Sunday, August 28, 2011

Change of plans?

The Turkish Air Force have for long been a user of US aircraft and has been very close to NATO, since entering NATO in 1952.

But this cooperation has not been without problems. Although both Greece and Turkey are part of NATO, the relationship between them have been very tense. In 1974 the Turkish Armed Forces occupied northern Cyprus in a move to stop the Greece military junta to do the same. Cyprus was then for many years Sweden:s largest international military mission. Approximately 25.000 Swedish soldiers and police officers have taken part in the UN-led mission between 1964 and 1993. The ongoing dispute regarding the territorial borders with Greece in the Aegean Sea has not been solved. The financial problems in Greece could have to possible futures. 1 - Greece will reduce the military budget OR 2 - A new military coup could occur with support from the population that has lost trust in their government and in EU.

Turkey is also since 1984 engaged in a low-intensity war against the Kurdish guerrilla, PKK. In 2008 Turkish troops entered Iraq in a campaign to eliminate the Kurdish guerrilla camps located in the Kurd-dominated northern parts of Iraq. Most probably this move was not sanctioned by USA due to the fact that it could destabilize the Kurdish Iraq. This part of Iraq has been a close ally to USA during the Iraq war 2003 onward.

USA and NATO only tolerates the military actions in Iraq due to the importance of Turkey. Turkey is a cultural bridge between the western and the Muslim world, which is very important in the war against terror. The conflicts in northern Africa has made it even more important to have an ally in the region. Turkey also has a geographical strategic position between Europe and the Middle East. But Turkey have a carte blanche from USA/NATO in choosing their methods for how to "win" the war against PKK?

EU also put pressure on Turkey. Before Turkey become a member of EU, the border problems between Turkey and Greece as well as the Kurdish situation must be solved.

Turkey is today very dependent on buying weapons from USA and Europe to fight their war against PKK and at the same time be ready for any possible attacks from Greece (however unlikely they are).

But maybe Turkey has decided to leave the USA-only strategy when it comes to buying fighters for their Air Force? There are ongoing discussions with South Korea as well as Sweden regarding future cooperation in aircraft development.

Turkey has held separate talks with aeronautical officials from South Korea and Sweden for possible cooperation in the design, development and production of a new fighter aircraft in the next decade, a senior procurement official said.

"The companies are South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, and Sweden's Saab," the official said.

KAI is the manufacturer of several military and civilian aircraft and satellites and is planning to produce the KF-X fighter aircraft. Saab makes the multirole fighter JAS 39 Gripen.
But Turkish officials privately say they want to develop another future jet fighter with a country other than the United States to reduce Turkey's overdependence on Washington. Most of Turkey's fleet of F-16 fighters, being modernized by Lockheed Martin, and the planned future F-35s are open to U.S. technological influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernized by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernized by Turkey itself, are free from this influence, the officials said. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020. As part of efforts to select a new fighter, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has been tasked to determine the specifications of the new fighter by the end of 2012.">But Turkish officials privately say they want to develop another future jet fighter with a country other than the United States to reduce Turkey's overdependence on Washington. Most of Turkey's fleet of F-16 fighters, being modernized by Lockheed Martin, and the planned future F-35s are open to U.S. technological influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernized by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernized by Turkey itself, are free from this influence, the officials said. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020.

As part of efforts to select a new fighter, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has been tasked to determine the specifications of the new fighter by the end of 2012.

Turkey late last year held an initial round of talks with KAI on this matter, but the South Koreans offered to share only 20 percent of the project with Turkey, with another 20 percent going to Indonesia while keeping the remaining 60 percent for themselves. Turkey wants an equal share in the development and was quick to reject this offer.

For now the possible cooperation between Korea/Sweden and Turkey will not replace the F-35. But can Turkey afford operating the F-35 at the same time as anything else? Maybe Turkey have to decide between continue to buy american aircraft or have a local aircraft industry?

Turkey has for many years upgraded their aircraft with help from Israel. But after last years incident during the Israeli attack on the Gaza convoy, the diplomatic climate is sub-zero and the Turkish government most probably seek other partners. Since USA is very close to Israel, this could be another explanation to why Turkey want to be more independent from US technology.

What will the Swedish lawmakers say about exporting weapons to Turkey? Is the war against PKK sanctioned by Sweden? EU did put PKK on the terrorist list after 9-11, but what about today? In many Swedish newspapers there are articles regarding the Turkish treatment of the Kurdish people. In Sweden it is by law forbidden to export weapons to a country involved in war. But is the campaign against PKK a "war"? What will he Swedish Anti-War movement say? Any sales of Gripen to Turkey could result in protests in Sweden. These protests could be escalated due to the number of Turkish immigrants living in Sweden.

If Turkey buy the Gripen it could also result in a interesting situation with Swedish-built Saab Gripen in Turkey vs Swedish-built Saab Erieye Command & Control aircraft in Greece. In case of a future conflict between Turkey and Greece it could become a very political sensitive situation for Sweden and Saab to solve.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Guerilla Tactics

The Swedish Anti-War organisation Svenska Freds (Swedish Peace) has lost a case in court against the Governmental organisation Försvarsexportmyndigheten FXM (Defence Export Agency).

In a protest against the fact that the Swedish government support export of military weapon and equipment, Svenska Freds has hijacked the Internet domain namne "". On this Internet site Svenska Freds has protested against the export of weapon and the support from FXM.

I hink that this was a brilliant move by Svenska Freds. In a very non-violent way they have made their agenda shown to the public. Thay have focused on the agency and not the people working at the agency. This in contrast to another Swedish Anti-War movement OFOG. OFOG attacked Swedish Homosexual officers attending the Stockholm Pride Festival. In this way they also attacked the individual persons and their right to attend a parade to show to the society that "gay is OK" in the Swedish Defence Forces. Last year OFOG did their best to stop a NATO exercise in northern Sweden. But they invited a russion officer to a anti-war meeting in Scotland. What is OFOG:s true agenda and where do they get their financial support? OFOG has shown that they have a very long way o go until they reach the same level of sophistication as Svenska Freds.

Unfortunately most Swedish peace organisations focus on the industry in Sweden. According to Swedish law all export of weapon are prohibited. In each case the Swedish Defence Industry must seek permission from the Swedish Governmental Agency ISP. Is it not logical that one governmental organisation Inspection for Strategic Products, ISP, do their best to limit the defence export and another, FXM, supports it? Since the export of weapon is of strategic importance to Sweden I believe that it is best done by supervision of the government. Otherwise the industry has to close down and the Swedish Defence Forces will need to import all weapons and in this way also supporting the weapon industry in countries that are not limited in the same way as the Swedish weapon industry. Guess which companies that has the biggest possibility to export to countries that will use their weapons against their own population or in aggressive attacks against their neighbors? By stopping the possibility for Swedish export the Swedish peace organisations in reality makes life easier for Defence companies in other countries. They will make money by selling weapons to both Syria AND Sweden.

The day I see OFOG or Svenska Freds in Syria protesting against the use of weapons against the civilian population they will have all my respect. Until then it is a lot of talk but no action.

Maybe Svenska Freds is even barking at the wrong tree? More worrying than the close connections between FXM and the Swedish Defence Industri is the close connections between ISP and the Defence Industry. There must always exist a balance between the controlling and the supporting agencies in Sweden.

I do not agree with Svenska Freds agenda, but I believe that they have a right to say what they believe in. However, the Swedish court does not agree with me. Svenska Freds are no longer allowed to use the domain "". But that will not stop Svenska Freds. The Internet is big and a slight change of domain name will do the trick. If you want to continue to visit Svenska Freds version of FXM, then you can go to their mirror domain "".

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where is the money?

The last few days there has been a public debate in the press regarding how the Swedish Armed Forces bought their eighteen HKP 14, Swedish designation for Eurocopter NH-90. One thing is for sure. There has been a lot of delays in the delivery of the helicopters resulting in:

- A lack of trained helicopter pilots in Sweden. During the last few years there has been many accidents involving helicopters. A lot of airmen has lost their lives. The investigations of these accidents has found two common cause. That is the lack of leadership and many organisational changes in the helicopter forces. This in combination with a lack of flying experience too often results in accidents.

- Three HKP 10 - Super Puma had to be rebuilt for MEDEVAC operations in order to support Swedish units in Afghanistan. (This business case was also not handled very well, but it is another story). The HKP 10 are today in Marmal in northern Afghanistan and will be there until 2013.

- A lack of helicopters for sea operations. Sweden no longer has any airborne anti-submarine capability. Having the submarine incidents during the 1980-90:s in fresh mind this is very serious lack of capability in the Swedish Armed Forces. The old HKP 4 - Boeing Vertol had this capability, but there were no political interests to prolong the service life of these helicopters. When Sweden sent the HMS Carlskrona to the Gulf of Aden the smaller HKP 15 - Augusta A109 had to be used. This helicopter is not designed for continuous operations at sea and afterwards it has been found out that the helicopters has been seriously damaged by corrosion from salt water. Even when the HKP 14 become operational it will take a long time before the Swedish Armed Forces has any anti-submarine capability, since this is last on the list of planned capabilities of the HKP 14.

- A lack of helicopters for training of new pilots. The Swedish Armed Forces has been forced to rent civilian helicopters and also start sending their pilots for basic training in Germany.

- A lack of helicopters for transport of troops. During the NBG 08 - Nordic Battlegroup 08 readiness period the Armed Forces had to upgrade a few of the remaining HKP 4 for this type of operations. After the readiness period, the HKP 4 were all scrapped. During the Nordic Battlegroup 11 readiness period it was planed that the HKP 15 were to be used for troop transport. But since a lot of the pilots were busy with the Gulf of Aden operations, the HKP 15 is also a bit to small for transporting troops and the HKP 10 were busy in Afghanistan, it was decided to cooperate with a Croatian helicopter unit using the Mi-17. This gave the NBG 11 MEDEVAC capability as well as troop transport capability. Even when he HKP 14 is being delivered there are big unsolved problems. The interior of the NH-90 has been found out to be very sensitive. In other countries using the NH-90, a wooden floor has been put into the troop compartment to protect the structure from heavy boots and equipment.

- Sweden has now ordered sixteen Blackhwak UH-60M with Swedish designation HKP 16 in order to have troop transport and MEDEVAC capability no matter what happens with the NH-90. These helicopters will be used in Afghanistan starting 2013. But Sweden will start to reduce the number of units in Afghanistan (starting this year?). In 2013 there will be very little use for the helicopters in Afghanistan. The first Blackhawks will be delivered in December 2011 and the pilots and technicians are undergoing their training as of now in the USA. I personally believe this will be a good solution to quickly enhance Sweden´s helicopter capability. But in the future the Swedish Armed Forces will operate three different types of helicopters (A109, NH-90 and UH-60M) instead of he planned two. This will increase the logistic and maintenance cost in the future. My recommendation is to sell the A109 when the NH-90 become operational. The UH-60M is unfortunately a bit to small to be used for anti-submarine operations. The A109 is bought to be a basic cost effective tactical trainer. But maybe buing a few extra UH-60M instead of the A109 would be the solution today when the basic training anyway is being done in Germany?

In addition to all the technical problems with the HKP 14, the Swedish Armed Forces has lost many of their trained maintenance personnel. Due to the new contract that all Swedish officers had to sign, many technicians applied for jobs at Saab AB. They are now working at Saab as part of Saab maintenance contract of the Swedish HKP 14. Some of them increased their salary with 30%.

In the Swedish press he focus is on how the helicopters was ordered. The Swedish Defence Material Administration, FMV, wanted to buy the Sikorsky S-92 since it fulfilled all requirements better than the other helicopters that were studied. But the Minister of Defence at the time, Björn von Sydow of the Social Democrat party, decided to overrule the experts and to buy the NH-90 as a joint Nordic project involving Denmark, Norway and Finland. Swedish Saab were to build the tactical planning system for the NH-90 and Finnish Patria to assemble part of the helicopters. But later on the Nordic countries went their separate ways. Denmark bought the Augusta Westland AW-101. But the Danish Air Force had a lot of problems with the first delivered helicopters and decided to postpone the project. The AW-101 were instead sold to the UK and modified to RAF Merlin standards. Today the AW-101 is in operational use in Denmark. In Finland and Norway the NH-90 is in limited operational use today. Norway and Sweden has a joint logistical program. But Sweden decided to buy a version of he NH-90 with a higher cabin. Why this was required has not been found out. It was not in the original helicopter specification, but has been modified during the time of the project. The result is that Sweden is the last of the Nordic countries to receive their helicopters.

But if the decision to over-rule the experts was bad enough there are other very serious aspects in how the business case was handled.

A Swedish Air Force colonel has been investigated for leaking information about the project to Eurocopter. The information included what the other companies offered and how FMV would perform their evaluation of the different helicopters. Eurocopter could of course have used this information to make sure that heir bid was the most favourable. The Swedish Military Intelligence, MUST, has stated that no important information was leaked and there has been no damage done. After that nothing happened with the investigation. But damage or no damage, why did the colonel leak information and what did he gain by doing so? Did the Swedish Department of Defence know about this? Was the colonel more or less ordered to leak the information in order to make sure that the Minister of Defence, Björn von Sydow, got what he wanted?

Swedish reporters very often focus their articles on other countries lack of transparency when it comes to buying military equipment. But maybe Sweden is no better then most other countries? Sweden is at least no more effective. But, has all these problems occurred due to only lack of political leadership or is there money involved? If so, who were to gain from this affair? There is a saying in cases like this, "Always follow the money".


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Erieye in combat

FAB, the Brazilian Air Force is involved in a low intensity war with drug cartels hiding in the Amazonas djungle. To be able to fight these well armed criminals the Air Force has bought Embraer A-29 "Super Tucano", a COIN - CointerInsurgency capable aircraft.

These aircraft are not only for show, they are operational. Due to the nature of these small wars, there are not many articles in the papers. But now FAB has released a video (se below) and information on a attack on a small airfield in the djungle that FAB suspected was used for smuggling.

Four Super Tucanos attacked the clandestine airstrip, near the border with Colombia, on August 10, dropping eight 230kg bombs, the defense ministry says. Cut from the jungle, the runway was detected from satellite imagery by Brazil's Sivam Amazon surveillance system.

The attacking aircraft were controlled by Embraer R-99 with the Erieye Airborne Command&Control radar. This radar is manufactured by Saab Microwave Mölndal outside of Gothenburg, Sweden. It has been sold to a number of other countries involved in small scale wars.

- Mexico. Erieye is most probably used in the same type of campaigns as in Brazil to detect smuggling across the US-Mexico border.

- Greece. Eriey is used to monitor the border with Turkey and to detect any respassing aircraft. Greeca and Turkey has for for many years been involved in dogfighs with deadly results due to the Aegean conflict.

- Pakistan. Erieye is used to monitor the Kashmir region and stop all border violations by Indian aircraft.

- Thailand. In the south of Thailand there is an ungoing conflict with the muslim minority. In the north of Thailand there is an ongoing fight against the drug smuggling in he same way as for Brazil and Mexico.

Sweden has a policy of not selling weapons to countries involved in war. But what is the definition of "war" today? The classic definition is a war between two countries, but today most wars are internal or against international terrorist organisations.

If Brazil buys the Gripen, maybe it will also be used in the war against the drug smuggling? can Sweden be against these kind of operations? Stopping the drug smuggling must be on every country agenda. But sometimes the methods are rough. In Thailand he former president Thaksin Shinawatra has been accused of murdering many innocent people in the campaign to stop drug smuggling. But in the end, Thaksin also got very good results. Maybe it is in the nature of all wars that innocent people will get killed? In Afghanistan NATO does their best to minimize civilian losses, but still there are mistakes resulting in many afghans getting killed.

The video was released, not only to show that the Brazilian government means business, but also to show USA the capability of the A-29 pending US decision to buy a new LSA - Light Support Aircraft.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Last Aircraft Built in Europe?

Today there are five major military aircraft manufacturers in Europe. Dassault with the Rafale, Eurofighter consortium (EADS, Alenia Aeronautica and BAE Systems) with the Eurofighter and Saab with the Gripen. One or maybe two of these will win the ongoing competitions in Brazil and India. But what about tomorrow? Who will be the survivor of the aircraft "deal of the century"? As of now there is no 5:th generation aircraft planned in Europe. USA has the F-35, Russia/India has the Sukhoi PAK-FA T-50 and China has the J-20, but there is no successor planned for the Eurofighter, Rafale or Gripen.

The lack of money in the European countries has resulted in cut down of the armed forces. The focus on international Afghanistan look-alike missions has resulted in low need for future updated aircraft. What exist today is good enough for most Air Forces. There is no high tech enemy that forces continuous development of the Air Forces. War with Russia, China or India is unlikely. But what countries will in he future but 5:th generation aircraft? What will the threat scenario look like in Africa or Asia in the future? What many politicians often forgets is hat developing a new aircraft takes many years and the next European aircraft will not be designed for the threat scenario of today, but of 2040+

There are also four ongoing major military jet-engine projects in Europe. The Eurofighter EJ200, The Rafale Snecma M88 and the Gripen RM12 (updated F404 license built engine) are built for local aircraft production.

The last engine partly built in Europe is the GE/Rolls Royce F136. It has been questioned in USA due to budget constraints in the F-35 project. But so far it is in production. USA normally want two different engines to an aircraft in order to have some backup if there are technical problems with one type. One extra consideration is of course that USA want the UK defence industry to be happy. I personally do not believe it will be technically possible to swap engines from one type to the other in an aircraft without heavy modification. Rolls Royce also produces the lift-fan for the STOVL F-35B. But since UK has dropped out of this part of the F-35 project and there are still some serious weigh problems with the F-35B, my guess is that the F-35B will be cancelled and the RR lift-fan with it. If both the F136 and he F-35B are cancelled, then Rolls Royce are out of the F-35 project.

The Eurofighter project have serious financial problems. Tranche 3B has been put on hold. The industry has stated that they will continue with he development of Tranche 3B on their own money, but I doubt that this can continue for very long. By this the Eurofighter has no air to ground capability except for the Royal Air Force Tranche 1 Block 5 - FGR4. There is however an ongoing modification of all Eurofighters. All Tranche 1 will be of Block 5 status and Tranche 2 of Block 8. This will give the Eurofighter air to ground capability. In the Libyan campaign the RAF has mainly used Tornado for air to ground missions. The Italian Air Force were initially using he Eurofighers for CAP - Combat Air Patrol to enforce the NFZ - No Fly Zone, but the Italian Eurofighers have now been withdrawn from the Libyan mission. Germany is not involved in Libya, but has not used the Eurofighters on any international missions. Spain has send F-18 to Libya, but no Eurofighters.

Even though the Eurofighter has been exported to Saudi Arabia (72) and Austria (15), these aircraft were not actually sold by the Eurofigher consortium. The Austrian aircaft were Tranche 1 aircraft from the Luftwaffe. The Saudi Arabia aircraft were Tranche 2B aircraft from the Royal Air Force. As an compensation for the Saudi Arabia deal, the RAF will order 40 Tranche 3A aircraft.

One big problem for Eurofighter is that there are a number of countries involved, which makes it very hard to develop the aircraft.

Read more here about the different Eurofighter Tranche and Blocks.

Dassault has yet to find an export customer for the Rafale. In the Indian MMRCA competition, Dassault is together with Eurofighter the last teams left in the competition. In he next phase the Indians will focus on economy and on technology transfer. Even though the Rafale has shown very good results in the Liban campaign compared to the Eurofighter, this should not be used as an decisive factor in the next part of the evaluation.

In the Brazilian evaluation it looked like Sarkozy had a signed contract with former president Lula. But then this evaluation was put on hold, due to bad economy. It will start again next year. The US have stated that they will offer the F-35 together with F-18E/F. Russia will offer the Su-35 and maybe also the PAK-FA T-50. I seriously doubt that the Brazilian economy can handle the F-35 or the PAK-FA, but who knows in these days? Maybe Embraer will get an offer they can not refuse?

In the UAE competition it was earlier stated hat UAE had decided for he F-18E/F, but now Rafale seem to be back in business again.

Even though there has yet been no international business for Rafale, it looks very likely that they will sell some aircraft very soon.

Dassault has very good backup from the French government. In the Brazilian competition there has been rumors that France will support a Brazilian dream of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Even if there will be no Rafale sold on the international market I believe hat the french pride will make it possible for Dassault to continue to build military aircraft in the future. The French government also has a very good reputation of exporting weapon to any who needs it. Unlike the UK, the french will not buy american fighter aircraft in the first place. But the french economy is like the rest of Europe bleeding. Anything can happen.

Saab is as of now under delivery of the last Gripen C/D aircraft to South Africa (26 ordered, xx delivered), Thailand (12 ordered, 6 delivered) and update of A/B to C/D aircraft to Sweden (31 ordered, xx delivered). Depending on the yearly production rate this indicate that after approximately 2014 there will be no aircraft built in Linköping unless a new order arrives.

As part of the campaign to sell aircraft to Norway, Saab presented the Gripen NG. This is an update of the existing Gripen C/D with new engine (F414), new avionics, AESA radar, bigger fuselage to allow more internal fuel and two additional weapon pylons under he main fuselage. The Gripen Demo has flown for a number of years with the new engine and has recently been upgraded with hew avionics and AESA radar. But so far no custsomer has bought the aircraft. India has cut Gripen from their competition, Brazil has delayed their campaign with at least one year and the Swedish armed forces has delayed their decision to upgrade the existing Gripen C/D fleet with Gripen E/F based upon the Gripen NG to 2012.

Since the Swedish Air Force and the Swedish politicians has stated that Sweden will operate Gripen to 2040 there is a need to keep the workers at Saab occupied. Otherwise Saab will not have the knowledge and personell to continue to support the Gripen C/D. Most probably this will result in that the Swedish Air Force will 2012 order a slow but continuous update of their existing Gripen C/D to E/F standard.

One reason for the delay with ordering the Gripen NG is that Volvo is lobbying for an updated RM12+ (F404) instead of the F414 engine. This has resulted in that the Swedish politicians want to study what can be done by updating the existing C/D aircraft to C/D+ instead of E/F. In practicality this will result in keeping the existing airframe and updating the avionics. It is unclear if the C/D can carry an AESA radar since this radar requires a larger nose section, more power and cooling.

The new CEO of Saab has however made two major errors during the last six months:

- He has acknowledged that there has been illegal money transacted during the sales of Gripen to South Africa, but he has put all the blame on then-partner BAE. This will result in three problems for Saab. 1 - South Africa has a need to show their voters hat they take this type of accusations very seriously. In the worst case scenario, the deal could be off. In he best case scenario Saab will have very frosty discussions with the South African poiliticians when it comes to future upgrades and continuous operations with Gripen. Since the South African economy is very bad, there is a need for South Africa to decrease the payments to Saab. 2 - Future customers of Gripen might be afraid that their business will be exposed since Saab did not keep their business secrets for themselves. 3 - Future cooperations with other European aircraft manufacturers will be affected. Who wants to work with a partner who sells you out when hings go sour? At this time when there is a need for European cooperation it could be disastrous for Saabs future. The bribes in themselves are not the big problem in this case. In the weapon industry bribes are common. E.g. BAE are accused of bribing Saudi Arabia during the sales of Eurofighter and EADS are accused for bribing South Africa during the sales of A-400M.

- He has ordered a new design bureau to be started in London. The aim of this bureau is to design a carrier version of Gripen, the "Sea Gripen". This is probably a result of the lost deal in India. The Indian deal said nothing about carrier capability, but India has carriers and in the future it migh be the case that they want a replacement for the existing Mig-29. Rafale has already a carrier version and Eurofigher has started up design works for a carrier version. (Maybe the Eurofigher will also be used on the new Queen Elisabeth carrier since it has been redesigned to be used with F-35C instead of F-35B?). In the case of the Gripen I think this will just be wasted money. To qualify an aircraft for carrier operations means more than just a tail-hook and stronger under-carriage.

What should Saab do?

The Gripen has one very big advantage considering the bad economy in the world. It is cheaper to buy and much cheaper to operate compared to the competitors. But in he same way as for Rafale, Eurofighter and F-35 there has been a gradual change in requirements from a lightweight fighter to a multi-role fighter capable of everything. Instead of trying to compete with the others, which will probably result in a better but also more expensive version of the Gripen, do the other way around. Make it cheaper! Be the F-5/F-16 of the 21:st century instead of the F-35. Focus on what Saab always has done well and that is indigenous solutions. I would for example want to see close integration of he Gripen with UAV. Use UAV as remote sensors for the Gripen. What about a clustered radar or electronic warfare system using a number of small UAV? Send in a UAV to identify argets at long distance and then fire precision weapons lead by the UAV. Use he backseat of a Gripen D to control the UAV. Saab has in their business portfolio the Skeldar UAV which is a very good solution for future CAS operations. Use the Skeldar as a tool for the FAC to lead attacks with the Gripen.

Saabs weakness is the lack of support from the Swedish government. The buzzword when it comes to military equipment is to buy COTS from the international market to reduce the cost. Local development should be avoided unless there are no other alternatives. The Swedish press is also very negative to weapon manufacturing in Sweden, which of course affects the political will. In Sweden export of military equipment is by law forbidden. Each business case has to be approved by the Swedish government export control office. This might stop some customers since they fear the Swedish politicians will stop supporting the Gripen if they are used in a conflict that Sweden does not agree with. During the international sales of the Gripen there has for many years been very low involvement by the politicians. But lately in the Brazilian campaign the interest has increased. Maybe the Swedish politicians has understood the need for political backup. Unless Saab finds some more international sales, the Swedish Air Force has to finance all future development of the Gripen by themselves.

The future
EDA - European Defence Agency has started FAS4Europe, a study to list key aircraft technology companies in Europe 3035+.

The objective of the study is to identify the key industrial capabilities together with a proposed implementation plan.

Most European countries of course want that their local aircraft manufacturer will be among the selected ones 2035+. The tricky part of assembling the list of possible manufacturers in 2035 is to decide who will not be on the list any more.

Is there a European budget big enough to continue with five major (and a number of smaller) aircraft manufacturers in he future? I believe not. But it will be a big fight to see which country that stop supporting their local aircraft manufacturer first. Probably the next European joint project will be a UAV. The Neuron project is a starting point. BAE (Taranis), EADS (Talarion), Saab (Skeldar) all have their own UAV projects ongoing, but in order to prepare the way for a future aircraft I believe the best way to start is with the UAV.

However Europe has already started to use American UAV system. Sweden just bought the Shadow 200, Germany the Euro Hawk (a European version of the US Global Hawk) and Raptor and UK and Italy bought the Reaper. The competition in the UAV market is tough. And there are a lot of smaller industries that do not build aircraft that see business opportunities. A big drawback for the aircraft manufacturers is that they are mostly to expensive to buy from.

The next step is to arrange with a consortium as for the Eurofighter, including Saab and Dassault. It is not an easy solution. The Tornado and the Eurofighter projects have not always been smooth rides. The local industries will manufacture their own specialties to all buyers and the also do final assembly of whatever number of aircraft each country order.

The alternative is of course to buy a American, Russian or Chinese aircraft and then let the local industries deliver parts of the aircraft and do final assembly. Much in the same way as for the F-16/F-18 today. The F-35 will have major parts built in UK, but all final assembly will be done in the US.

Lockheed Martin is the F-35 prime contractor, while Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are principal partners in the project.

Final assembly of the F-35 takes place at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, Texas. Northrop Grumman Corporation in Palmdale and El Segundo, California will manufacture the center-fuselage, and the aft fuselage and tails will be manufactured by BAE Systems in Samlesbury, England. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth will manufacture the forward fuselage and wings.

What is best for the European aircraft manufacturers. To build parts of many aircraft or the whole of just a few?

There are many questions. But one thing is clear. If the European defence industries does not cooperate very soon, there will be very little left of them in 2035+.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Canada and Denmark at War!

What!? Two of the worlds most peace-loving countries fighting. Can this be true? Well, in a few years this might very well happen. A Falkland War look alike scenario is at this very moment developing.

What is the cause of the hurt feelings between these countries?

The US Geological Survey estimate that the Arctic region can have up to 22% of the worlds total oil and gas resources. So far these resources has been out of reach due to the harsh environment. But according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climat Changes the Global Warming will affect the Artcic region resulting in less ice. This will change the geopolitical strategic value of the Arctic region. The surrounding countries (Canada, USA, Russia, Iceland, Denmark and Norway) of course want to have their share of the money.

Less ice will also change the possible transit routes between Europe, USA and Asia. The Norteast and the Northwest passage will be possible to use. Ships will no longer need to use the southern routes through the Panama canal, the Suez canal or south of he Cape of Good hope. Russian ships have already started to use the Norteast passage, but will other countries be allowed to pass free of charge? In Canada there has been proposals to change the name of the Northwest passage to the Canadian Nortwest passage to indicate who owns this transit line.

There has already been many incidents in this region between fishermen from mainly the UK and Iceland. In the 1970:s there was the famous Cod Wars and today they are fighting about Mackerel. If fish can result in fighting between civilized countries, what then can oil and gas?

But what about the conflict between Denmark and Canada?

The Northern Research Forum has issued a report analyzing the countries that have legal claims in the Arctic region.

The priority areas of Canada’s Northern Strategy are: 1) Exercising our Arctic sovereignty; 2) Promoting social and economic development; 3) Protecting the North’s environmental heritage; and 4) Improving and devolving northern governance (Government of Canada 2009 and 2010).

The joint draft strategy of Denmark and Greenland “contains a series of objectives, which is twofold: 1) Supporting and strengthening Greenland's development towards increased autonomy; and 2) Maintaining the Commonwealth's position as a major player in the Arctic” (Namminersornerullutik Oqartussat, Udenrigsministeriet, 2008)

Denmark is a small country in the Scandinavian region. But what many people forget is that Denmark has large territories (Greenland and the Faroe Islands) in the Arctic region.

In order to protect the Danish interests in the Arctic region, Denmark has military presence on Greenland. All units are led by the Island Command Greenland.

The Thule Airbase was for many years used by US fighters and bombers during he cold war as an forward operating base in the defence against the Soviet Union. This since the shortest route between these countries was crossing the North Pole. The airbase is still used today, but the nuclear bombers are no more.

The Royal Danish Navy has a number of ocean going vessels to patrol the Arctic region. Most interesting is the three Iver Huitfeldt class corvettes. Together with the two Absalon command and support ships and ice hardened patrol ships of Knud Rasmussen class, Denmark has a very good capability to operate in the Arctic region all around the year in all weather conditions.

The Danish army has the Sirius Sledge Patrol (Slædepatruljen Sirius) a dog sledge unit that patrols the border of Greenland. This unit is considered to be one of the best trained special forces units in the world.

The piece of land that Denmark and Canada is arguing about is the small "Hans Ö" island located in the Nares Strait between Danish Greenland and Canadian Ellesmere Island.

Visa större karta

This island is small and seemingly worthless, but the owner of the island also controls the Nares Strait and the shortest route between the Atlantic and the Pacific that is not part of Canadian territory. All other routes through the Northwest passage go well inside the Canadian territories.

The island was discovered by Hans Hendrikssen (a danish native from Greenland) that took part in the american polar expedition of 1871-73 led by Charles Francis Halls.

In 1984 the danish minister of Greenland, Tom Höyem, flew with a helicopter to Hans Ö and raised the Danish flag. He also put up a sign "Welcome to the danish island". In 1988 the danish patrol ship HMDS Tulugaq visited the island and raised a new flag, In 1995 soldiers from Thule flew to the island and raised another flag.

June 13, 2005 Canadian soldiers raised the Canadian flag and built a inushuk. A week later the Canadian minister of defence, Stephen Harper, visited the island. Stephen Harper has stated that if needed Canada will patrol the area with armed ice breakers to protect "their territorial integrity". He has repeated his message after becoming Prime Minister.

"With immense natural wealth and the growing potential for new global trade routes, the strategic importance of Canada's Arctic is heightened as never before," Harper told reporters and military personnel aboard the frigate.

Harper repeated his oft-quoted line about Arctic sovereignty — "use it or lose it" — saying a national government's foremost responsibility is to protect the integrity of its country's borders.

The Canadian navy is however not very impressed by the idea, since here is a lack of budget and he ships in themselves are not of much use for the navy.

The Tories initially started out in 2006 insisting that three heavily armed icebreakers be constructed, but the estimated cost of $1 billion per ship and the fact they could be used only in the Arctic forced a retreat.

They eventually settled on a proposal for six to eight patrol ships capable of operating in first-year ice. That was quietly changed last year to six ships, according to documents and interviews with officials.

I don´t believe it will go as far as a full scale war between Canada and Denmark. But the Falklands War clearly shows that interest in regions of strategic value and where there might be oil or gas can lead to war. There is however a clear risk of a low level conflict with incidents involving Canadian and Danish patrol ships in the area, much like during the Cod War of the 1970:s. I don´t think it will go as far as the conflict between Greece and Turkey about the small islands in the Aegean Sea.

Read the Canadian American Strategic Review Part 1 and Part 2.

The strategic importance of he Arctic region will of course affect even Sweden. Sweden has for long had interests in this area with a lot of polar expeditions. Most famous is maybe the fatal André polar expedition of 1897, but for many years Swedish ice breakers has been used to explore the North Pole. Sweden has also signed a one-sided declaration of solidarity stating that Sweden will support he other Nordic countries if needed. There has been discussions with Iceland and Norway to perform air defence missions over the North Sea. Swedish fighter squadrons regularly perform air combat exercises cross the Norwegian and Finnish border and Swedish troops yearly train in Norway during exercises such as "Cold Challenge", "Cold Response" and "Joint Winter".

Read this FOI report about oil and gas in the Arctic region (in Swedish, but English summary) and listen to this "Vetandets Värld" radio documentary about the Northwest passage (in Swedish).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Italy is Pulling Back

Italy is starting to pull back units from the NATO "Unified Protector" mission over Libya. The reason is lack of money. The financial crisis in Europe has resulted in Greece having to get loans from the European Central Bank in order to stabilize their economy. Italy and Spain is next on the PIIGS list of countries who are very near the same financial disaster as Greece. Both Italy and Spain are involved in "Unified Protector" and probably both countries will reduce their involvement in the operation.

First to leave is the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi.

"We have cut back costs in Libya, from 142 million euros forecast in the first half of the year to less than 60 million for the second half," Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said after a government meeting.

The news came after Italy's Cabinet moved to cut spending military spending.

The plan had been drawn up to pull the Garibaldi, its three fighter jets and 1,000 personnel out of the mission as they were "no longer necessary", La Russa said.

What will the future be for the Italian Air Force? Lt. Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis, Chief of Staff, Italian Air Force has in an interview discussed his view on "Unified Protector" and the Air Force future. Focus is of course the replacement of Tornado and AMX with F-35A/B aircraft.

Q. The Italian Air Force has planned to replace its AMX fighter bombers with the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing F-35B, starting from 2014, before replacing its Tornados with the F-35A. But Defense Undersecretary Guido Crosetto has hinted that buying just F-35As might be the order of the day, given the delays in the STOVL program.

A. We still have a need for both an F-35A and B. The delay of the B is not a problem. We are ready to reconsider the whole thing in light of the probation period for the B. We are ready to switch to the A as the initial order. We do not forsee IOC [initial operational capability] before 2018 in Italy for either type, and the first ones will remain in the U.S. for training purposes. The buildup of the F-35A fleet would be at the end of the decade, as the Tornados draw closer to being phased out.

Q. One advantage of the getting the Bs first was that the AMX, which they are due to replace, will be retired before the Tornados. What happens if the AMX phaseout starts before the Bs arrive?

A. AMX phaseout will start gradually, and it is scheduled to take place without losing significant operational capabilities due to the fact that aircraft with the latest upgrades will be dismissed last. In this way, we will still perform all the assigned missions, only with fewer aircraft.

The UK has used their Eurofighters for strike missions. But Italy has focused on using Eurofighters for CAP - Combat Air Patrol to secure the NFZ - No Fly Zone. Initially this was performed by F-16 ADF. The air to ground missions have been performed by Tornado IDS and AMX. SEAD missions by Tornado ECR and IDS. Recce missions by Tornado IDS. Italy are planning to remove the Eurofighters altogether from Unified Protector since there is little need for fighters over Libya and instead increase the number of AMX involved. This is of course also a financial decision since the Eurofighters are more expensive to operate than the AMX.

The Italian Eurofighters have during June been on Iceland for training. Maybe they will support NATO in the air defence over the Northern Seas together with UK and Norway instead of the Libyan mission? In this way UK can focus more on the Libya mission.

Will Italy be able to continue with the introduction of both Eurofighter and F-35?

There is one big advantage by operating two different types of aircraft. If there is e technical malfunction that affects the whole fleet of aircraft there is an alternative solution to be able to continue flying. That is one of the major reasons why USAAF traditionally has been operating at least two different types of fighter aircraft and also why there are at least two different design bureaus involved in an offer to produce the next fighter aircraft. But this is also a very costly solution. Two aircraft types results in two logistic needs for spare parts etc and the need for training pilots and technical personnel on two types. However since Italy buys the aircraft together with other nations they can use other nations facilities for training and other nations logistics for international missions.

Tranche 3B of the Eurofighter development has been put on ice. This means no AESA-radar for the Eurofighter and bad news for UK/Italy company Selex Galileo. But since Italian Alenia Aeronautica is a member of the Eurofighter consortium, they will most likely put political pressure on the Italian government to continue with the Eurofighter upgrades. Italy has a big part in the Eurofighter production.

19.5% Italy (121). Alenia Aeronautica: Left wing, outboard flaperons, rear fuselage sections

Note: Italy has already cut down the number of Eurofighters on order from 121 to 96.

My guess is that the Italian Air Force will have to cancel their order of the F-35B. The rising prize of the F-35 in combination with the Italian bad economy will result in cuts in their Air Force. But there are Italian companies involved in the local production of F-35 and they will of course also put political pressure on the Italian government.

I also believe that it will be very expensive for the Italian Air Force to have both Eurofighter and F-35 with the same type of capabilities. Most probably the Eurofighters will focus on the Air dominance missions (as they have done so far during Unified Protector) with a second hand role of doing air to ground missions while the F-35 will focus on what the Tornado and AMX do well ant that is strike and recce missions. The Eurofighters will most likely never be upgraded to increase their air to ground capability. I am not exactly sure what Tranches the Italian Eurofighters belong to and if all will be retrofitted to Tranche 2 standard or only to Tranche 1 Block 5 standard by the R2 update program. Today only the UK has Typhoon FGR4 with capability to carry Litening Laser Designator Pods and Paveway Laser Guided Bombs. (The picture above is from flight testing).

Here is a summary of all Eurofighter Tranche and Block variants.

It will be interesting to see which aircraft manufacturer (EADS, Lockheed Martin) that has invested the most in Italian aircraft industry. My money is on that the Eurofighter will win this financial battle.

Together with the cuts in the Air Force Italy will most likely be one of the first nations to start cut their forces in Afghanistan. Today there are 4.200 troops in Afghanistan. Since Obama has set the time line for 2014 withdrawal, this gives the excuse for Italy to start removing their troops. The economy will in this case be a more decisive factor than actual success in stabilizing Afghanistan.

The bad Italian economy can affect Sweden's military operations as well.

- Italian withdrawal from Libya will increase the need for other countries to continue. Swedish Gripens fly 25% of all recce missions over Libya and deliver 37% of all photos produced. The UK has sent four extra Recce Tornado down to the Mediterranean, but there will always be need for intelligence. Maybe Italy can provide extra intelligence with their Raptor UCAV, but they are still not yet operational. This might also put extra pressure on Sweden to start using the Gripen in air-to-ground role, but I suspect that even if NATO asks for this type of capability, there will be no Swedish political will to do these types of mission.

- In Afghanistan the Swedish government is planning to remove the Swedish troops by 2014. The removal were planned to start 2011, but so far nothing has happened! On the contrary Sweden has sent down to HKP 10 Super Puma helicopters that will be replaced by HKP 16 Blackhawks in 2013 and there is ongoing plans to send down Shadow 200 UAV at the end of 2011. There has been very few political discussions on how the other nations troop removals will affect the security in Mazar-i Sharif and how to synchronize the Swedish removal with that of the others. If some nations, e.g. Italy start to emove their troops ahead of the major pull back, then other countries will have to take a larger part of the overall mission. Since the economy of Sweden is one of the strongest in Europe I would not be very surprised if NATO asks Sweden to increase rather than decrease the number of troops in Afghanistan until 2014.