MBDA and FCAS: Building Weapons for the “Combat Cloud”


By Pierre Tran

Paris Air Show 2019

MBDA, a missile builder, displayed at the Paris air show life-size models of concepts for cruise missiles and tactical smart weapons as options for the Future Combat Air System, a European plan for a new fighter jet and other weapons.

A Spear missile was also on show at the MBDA exhibition chalet, signaling the European company’s targeting sales to operators of the F-35 fighter.

The UK’s development contract for the air-to-ground weapon opened up a global market on the joint strike fighter and prospects on the British Tempest new air combat systems project.

These displays give a glimpse of weapons which might be used to outsmart the anti-access, area denial systems deployed by enemy forces.

For allies planning a deep strike mission, there are mock ups of concepts for subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles, potential replacements to the Storm Shadow/Scalp British and French weapons.

The former would weigh around one ton, fly more than 1,000 km to hit hard targets such as concrete bunkers and command centers.

The latter would have speed of Mach 2 and more, and offer agility in flight.

For tactical strike, there are models of Smart Glider and a powered version, Smart Cruiser.

The former would not have an engine and would be guided by a targeting system of infrared, laser and GPS. The latter would have a motor and range of some 200 km.

Both these would be part of the FCAS combat cloud, connected to fighter pilots and ground control, loaded with artificial intelligence for a target designator, with their use set by rules of engagement.

These weapons could be used as a “swarm” to saturate air defense systems such as the S300 or S400 missile.

The destructive power of warheads could be scaled up or down according to operational need, with the weapons small enough to fit six units on a contact point. That would allow up to 18 weapons on a Rafale, or four units in each of the internal weapons bay on the FCAS fighter.

MBDA invested company funds on studies for the Smart Glider, and a couple of countries are interested in ordering the weapon, an executive said.

There are also two types of small drones weighing 150 kg and 250 kg, dubbed remote carriers. These are derived from Smart Glider, and designed to carry sensors and “effectors” such as electronic warfare payloads to confuse or hit an integrated air defense system.

Such a powered, low-cost drone might emulate a Rafale, tricking the defense system and act as decoy. Speeds of Mach 0.75 to 0.9 on a small turbojet are envisaged.

Another type of concept weapon consists of a small anti-missile missile, a last chance “ultimate defense” a pilot would fire against an approaching missile.

This could be a “hard kill” weapon working on kinetic strike, and would be a complement to self-defense tools such as chaff, flares and electronic jamming.

There could be at least four of these weapons, each weighing less than 10 kg and less than one meter long. MBDA is pitching the concept to Airbus and Dassault Aviation for the FCAS fighter.

The Meteor missile is also on show, and the reach of this long-range weapon could be extended. There are studies for an upgrade with a multimode seeker for future models.

MBDA signed up as a partner on the FCAS joint concept study led by Airbus and Dassault.


Also, see the following:

The Combat Cloud at the Heart of the Future Combat Air System

Bolsonaro and Sons: A Brazilian Update, June 2019

By Kenneth Maxwell

The government of Brazil continues to face major challenges.

Many are generic and long standing and not all of them are the result of President Bolsonaro’s “method” of governing.

But many are.

And they are assisted mightily by the antics of Bolsonaro’s three sons, Flávio, Carlos and Eduardo. All three are elected officials. All of them highly ideological, extremely active, and very disruptive.

But then so was their father during his 27 years in Congress, so no one should be surprised by this.

Brazil has known the influence of family cartels before, yet they usually acted behind the scenes and with discretion.

The Bolsonaro family is far from being subtle.

And Olavo Carvalho, their “guru” in Richmond, Virginia, with his scatological tweets is even less so.

The major hope of those in the financial markets (both domestic and international) was that his super-minister of the economy, the university of Chicago trained economist, Paulo Guedes, would deliver on his promise of a radical reform of the state dominated economic model perused by Brazil over the past half century, by cutting back state intervention, and by privatisation, and above all by pushing through a reform of the system of social security (providência).

All economists recognise that the current system is unsustainable.

But social security reform has always been extremely difficult in Brazil because so many vested interests are affected, and these have always been able to effectively lobby in Congress to prevent any real change. This was always going to be a difficult nut to crack.

Not surprisingly it is proving to be so.

Bolsonaro promised Guedes a free hand in economic policy.

This has not prevented Bolsonaro interfering with appointments at the secondary level which has led to resignation of the head of the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDS), Joaquim Levy, on Sunday June 16th. Levy is widely respected both domestically and internationally, having been a leading figure at the world bank in Washington DC., as well as Dilma Rousseff’s minister of the economy, until he resigned in the face of her contestant interference.

History has repeated itself. Bolsonaro was not happy with Levy’s appointments and he was in effect fired.

The financial markers reacted negatively to this move.

Paulo Guedes moved quickly to appoint Gustavo Montezano (38) from the desestatização (literally the “de-state-ization” ) unit in the ministry of the  economy. Montezano is a young former investment banker with BTG Pactual, one of Latin America’s largest investment banks, who headed the bank’s commodities related business in London.

But perhaps most significantly he is a friend of Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo. He lived in the same building as the Bolsonaro’s in Rio de Janeiro during the 1990, and is the same age as Eduardo Bolsonaro (38).

Levy’s resignation, however, revealed once again Bolsonaro’s very limited capacity for loyalty, or to fully back any of his appointments, and especially when they run into one of his sons, who do not hesitate to take to their “tweets” to undermine and defeat their perceived enemies, egged on of course from afar by their foul mouthed “guru” of Richmond.

The second major constraint on Bolsonaro’s plans has been the attack on Sérgio Moro, his super minister of justice and public security, and by extension on the whole anti-corruption “car wash” investigations that Sergio Moro headed when he was a federal judge in Curitiba, Paraná.

It is ironic that Glen Greenwald, the American lawyer who was at the heart of the publication of secrets US government classified information involving Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, should now be at the heart of the downloading of the confidential communications between Sérgio Moro and Deltan Dallagnol, the head of the federal “lava jato” anti-corruption task force in Rio de Janeiro.

This is the result of the massive hack of the private communications between Moro and Dallagnol, published beginning on June 10th, on-line by “The Intercept” an internet site funded by the American billionaire founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, and run in part by Glen Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro with his husband, David Miranda.

David Miranda is now a federal  deputy from Rio de Janeiro, for the socialism and liberty party (psol) having taken the seat of Jean Wyllys, who is now in self imposed exile after death threats.

These threats need to be taken very seriously in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro, were a black lesbian council woman, Marielle, and her driver, were assassinated by milícias linked to the police and, it is alleged, to Bolsonaro’s sons.

The fallout from the “intercept” hacks has already greatly weakened the position of Sergio Moro.

He has become more depended on the support of Jair Bolsonaro, and the hacked messages has called into question the whole of the lava jato investigation, and above all the conviction and jailing of former two-term president Lula (as well of course of the many leading politicians and businessmen caught up in the massive Petrobras corruption scandals.)

Welcome to Brazil in 2019!

Dr. Maxwell is currently visiting Brazil.

The featured photo is found here:



SAMI at the Paris Air Show 2019: Highlighting an L3 Partnership

Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) has come to its first major air show by having a chalet at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

According to Arab News in an article published June 12, 2019:

Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI) will participate in the 53rd edition of the International Paris Air Show, the world’s premier and largest event dedicated to the aviation and space industry. The event will take place from June 17 to 23 at the Paris Le Bourget Exhibition Center in Paris, France. It will be officially inaugurated by French President Emmanuel Macron. The exhibition will be attended by SAMI’s board members, executives and senior management. 

Featuring an exhibit indoor booth and an outdoor chalet at the show, SAMI will showcase its portfolio of military products and services spanning four business divisions, namely aeronautics, land systems, weapons and missiles, and defense electronics. The company will also explore new business and investment opportunities and the possibility of forming new partnerships and agreements at the trade show, which is expected to attract nearly 350,000 visitors, as well as 2,500 exhibitors who will put their latest defense industries solutions and technologies on display.

And according to the SAMI website:

The vision for SAMI is as follows:

To be among the top 25 military industry ‎companies in the world by 2030, combining the latest technologies and the best national talent to develop military products and services at par with international standards, and achieve the Kingdom’s self-sufficiency in military industries.

And the mission is described as follows:

To develop cutting-edge technologies, manufacture world-class products, and provide high-quality services to scale up the military industries sector and secure necessary supplies for our clients

Second Line of Defense attended a major event involving SAMI in which they signed a keystone agreement on June 18, 2019 with L3 to work together on developing joint capabilities with Saudi Arabia. The SAMI officials at the ceremony highlighted the importance of the agreement and also the incremental approach to working on building out local capabilities in conjunction with L3.

According to the Press Release which followed the signing ceremony:


L3 Technologies (NYSE:LLL) announced today that it has signed a joint venture agreement with Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) to collaborate on electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) and special mission systems projects within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The contract was signed on June 18 in the SAMI Chalet during the Paris Air Show.

In February 2019, L3 and SAMI announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) relating to the joint venture.

“Through this partnership, L3 will further establish a long-term presence within the KSA,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, L3’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President.

“This venture with SAMI, which includes research and development, manufacturing, training and sustainment activities, represents a key milestone in the further development and execution of L3’s international growth strategy.”

“We are pleased to partner with L3 as we move towards our goal of creating a Center of Excellence in the Kingdom,” said H.E. Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Chairman of SAMI.

“As we continue to support objectives tied to Saudi Vision 2030, this long-term partnership with L3 will help grow the sensor and mission systems industry while creating a comprehensive through-life support structure for our military customers.”

L3 Technologies designs and manufactures industry-leading multi-spectral and multi-sensor EO/IR imaging and targeting sensor systems in addition to fully customizable mission systems for air, land and maritime vessels.

Together, L3 and SAMI will indigenously design and implement these advanced technologies and solutions for a variety of customer-specific applications from a Center of Excellence that will be established in the Kingdom.

 This ceremony was a follow-up to the February 2019 L3 and SAMI announcement of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with regard to their joint venture on elector-optical and special mission systems projects within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

With the coming of the new L3/Harris combined company, the SAMI partner can bring additional prospective capabilities to the evolving partnership.



The US Logistics Systems: Are We Ready for Full-Spectrum Crisis Operations?

By Robbin Laird

Recently, the Williams Foundation held a seminar, which addressed the core question: how sustainable was the Australian Defence Force if it faced a major regional crisis?

The challenge is rooted in part that the forces of the liberal democracies, which have participated in the Middle Eastern land wars, have shaped a Middle Eastern mindset with regard to logistics. Forces have been maintained by logistics centers fed by commercial resupply systems and with an ability for allies to support one another, without worrying about a peer competitor with the capabilities and the intention to disrupt and destroy the logistics system.

One of the key speakers at the Williams Foundation Seminar on April 11, 2019, was Lt. Col. Beaumont. Beaumont is an army logistician but one with a focus on joint logistics support.

According to Beaumont: “Logistics will give us options and the flexibility to respond in a crisis as well as defining key constraints on freedom of action.”

In a capitalist society, of course, much that feeds a logistics machine in times of crisis or war is outside of the control of the military and is really about the capability to mobilize resources from the private sector in a timely and effective manner. In effect, logistics is about taking resources out of the economy and making them available for the battlefield.

According to Beaumont, the main focus of logistics in the recent past has been tactical, but as we face a peer-to-peer environment, it is important to take a more strategic perspective,

Beaumont also highlighted that one cannot assume even if one is operating within a coalition that the coalition partners will be able to sustain you in a crisis. “A key factor is what the level of mobilization has been achieved before a crisis to sustain a force. There is a long lead time to turn on the spickets from industry, and that is not just in Australia.”

But how much better off is the United States than Australia?

Obviously, the US has a major advantage compared to Australia with regard to the size, scope and capabilities of the defense industrial base.

The challenge is different in a fundamental way – is the US largely domestically supported sustainment system through depots really up to higher tempo global operations facing the US in a peer competitor driven crisis?

The key here is to have sufficient available assets at the point of interest, attack or defense, which can be sustained through a period of crisis.

In other words, the goal is not just to show up; but to prevail through the duration of a crisis.

First to the fight, but without a durability to continue the fight, is not a strategic motto, I would choose to embrace.

And it is precisely the structure of the US logistics SYSTEM and its current CON-Ops that is the soft underbelly of our ability to prevail in a crisis.

A case in point is the globally deployed Osprey fleet.

Here we have a unique warfighting capability, unprecedented in warfare, globally deployed, able to operate from land or sea-bases and able to project power in unique ways in military history.

But the logistical system will shackle the fleet’ s operational effectiveness in a sustained crisis, but simply not having parts located in an effective manner globally, and having no common fleet logistics IT and parts identification system for the global fleet which could allow the Marines, or the Air Force, or the Navy or the Japanese to identify parts close to the point of operation, grab those parts and use them on a need to operate basis.

Rather, the system is Balkanized by service or customer, with no right to swap out parts except by personal connections and networks and personal handshakes.

This is not a crisis dominance approach; but a hand holding approach to the domestically determine US logistical system. A good example is the Osprey fleet.  The small number of initial Ospreys has grown into a large fleet operated by the USMC, the USAF, and now the US Navy and with the acquisition by Japan of Ospreys, the first foreign customer of the aircraft.

And the aircraft operates worldwide on the aircraft, and in the words of MAG-26 Commander, Col. Boniface, and “soon the sun will never set on the Osprey as a globally deployed aircraft.”

But unfortunately, the sustainment side of the creation of the globally deployed aircraft has not been matched by shaping a global sustainment enterprise. It is clear that to get full value from a globally deployed platform like the Osprey, it is crucial to have a logistical system in place which can allow for sustainable global operations at the point of interest or attack, rather than simply waiting for parts to show up from the next Fed Ex shipment to a remote location from a depot based in the United States.

This is especially important as the US and its allies face 21stcentury authoritarian powers who will also focus on the disruption of an already Balkanized logistical operation.

During my visit to 2ndMarine Air Wing in April 2019, I had a chance to discuss the challenge with a very experienced Marine Corps logistics officer, Major Paul M. Herrle. He is currently is head of MALS-26 which is part of MAG-26.

Throughout the discussion, Major Herrle underscored that with the growth of the Osprey numbers, there now was in place a large fleet.  But that it was not managed as such.  A core point is that even though parts are common throughout the fleet, the USAF has one sustainment system, the Marines another, and with new members of Osprey nation, yet other sustainment systems in play.

He argued that it was increasingly crucial to have an integrated sustainment system and one, which could flow parts to a globally deployed force as well.

He put the challenge this way.

“The USAF supports its ospreys from England; but we can not tap into that support structure to support our SP-MAGTF force in Europe, for example. Right now I cannot use USAF parts if I need them.  I cannot touch the parts on the ship as well.  I cannot do lateral support from the amphibious ships parts as well for SP-MAGTF.”

He noted that a great deal of his work was working through his networks to find ways to fill the gaps, but from his point of view, this is clearly not the way to do business, especially with a mature global fleet of operational aircraft.

The USMC is working to take the multiple configurations of the Osprey and building a common configuration, something being worked at the Boeing plant in Philadelphia. But alongside this effort, it would make sense to have a common sustainment system, and one which has global hubs from which parts can flow to the fleet, both in normal operations and in crisis situations. As the USMC is the nation’s crisis response force, there is a clear need for a sustainment system which could actually function as a core element of the strategic capability to prevail in a crisis.

But as it stands right now, and this is my perspective, and not one I am attributing to Major Herrle, we have created a significant strategic vulnerability, which clearly our peer adversaries will seek to exploit.  Rather than being able to leverage a globally sustained fleet of global aircraft, we have a Balkanized logistical system which is designed from the outset to sub-optimize performance.

Perhaps we can do that in slo-mo war but certainly not in full spectrum crisis management, where we can assume high tempo operations will be required.

The featured photo:


French Sailors wait for a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, to land aboard French amphibious assault ship LHD Tonnerre (L9014).

The Tonnerre, with embarked Marines and Sailors from Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51, 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, is conducting maritime security operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to ensure regional stability, freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Wesley Timm/Released)

France Arms Its Reapers


By Pierre Tran

Paris – France is due in November to arm its Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance drone with the GBU-12 smart bomb, with the Hellfire missile to be fitted next year, a defense source said.

The French Air Force arms the Mirage 2000 fighter jet with the GBU-12, said the source, adding, “The next step is the Hellfire at the end of 2020.”

The GBU-12 is a laser-guided bomb.

A delivery of six armed Reaper UAVs to the Air Force is in the 2019-2025 military budget law, allowing France to follow the British and US in flying weapons on the Reaper fleets.

“The GBU-12 capability will be available from the end of 2019,” said a spokesman for the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) procurement office. The capacity for the Hellfire will be available at the end of 2020, he added.

The third batch of Reapers is due to be delivered this year, with the fourth and final set to be shipped next year, he said.

France ordered in December 2016 the fourth batch of Reapers for delivery in 2019. That system, which will be shipped a year later, will be delivered in the Block 5 version, as will the third batch.

The first two batches of the UAV will be upgraded from Block 1.

Each batch comprises three units.

Adding weapons will roughly halve the Reaper’s flight time to some 10 hours, as the bombs or missiles increase the drag effect on the drone, the source said.

That shorter flight time boosts the importance of preparing, or “shaping,” the strike mission when flying a critical reconnaissance mission the day before.

The French forces expect to fly at least 10 Reapers next year, and there is much thought on where to deploy the drones.

The Air Force has been flying the Reaper from an airbase in Niamey, the capital of Niger, to support French and allied troops in the Barkhane military mission across the sub-Saharan Sahel region.

Potential deployments include Djibouti, Iraq and Syria.

One of the factors in deciding that dispatch is “co-deployment” with the US, with shared logistics, training and equipment in the “US Reaper footprint,” the source said.

That would maintain close ties forged in operations in Niger.

There are French special forces alongside British and US units fighting Islamic State (ISIS) insurgents threatening Kurdish communities in northeast Syria.

US Reapers are based in that region, with the consent of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, so a despatch of French Reapers could draw on mutual support.

The French forces continue to rely on General Atomics, the manufacturer of Reaper, for take-off and landing the UAV in Niger.

There are only four or five French pilots “on the ground” to fly the Reaper, so there are too few to send to the US for the two or three months needed to train for take-off and landing.

In the Barkhane operation, France is allied with the G5 Sahel group comprising Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad.

That military alliance seeks to fight against fundamentalist jihadist forces.

France is also active in the Middle East Levant, spanning Iraq and Syria.


The Return of Geography: The Central Role of Air-Seapower Integration for Post-Brexit Britain


By Robbin Laird

During my most recent visit to London, a senior defense official flat out stated: “With the return of geography, the focus needs to be clearly on our Northern and Southern Flanks, and this means the emphasis needs to be placed upon air-naval integration.

“The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force need to find ways to work much more effective integration.

“And our new carrier provides a means whereby we can do so.”

With the coming of Brexit, there is a natural withdrawal of military attention from what used to be called the Central Front during the Cold War days, and a renewed focus on the flanks.

France and Germany have asserted that their defense collaboration will take care of Europe’s defense and providing the maneuver forces and space for the defense of Europe’s new front line in Poland and the Baltics, and the UK’s contribution will be reduced to reinforcing efforts, not leading them in this continental European sector.

The new carrier is a key piece of sovereign real estate around which flank defense will be generated. It is also a focal point for RAF and Royal Navy integration of the sort which a transformed force will need to deliver to the nation.

During my visit to Portsmouth, England and to RAF Marham in early May 2018, I visited senior Royal Navy and defense personnel involved in the standing up of the UK carrier strike capability.

After my morning briefings with the Royal Navy with regard to preparing the carrier for its role as the flagship of a maritime strike group, I had a chance to discuss the way ahead with the commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, Commodore Andrew Betton and with Colonel Phil Kelly, Royal Marines, COMUKCSG Strike Commander.

The new UK carriers are coming at a time when there is a broader UK and allied defense transformation and a strategic shift from counter-insurgency to higher end operations.

The new UK carrier provides a mobile basing capability by being a flexible sea base, which can compliment UK land-based air assets, and provide a flexible asset that can play a role in the Northern Flank or the Mediterranean on a regular deployment basis and over time be used for deployments further away from Europe as well.

Commodore Betton and Col. Kelly both underscored the flexible nature of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The UK is building out a 21stcentury version of a carrier strike group, one which can leverage the F-35 as a multi-domain combat system and to do both kinetic and non-kinetic strike based on these aircraft, as well combine them with helicopter assault assets to do an F-35 enabled assault, or if desired, shift to a more traditional heavy helicopter assault strike.

As Commodore Betton put it: “Our new carrier offers a really flexible, integrative capability.

“The carrier can play host and is intended absolutely to play host to a carrier air wing.

“At the same time, it can provide something very different inn terms of littoral combat operations, primarily using helicopters.”

They emphasized that the Royal Navy was building new escort ships as well as new submarines and the approach to building a maritime strike group meant that working through the operational launch of the carrier was also about its ability to integrated with and to lead a 21stcentury maritime strike group.

And the new maritime strike group was being built to work with allies but just as importantly to operate in the sovereign interest of the United Kingdom.

The F-35B onboard was a key enabler to the entire strike group functions.

Commodore Betton: “The airwing enables us to maneuver to deliver effects in the particular part of the battlespace which we are operating in.  You can have sea control without the airwing.

“Our air wing can enable us to be able to do that and have sufficient capability to influence the battlespace.

“You clearly do not simply want to be a self-sustaining force that doesn’t do anything to affect the battlespace decisively.

“The F-35 onboard will allow us to do that.”

Col. Kelly noted that with the threat to land air bases, it was important to have a sea base to operate from as well, either as an alternative or complement to land bases.

“The carriers will be the most protected air base which we will have. And we can move that base globally to affect the area of interest important to us.

“For example, with regard to Northern Europe, we could range up and down the coastlines in the area and hold at risk adversary forces.

“I think we can send a powerful message to any adversary.”

Commodore Betton added that the other advantage of the sea base is its ability to be effective on arrival.

“If you have to operate off of land, you have to have the local permission.  You have to move assets ashore.  You have to support assets ashore.  And you have to protect the land base.  The sea base has all of that built in.

“And there is nothing austere about our carriers in terms of operating aircraft.”

“We focused on how the carrier becomes integrated with broader strike picture, for the point is not simply that the carrier itself launches F-35s or helicopters, but how the command post can manage the aircraft they launch with the distributed strike assets in the strike group, which could include land-based air or land based forces as well.”

Col. Kelly emphasized that their position was similar to the evolution of the USMC where “every platform can be a sensor or a shooter” in the battlespace.

The C2 onboard the carrier on in the air with the Crow’s nest or the F-35Bs can be part of a distributed CS system to ensure maximum effect from the strike and sensing capability of the task force and its related partners in the battlespace.

And innovations in the missile domain up to and including directed energy weapons have been anticipated in the support structure onboard the carrier.

During my visit in 2015 to the Scottish shipyard when the initial Queen Elizabeth carrier was being built, I had a chance to look at the infrastructure onboard the ship to support weapons as well as was briefed on the significant power generation capabilities onboard the ship which clearly allow it to when appropriate technology is available to add directed energy weapons.

In addition, to the longer-range weapons already in train and the ones which will be developed in the decade ahead, the British carriers are being built to be able to handle rolling landing which allow the F-35s to come back onto the ship with weapons which have not been used during the mission.

The second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales is the first of the two carriers to be fitted with this capability which will be further tested when it comes to the United States in a couple of years for its F-35 integration trials as well.

In short, the new carrier is being built with “growthability” in mind, in terms of what it can do organically, and what it can leverage and contribute to the maritime task force, and reach out into the battlespace to work effectively with other national or allied assets operating in the area of interest.

The Changing Alliance Context for UK Defense Policy

For the UK, Brexit is at the heart of the change in the alliance structure as well as the question of US global defense policy in flux.

With the projected withdrawal from the European Union, not only are the political-economic relationships with Europe in flux but key security working relationships as well.

Brexit is a process which have a major impact on the UK and Europe for sure.

And no matter what the Brexit negotiated outcome that will be sorted out between the EU and the UK, both continental Europe and the UK will have to find a way to work together going forward.

The UK has a long history of dealing with continental Europe as does continental Europe with the United Kingdom, and certainly not all such experiences have been peaceful.

Brexit is an episode of history which will be ingested as the UK and Europe go forward in the next phase of their interactions.

Clearly, the UK and as well as major continental powers will sort out a way ahead, but as they do so several trajectories of developments will be set in motion.

Brexit has a number of key impacts on the future of European defense and certainly NATO as well.

First, the UK is a major defense power within Europe.

What is its relationship to the continent after Brexit?

What does a post-Brexit defense policy look like for Britain?

Second, what impact will Brexit have on the internal cohesion of UK defense policy?

What role for Scotland and England?

And how will the Irish question intrude into the defense equation?

Third, will continental Europe meet the demands of enhanced defense responsibility for its own defense?

How will France and Britain work together?

Where will German defense policy focus its attention and its resources?

What impact will the UK have within European defense organizations or not?

Fourth, what impact will Brexit have upon the relationships between UK and continental defense and aerospace companies?

Airbus, Thales, MBDA, and Leonardo all have major working relationships and facilities in the UK.

What is their fate and how will these relationships work in practical terms as movement of personnel, taxes and import and export issues get sorted?

Will joint investments continue between Britain and the continent within these companies?

What is the future of Eurofighter if the UK and continental European relationship is disrupted?

Will France and UK co-investments in missiles via MBDA continue uninterrupted?

In other words, there are a number of key questions to consider determining the fate of European and UK defense in dealing with the looming Brexit impacts.

The defense industrial side of Brexit is clearly tied up with the general dynamics of whatever trade and circulation of skills and labor generally agreed to between the UK and the European Union.

But defense is an area where exceptions in regulations are often the rule; but they clearly are affected by the general state of trade, notably the commercial aerospace trade arrangements.

Brexit is occurring at a time of profound change in Europe, triggered perhaps in part by Brexit, but due to a wide range of dynamics which are clearly leading to the politics within nations focused on their future and the kind of European working relationships those nations wish to see.

It is very clear that Brexit provides a major challenge to UK defense and aerospace industry given that the major focus and major capabilities in those sectors rests on their role in global supply chains and programs, many of which are European.

Airbus is a central player in the UK aerospace industry, and in defense as well.  Leonardo is many ways a UK-Italian company.  MBDA is a Franco-UK company with German and Italian aspects. Thales has a very large UK component which both complements and challenges its French dominant part of the company.

With the very significant uncertainties facing Europe and the UK with regard to Brexit, NATO is in flux as well with the return of direct defense to Europe. With the seizure of Crimea by the Russians in 2014, NATO recognized a new historical challenge: how to deal with the return of Russia as a direct threat to Europe?

But this is not the return of the Cold War, as the Warsaw Pact has dissolved and both the European Union and NATO have extended themselves to the Russian border. They have done so without adding new defense forces or capabilities, and indeed Europe has experienced a significant decline in defense expenditures.

At the same time new challenges have been added.

The Russians have used a new form of warfare, hybrid warfare, to achieve their objectives in Ukraine and have launched major cyber threats as well.  NATO Europe has dismantled much of its direct defense infrastructure and now with the rise of the cyber challenge has a more comprehensive threat system to deal with.

The challenge of building a 21st century defense infrastructure and rebuilding NATO forces is significant and at the same time, Europe is now confronting the impact not only of the Russians but other authoritarian states and movements.

The Nordics are clearly reworking their defense capabilities and approaches and the UK is finding a natural ally with regard to a rethink as well with how best to rework both national and allied defense policies for direct defense.  This process is facilitated in part by the acquisition of some new systems in common, notably the F-35 and the P-8 as well as other collaborative efforts.

But as of 2019, it is difficult with certainty to know what the relationship among UK defense modernization, its relationship with the European Union and the dynamics of change within the NATO alliance will shape the ultimate direct defense capability’s and approach for the United Kingdom.

The featured photo shows the HMS Queen Elizabeth at Sea. Credit: UK MoD

For the full report looking at UK and Australian approaches to defense transformation, see the following:

Fifth-Generation Enabled Military Transformation: Australia, the UK and Shaping a Way Ahead

75th D-Day Ceremony for 358th Fighter Group

Residents of Coigny, France and the surrounding area gather at the Chateau de Franquetot to remember the sacrifices made by the men of the 358th Fighter Group during WWII.

The chateau was home to the “Orange Tails” and is where they conducted operations, attacking enemy marshaling yards, airfields, and communication nodes.

They also flew escort missions for bombers as they targeted enemy forces as part of the build-up to Operation OVERLORD.


Video by Airman 1st Class Noah Coger

86th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs