Friday, January 27, 2012

The wind turbine war

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

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

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

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

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

The report points out three specific conditions for Sweden:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SVT, Ny Teknik

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Band-Aid Defence

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

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

There are many examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The cost of transformation

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

First some background.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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