The London-based defence think-tank Royal United Services Institute, a strategic partner of NDI, this week released a report on the state of military procurement in the UK, Decision Time: The National Security Capability Review 2017-2018 and Defence. The report attracted wide press coverage, with the author, Prof. Malcolm Chalmers, saying that delaying tough budget decisions eroding UK’s military reputation. He highlights that Government paralysis, partly as a result of Brexit, has led to delayed budget decisions, expected this month will not now report until the summer, when the Defence Modernisation Programme, announced by the Secretary of State in January, is expected to report. Prof. Chalmers writes that “The government is increasingly perceived to be unable to make difficult decisions, distracted by Brexit and unable to play an international role that is commensurate with the resources it devotes to this purpose. The longer this policy paralysis continues, the greater the risk to the UK’s reputation as a reliable ally.” Predicting a number of politically sensitive sacrifices, Prof. Chalmers concludes that a slow the pace of deployment of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and a delay to the modernisation of the Apache helicopter fleet could be considered. He also foresaw reductions in the overall size of the Army and the Royal Marines. Nevertheless, the review could lead to fresh investment in new technologies relevant to defence such as artificial intelligence, improved communications, cyber and electronic warfare, and better protection against missiles.
Artec announces plans for UK assembly of Boxer
Artec, the joint venture between German engineering firms Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall, announced on Monday that it plans to build and assemble its eight-wheel Boxer armoured personnel carrier at Pearson Engineering in Newcastle, should MOD select the capability to fill the Army’s Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) requirement. BAE Systems and Thales UK would also form part of a British supply chain that Artec estimate would secure or create at least 1,000 jobs - 60% of Boxer’s value creation and 100% of final assembly would be in the UK the company said. MOD is understood to be close to a decision on whether to buy the Boxer without a competition, something that has been prevaricated on for over two years. However, while this approach would potentially mean the quicker delivery of capability, potential rivals bidders, including General Dynamics, Nexter and Patria, are understood to have pushed MOD to follow their own stated policy of preferring competition-based procurement as a means of ensuring best value for money. The Government’s prosperity agenda has thus become a key battleground, with Artec keen to show that Boxer will support the UK supply chain. Whether or not a decision will be announced before the Defence Modernisation Review reports in the summer remains to be seen.
France announces 2019-2025 military budget plan
On Thursday the French Ministère des Armées revealed its 2019-2025 military budget plan, setting €295 billion on spending, which included larger orders of armoured vehicles, and studies on next-generation nuclear submarines and airborne nuclear missiles. That spending plan compares to €190 billion in the present 2014-2018 budget cycle, or a 35% increase. This is seen as part of President Macron delivering on his election promises to renew the French armed forces. Spending would rise €1.7 billion each year to hit €44 billion in 2023, compares to the 2018 budget of €34.2 billion. Macron has pledged that France will, by 2025, meet its NATO target of spending 2% equivalent of GDP. A total €112.5 billion will be spent on equipment in 2019-23, of which €25 billion earmarked for studies on the next-generation nuclear submarine and airborne nuclear missile.
Asked to confirm the in-service date for the GWS 35 Sea Ceptor anti-air missile that will be integrated with the Royal Navy's Type 23 frigate fleet, Guto Bebb MP, Minister for Defence Procurement, replied that, on current plans, the the Sea Ceptor air defence system on the Royal Navy's Type 23 frigates will be operational in March 2018.
Asked how many aerospace jobs in North Wales are sustained by contracts with MOD, and what assessment has been made of the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU on the industry in that region, Mr Bebb stated that North Wales remains a cornerstone in the UK's aerospace industry; RAF Valley is a significant employer in the region, providing advanced fast jet training for the RAF. Components for European-based F-35 aircraft will also be serviced and maintained at the Defence Electronics and Components Agency; work which will sustain hundreds of highly-skilled jobs in the region. Data routinely published by MOD on regional expenditure with UK industry and supported employment shows that around 5,250 jobs in Wales are supported by defence expenditure. With regard to the impact of Brexit, Mr Bebb said that MOD is working closely with defence industry and other Government departments to understand the implications and opportunities presented by this. He said that the European defence sector is closely integrated and leading companies have a presence right across Europe including North Wales.