terrain. This together with a clear goal that the population would be able to build a new free country (the Afghan already have one) and a stable income to the government based upon natural resources (there are none except opium in Afghanistan) made it possible for the British to succeed. It would take many more years to succeed in Afghanistan. Time we clearly do not have and the Taliban can afford to wait.

In Sweden analysts now fear the withdrawal from Afghanistan, "It will be bloody". And the planned future tactics using UCAV to kill leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda will continue to take a toll from the civilian population. Do the western world actually have the guts to use these tactics? Or will the coalition break down and leave the US to continue the fight from outside Afghanistan? Are we prepared to use all means available to win the war or are we crippled by our own moral standards?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

When is a No a No?

The NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war clearly shows how different the European countries act. I does not even depend upon if they are NATO-members or not. Finances and political will out-weights their NATO-obligations in a time when the threat from Russia is almost non-existent.

France went into action with haste and did not even wait for the rest of NATO to act. With support of USA and UK they stroke first with long distance missiles (US and UK only) and then with precision attacks to take out the Libyan air defence. North Africa has always been of particular interest to France.

In the Scandinavian countries there are also big differences. Norway and Denmark are at the front and are dropping more bombs per aircraft than any other country in the Alliance. Denmark is even out of bombs and have asked Holland for more. Finland choose to not send any of its F/A-18. Sweden, a non NATO-member, chose to send 8 Gripen aircraft and 1 C-130 tanker for air refueling. The aircraft are limited to recce missions only since the Swedish politicians are very afraid of civilian casualties.

Germany, one of the biggest and most powerful NATO-members also chose not to intervene in Libya. But this is just a political masquerade. Germany has agreed to send more AWACS personnel to Afghanistan in order for other NATO-countries to send personnel currently in Afghanistan to support the mission in Libya. Germany has also agreed to provide those NATO-countries that are out of ammunition with bombs from German supplies. I.e Germany are not doing the job themselves, but are making it easier for others to do it instead.

With the number of "smart" bombs dropped on Libya estimated at more than 2,000 some Nato allies have seen their stocks dramatically depleted.

Both Denmark and Norway are understood to have asked for more bombs through the Nato Maintenance and Supply Agency and the German defence minister Thomas de Maiziere has granted permission to release stocks.

Note: Out of 2000 "smart" bombs, Denmark has dropped 487!

I wonder for how long the NATO-countries can afford to drop the expensive "smart" bombs? Will the start using "dumb" bombs when the stocks are out and the finances does not cover buying more bombs from Germany or USA?

In this happen there will be more demand on the skill of the pilots to correctly identify their targets and then release the bombs at the correct coordinate. The precision will of course not be as good as with laser- or GPS-guided bombs. Therefore the safety margins and the ROE - Rules Of Engagement must be changed. Each country then also have national caveats within the ROE allowing their personnel to do less than what the ROE in itself states. Within the ROE and the national caveats there will also be more up to the pilot to say "no". After all, he/she is the only one with good information about the ground scenario. In Libya the NATO-forces lack FAC - Forward Air Controller that can identify the targets more precise. There are some Special Forces units on the ground that are cooperating with the rebels, but there is no information about them being used as FAC.

In Afghanistan there are rumors that Danish and Norwegian pilots (among others) have refused to bomb targets that did not look legitimate to them. Precision weapons have one big disadvantage, and that is the need for precision intelligence. It does not matter how small targets you can hit, if it is the wrong target. Precision weapons also make it possible to bomb closer to civilians and your own units which increase the risk if something goes wrong.

During the Iraq War there was numerous incidents with blue-on-blue and civilian casualties. Australian pilots have reported 40 occasions when they did not deliver their weapons because the targets was not correct.

But it appears there were fundamental differences between the US dominated headquarters and Australian pilots over what constituted a valid military target.

Squadron Leader Pudney said under Australia's rules of engagement pilots had to ask themselves on each mission whether it was right to drop their bombs.

"Each guy would have made that decision once to half a dozen times in the conflict. It was presented as being just one pilot in one incident, but it was all of us several times," he said.

If e.g. the Swedish politicians does not want their pilots to take these decisions then it is correct to do as they have done to limit the Swedish Gripen to only perform recce missions. But someone has to do the fighting otherwise the Gripen photos will be of no use other than documenting Gadaffis war on his people. Unfortunately there is no possibility for a pilot to say "Yes" to a mission his leaders have forbidden him to do. In this case it is only for him to watch, as was being done i Rwanda and Srebrenica by the UN-forces. But sometimes you can be punished for doing nothing. The dutch government has lost a case in the Haag tribunal for not protecting three men in Srebrenica. 8000 people were killed in Srebrenica, will their families sue the dutch government also?

What will this court decision lead to? More countries taking more responsibility for their actions and getting involved to protect civilians or some countries avoiding the international missions completely in order to avoid any risk of doing anything wrong.


PAF Build-up

I found this interesting video (see below) of PAF - Pakistan Air Force pilots flying in Chinese Su-30 MKK.

This "exchange program" is of course partly due to the fact that China is very close to Pakistan and has for long been a key supplier of aircraft technology to PAF. But for Pakistani pilots to fly the Su-30MKK must be very interesting since one of their main opponents in case of a new war with India would be the Su-30 MKI. India and Pakistan has fought two air wars (1965 and 1971, the PAF avoided the Kargil war in 1999), and the ongoing conflict in the Kashmir is far from solved.

What do the PAF have in their arsenal to use?

- 192 x Chengdu F-7/J-7 "Skybolt". This is an good interceptor aircraft due to high sped and good climb performance. But other than that it is only an outdated Mig-21 copy. The Mig-21 was outperformed by the Mirage III during the Israel Six-Day War. F-7 will be replaced with the JF-17.

- 121 x Mirage III.

- 60 x Mirage 5. The Mirage III and 5 have been upgraded during Project ROSE. The aircraft have been fitted with flight refueling probes to train pilots before the convert to the JF-17. Most probably the newest Mirage III/5 will be in service for a number of years as an attack aircraft, but sooner or later they will also be replaced with the JF-17.

- 42 (150-300 will be delivered) x JF-17/FC-1 "Thunder". Jointly developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAC) of China, the Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The wing geometry look very F-16 to me. The fuselage have a lot in common with an ordinary Mirage. This aircraft will in the future be the backbone of PAF. The avionics in the JF-17 were supposed to be upgraded by France, but after protests from India (where France hopes to deliver Rafale fighters) the contract has been put on a hold. There are also rumors about the licence built Klimov RD-93 engines not being allowed by the Russians to be sold to other countries, which might stop export of the JF-17 to other interested countries. In the last video below there is a flight display with the JF-17. The RD-93 smokes in similar way to the RD-33 on the Mig-29. My guess is that the JF-17 will be used mainly for attack-missions with a fighter capability mainly for self defence. Se more on the defence.pk forum about JF-17.

- 63 x F-16. Mixed force with old F-16A/B Block 15 and 18 x newly delivered F-16C/D Block 52. Another 14 F-16C/D Block 52 has been ordered. The old A/B will undergo MLU - Mid-Life Upgrade in Turkey. Since Turkey is a NATO allied, and the Turkish industry is working on US blue-prints to perform the MLU, the MLU could be stopped if US wants it.

- 36 x Chengdu FC-20/J-10 will be delivered in 2014-15 and maybe the contract will be for up to 150 aircraft. According to rumors it was initially based upon the Israeli Lavi design, but later Chinese knowledge of the Russian Su-27/J-11/Su-30 MKK has most probably been introduced. But the planned cooperation with western avionics industries was cancelled. This might be a big disadvantage comparing to Su-30 MKI which has state of the art avionics from French and Israeli industries. Instead Russian made avionics or Chinese improved versions have been used. See more on defence.pk forum about the J-10.

Both the J-10 and the JF-17 has 1553 and 1760 databus, which will make it easier to integrate western avionics and weapons. But considering the problem Pakistan have with handling the situation in Afghanistan it is far from sure that western avionics will be available.

Against these aircraft the Indian Air Force have on the front line some 159 x SU-30 MKI (will be 272), 51 x Mirage 2000H, 69 x Mig-29, 200 x Mig-21, 147 x Mig-27 and 169 x Jaguar IS. 48 x HAL Tejas are being delivered, but are far from operational. 128 x MMRCI are under negotiation with Rafale and Eurofighter on the shortlist. 200 x FGFA (PAK-FA T-50 derivate) will be developed jointly between India and Russia.

One very interesting fact from a Swedish point of view is that the PAF is using 4 x Swedish Saab 2000 EAW (similar to the Saab 340 EAW the Thai Air Force have just made operational). These will be used together with 4 x Chinese Shaanxi ZDK-03 (Y-8F600). What kind of datalinks they will use is not easy to say. But I think that no data communication systems delivered separately by Sweden and China would be able to communicate. Instead the PAF must have integrated a system of their own. If this is the case they have a even bigger problem to solve if they want to integrate this C2 system into their F-16. The JF-17 can probably be lead by the Chinese AWACS, but to what use? The only reason would be a one-way data communication to increase situational awareness and in order to avoid Indian fighters. The J-10 in combination with the ZDK-03 could be a very good defensive force and maybe also fly top-cover for the JF-17 acting as bombers.

How long will the US support to PAF continue? The F-16 has an interesting story in Pakistan. US has for many years put Pakistan on their Military Embargo List, but the war in Afghanistan has made Pakistan an important ally in the region. The Usama Bin-Laden case has however clearly shown that Pakistan is not an ally that the US could rely on. Now when the US are withdrawing from Pakistan, the support to PAF will probably be reduced.

Altogether, about $800 million in military aid and equipment, or over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual American security assistance to Pakistan, could be affected, three senior United States officials said.

This aid includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border to combat terrorism, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in training assistance and military hardware, according to half a dozen Congressional, Pentagon and other administration officials who were granted anonymity to discuss the politically delicate matter.

Some of the curtailed aid is equipment that the United States wants to send but Pakistan now refuses to accept, like rifles, ammunition, body armor and bomb-disposal gear that were withdrawn or held up after Pakistan ordered more than 100 Army Special Forces trainers to leave the country in recent weeks.
American officials say they would probably resume equipment deliveries and aid if relations improve and Pakistan pursues terrorists more aggressively. The cutoffs do not affect any immediate deliveries of military sales to Pakistan, like F-16 fighter jets, or nonmilitary aid, the officials said.

The only thing that might make it possible for Pakistan to have future support from the US is their possibility to help stopping the war in Afghanistan. When the US forces are leaving in 2014 there need to be a stabilizing force in the region and this could very well be Pakistan, since the other option (Iran) is not an option at all for the US politicians. On the other hand, if the conflict between Pakistan and India is not solved there will be very little interest for Pakistan to solve the conflict in Afghanistan since they fear to be surrounded by countries with interest in Pakistan territory (Pashtun tribal areas and Kashmir).

Without US support, PAF will be more dependent upon China.

What makes me a bit worried is that there is a well-known absurd logic in Cold Wars. If there is equal strength, nothing will happen. If one country is much stronger than the other nothing will happen, unless there is political will to do so. But if there is equal strength and one country feels that the other may get an upper hand, this country could be forced to act otherwise it would be to late.

The PAF build-up is one reason for why the Indian Air Force is looking for new aircraft. The Su-30 MKI is a capable aircraft, but will have problems with the J-10. Especially if the PAF pilots find some weakness that they can explore.

PAF has the last years been upgrading their aircraft fleet, but numbers is not always everything. Their aircraft (with exception of J-10 and the F-16 Block 52) are a generation older in design than the Su-30 MKI. One reason for why the numerical advantage of the Indian Air Force is being reduced is the scrapping of older aircraft types. But in their place there are now modern aircraft. It will also be so in the future with the introduction of the winner of the ongoing Indian purchase (Eurofighter or Rafale) and the next 5:th generation joint Indian/Russian version of the PAK-FA T-50. I therefore still believe that PAF would be not match for the Indian Air Force as their force structure look today, no matter what the Pakistan propaganda on the Internet say. But maybe the Chinese support will continue in the future with deliveries of the J-20? Then the Pakistan vs India conflict would in all practicality be a technology test area for Russian and Chinese aircraft technology.

Pakistani pilots testing the Su-30MKK.

Propaganda video of the new PAF aircraft.

Indian TV news about the rising capability of PAF.

JF-17 display.

SvD1, SvD2, SvD3

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thai Gripen Operational

Today RTAF - Royal Thai Air Force declared the Gripen fighter and the Saab 340 AEW operational.

RTAF now have 10 Gripen pilots and 30 technicians that have been trained in Sweden. They have also undergone CRT - Combat Readiness Training in Thailand with support of the Swedish Air Force Support Group at Wing 7. More pilots will be trained in Thailand. These pilots and technicians will form the core of the first Gripen squadron and maintenance unit. Since the Gripen is much less demanding when it comes to maintenance compared to F-5/F-16, RTAF is now fully prepared to operate the Gripen.

But how does the future for the Gripen in Thailand look like?

In a comment on the Swedish Air Force blogg, the Gripen News Thread believed in more good news in Thailand and hinted about "ADF". The only ADF-related thing that I could find using Google and the search parameters "thai air force ADF" was the RTAF F-16.

The first 12 Gripen that has been ordered by RTAF will replace the old F-5 at Wing 7 Surat Thani. The first 6 Gripen has already been delivered and the next 6 will be delivered in 2013. But what will happen with RTAF F-16? The F-16 used in RTAF are old Block 15 F-16A/B. They have recently been modernized in order to keep them flying a few years more. But maybe there are ongoing negotiations about replacing them with more Gripen fighters?

RTAF has approximately 30 x F-5 and 57 x F-16. 18 of the F-16 are undergoing structural upgrade program to prolong their life length to 2025. To replace the F-5 there is a possibility that RTAF will buy 18 more Gripen. If the oldest F-16 will be replaced, this could possible result in as many as 39 more Gripen, in total a possible contract for 57 Gripen and more in 2025. The new Prime Minister in Thailand has promised increase in economical support for the poor people of the population i Thailand, so most probably this will result in that the Armed Forces will not get as much money as they want. On the other hand I suspect that the Prime Minister want the support of the military commanders in order not to repeat her fathers fate, so maybe the reduction in the military budget will not be as big as it could have been.

My guess is that RTAF will replace at least one squadron of F-16 with 18 Gripen and buy 6 more to Wing 7. Then in 2025 RTAF will probably buy a further 18 to replace the last F-16 squadron. 42 more Gripen for Saab to sell to Thailand will be a good boost in the economy while they wait to see what happens with the future for Gripen E/F.

DefencePro, Flight Global
Expr, DN, SvD1, SvD2

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Austrian Upgrades

The Austrian Air Force will soon receive their first upgraded Eurofighter. Austria bought second hand Tranche 1 Eurofighters from Germany. It was a big surprise for Saab who thought the deal was almost signed with Austria to buy the Swedish Gripen.

Maybe Saab was too confident to get the deal? Austria has a long tradition of buying Swedish Aircraft. Both countries were neutral after WW2. Saab B-17A, Saab J-29F "Flying Barrel", Saab J-35O "Dragon", Saab 105Oe (still in service) and Saab 91D Safir has been part of the Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte inventory. Maybe not always the most powerful aircraft, but the Austrian Air Force was not allowed to have any other weapons on their aircraft but guns according to a treaty with the Soviet Union signed at the end of WWII. But after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 there was new possibilities. When the war in former Yugoslavia started in 1991, the Austrian government felt threatened and decided to upgrade their J 35 with Sidewinder missiles and more modern avionics.

In order to prepare for the planned Gripen, Austrian pilots flew the Saab JA 37 "Thunderbolt" at F21 in Luleå for a number of years between 1999 and 2002. Since all Austrian pilots have been trained at F10 Wing in Ängelholm in Sweden, some of them were still speaking basic Swedish. Then in 2003 the Austrians choose the Eurofighter because it was cheaper than the competitors.

The eventually negotiated price for 18 EADS Typhoons is EUR 1,959 billion, including all system- and support costs, and the financing of 18 half-year payments from 2007 onwards. The offer for Gripen was only between 3 and 4% cheaper in cash and 5-year payment, and not much more even in the targeted 9-year payment. This is nothing near being acceptable for an aircraft with 30-40% less capability in climb-rate (important for small airspaces), radar, processing-reserves etc.

Most aircraft deals have rumors about bribes and this one is no exception. But there has been no proofs. Clearly the price/performance was a decisive factor, but they also got the oldest Eurofighters that Germany did not want to operate (compare Tranche 1 with the problems Germany had with their newer Eurofighters in the Baltic QRA). Most probably they got a costly deal regarding maintenance. As I understood the 2003 deal was with Germany, not directly with EADS. This new deal is with EADS and will probably lower the maintenance costs.

The Eurofighter has not been very successful in Austria. The Tranche 1 is a very basic aircraft with mainly air-to-air capability. This might not be a big problem for Austria since they mainly use their Air Force for defensive homeland protection with focus on QRA - Quick Reaction Alert. What is worse however is that the flight hour production is very expensive and the MTBF is also too low. The result is that their pilots are not flying very much and they have also few trained pilots. If some of the pilots would leave for civilian airlines it could result in that the Air Force is almost wiped out of existence.

Budget constraints mean the fleet is restricted to 1,200-1,300h annually, although Stadlhofer said this is to rise to 1,500h by 2015. Each of Austria's 14 Typhoon pilots flies an average of 70-80h per year, while another two are being trained.

Did the Austrians get a good deal in the end? Well, compare the introduction of Eurofighter in Austria with Gripen in the Czech Republic:

- Austria: Contract signed 2003, first delivery in 2006, final delivery (out of 15 a/c) in 2009. Flight time production up until 2011 is 3200 fh.

- Czech Republic. Contract signed in 2003, first delivery in 2005, final delivery (out of 14 a/c) in 2005. Flight time production up until 2010 was more than 10.000 fh.

In Sweden there is a saying, "What you don´t get as income from the swing you will get from the carousel". Austria got their Eurofighter at a bargain price, but they are now paying more to get full tactical functionality and they are also paying a lot in operating cost. The total cost of an aircraft is always = acquisition price + upgrades during life time + yearly cost * life length.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Time For Delivery?

The first Dutch F-35 is now under assembly at the Northrop plant.

Northrop Grumman has completed the centre fuselage for the Netherlands' first F-35A Lightning II,
It will then be integrated with the other major sections for the conventional take-off and landing aircraft: its Lockheed-produced forward fuselage, cockpit and wings; and BAE Systems-built rear fuselage.

The Dutch has ordered two F-35 to start with. These test aircraft will be used for training the first cadre of instructors. Norway are planning to buy four test aircraft to do the same. UK has bought three test aircraft and the first UK pilot has already flown the F-35B (even though as it looks right now UK will buy the F-35C conventional carrier version). Outside of the US these are the only F-35 that has actually been bought yet! The rest are just on the "to-be-decided"-list.

Some countries has not even decided which configuration of the F-35 they will buy. UK is choosing between F-35B/C. Canada is planning to buy the CF-35 with drag chute and drogue AAR refueling (there are ongoing discussions in the Canadian government regarding ordering a special version of the F-35, since it will be very costly for the Canadians). The drag chute is for landing on icy runways. Note: Norway might also be interested in this version of the F-35.

One thing that has not yet been decided, or at least not been made public, is the final export configuration of the F-35. There has been rumors about the stealth capability being less effective on the export version and that not all of the jamming capability will exported. Maybe this problem will be automatically solved if the US does not have money enough to finish the development of these capabilities.

Many F-35 customer are now facing problems with the non-existing time overlap between the last day of operations with their existing fleet of aircraft and the introduction of the F-35. E.g. the Norwegian F-16MLU and the Canadian CF-18 will probably be grounded for good before the first flight of the F-35 in their respective Air Forces. Maybe this will result in that some countries need to buy another aircraft. My guess is that the F-15SE and the F-18E/F will find customers among countries that today are on the F-35 interest list.

How effective will the F-35 be? RAND Corporation has done a simulation of F-35 and F-18E/F versus Su-30 for the Australian Air Force with some bad news for the F-35.

The clear implication of the RAND study is that the F-35 is very likely to wind up facing many more “up close and personal” opponents than its proponents suggest, while dealing with beyond-visual-range infrared-guided missiles as an added complication. Unlike the F-22, the F-35 is described as “double inferior” to modern SU-30 family fighters within visual range combat; thrust and wing loading issues are noted, all summed up in one RAND background slide as “can’t [out]turn, can’t [out]climb, can’t [out]run.”

Worst of all is that the price tag of the F-35 keeps going up. In combination with the bad European economy it will of course affect how many aircraft that will be bought.

But, instead of the poor European customers there are other potential markets coming up. President Obama has given go-ahead to Lockheed Martin to offer F-35 to India. In the FX-3 program in Brazil, F-35 will most probably be an contender. Israel is very interested after Saudi Arabia decided to buy Eurofighters and F-15E.

Finally I recommend this documentary about the F-35.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thai Election Affects Sweden?

In Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra will be the winner of the general election.

With most votes counted, outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has conceded victory to his rival, opposition leader Yingluck Shinawatra.

Ms Yingluck, who will become Thailand's first female prime minister, said there was "a lot of hard work ahead".

She is the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006.

With 92% of votes counted, Ms Yingluck's Pheu Thai party had won 260 seats, giving it a majority in the 500-seat parliament.

What will happen now?

Most probably the military leaders are very disappointed. The election results clearly shows that the people of Thailand did not approve with the coup in 2006. The red-shirts have protested every year and now they will be in power. My guess is that Thaksin will be giving a lot of "advices" to his sister, even though he will wait a while before returning to Thailand. He will not formally be in power, but he will have a lot to say about the future politics of Thailand.

The big question however is if the military will accept the will of the people? A new coup could lead to civil war. many investors fear the worst and the Thai economy has dropped.

Inflation is nudging higher (to 4.2% in May), and both leading parties have promised a rack of give-aways, from higher wages to credit cards.

The Bank of Thailand said foreign investors had withdrawn 57bn baht ($1.85bn; £1.15bn) from the Thai debt market last month and 17bn baht from the stock market. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) shed 74bn baht of its value in May.

A new coup in Thailand will affect Sweden in many ways.

- Thailand is the biggest vacation spot in the world for Swedes. Many Swedes also choose Thailand to live in during the cold Swedish winters when they retire at age 65. A coup could lead to a need of transporting a lot of Swedes back to home. Sweden remembers the challenge of transporting people from Thailand after the Tsunami in 2004. In 2004 Sweden had to rely on civilian airline companies. Today Sweden has access to three C-17 through the NATO HAW - Heavy Airlift Wing in Papa, Hungary.

- Swedish companies have invested a lot in the Thai tourism, hotels, airline companies etc. If there would be a new coup it will be very costly for these companies. This could affect the economy in Sweden and also the unemployment figures in the tourism sector. Maybe the tourists would stay in Sweden instead and spend their money. But since Thailand is mostly visited during the Swedish winter they will probably go to another warm country.

- Sweden has sold Gripen fighters to RTAF, the Royal Thai Air Force. 6+6 Gripen aircraft + 2 Saab 340 AEW and 1 Saab 340 transport aircraft together with upgrades of the Thai Command & Control networks are in the contract. A Swedish support unit are currently located at Wing 7 at the town of Surat Thani in southern Thailand. If there is a coup will the Swedish personnel be able to stay? How will Sweden support the Thai Air Force with spares and maintenance of the aircraft? Will there be any further contracts for more aircraft? The contract was signed in 2007, i.e. after the 2006 coup. Therefore a new government with ties to Thaksin could very well change the future for the Thai Air Force. The new government has promised a lot of economical support to the population. This money need to be raised somewhere.

Since Thailand is very depending on the tourism I believe that everyone will be very careful not to do anything that will affect the tourism. But who controls the red- and the yellow-shirts?

I hope that the Swedish foreign ministry is closely looking into the development in Thailand. Since there are a lot of Swedish interests in Thailand, Sweden must be prepared to act if a new coupe would take place.

But on the other hand, as BBC already has noted:

It is precisely Thailand's record of mishaps - in its 78 years of democracy it has survived 18 attempted or actual military coups and new constitutions - that gives the long-stayers a kind of confidence.

SvD1, SvD2, SvD3, DN