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defence policy

The Government has announced the future shape of the army after the conclusion of operations in Afghanistan. Defence planners need to look ahead, so the Labour Party is looking beyond the next election. This process began in February this year when it unveiled its Shadow Defence Review. Today it revealed some of its thoughts on the matter of defence equipment and a possible approach to its relationship with defence industry.

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By Nick Watts

The government's proposed Defence Industrial Technology Policy (DITP) will be published in December. Or rather, it will be the basis for a discussion between industry and government. Both sides have much at stake, so the outcome is important. Getting the right answers means asking the right questions. The government and the MOD each need to ask three questions when formulating the DITP:

How can the UK secure the necessary operational sovereignty to guarantee the provision of key strategic capability into the future?How best can the government partner with industry to ensure the continuation of a viable defence sector in the UK?How can the government help the UK's defence sector to explore and exploit opportunities in the export market?

 For its part Industry also needs to collectively consider three questions, as it engages with the government and MOD:

How will industry adjust to the stated aim of MOD to reduce the number of operating platforms: how will this enable the UK to retain a viable defence industry? To what extent can exports help pull through programmes for the UK market?How can industry help MOD reform its acquisition process, to ensure that programmes get developed quickly and that equipment is delivered on time and on budget?

The DITP will be a Green Paper, a discussion document. This is intended to guide the subsequent discussions so that a White Paper can result. The White Paper will represent the government's settled view on the future of the MOD's industrial and technology policy for the life of this parliament, and at least until the next SDR in 2015. In the context of the SDSR and the CSR, there is much gloomy talk in the air. Yet both sides of this discussion have a mutual interest in ensuring that the other survives to fight another day.

The context, while not promising could be a lot worse. After the fall of communism the subsequent peace dividend took its toll on both the armed forces of the west and the defence industry. The notorious "Last supper" of 1993 encapsulated this. US Defence Secretary Aspin told the leaders of the 15 largest US defence contractors that the DOD was not going to solve industry's over capacity problem. The result was a wave of consolidation which has produced stronger contractors now. In Europe and the UK a similar series of consolidations took place.

The world in 2010 is far different from 1990, when policy makers were trying to get their heads around what the changes of 1989 meant. The SDSR set the context within which the industrial and technology questions need to be considered. The arithmetic of the CSR is another factor affecting the DITP. The contemporary setting does not allow the laissez faire approach adopted by Les Aspin in 1993, however much the government may wish.

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By The UK MOD's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre

Download for free via www.mod.uk/dcdc or purchase from DSDA Forms and Publication (01869 256139).

Reviewed by Ian Shields

The UK MOD's think-tank, the Development Concepts and Doctrine centre (DCDC) have already published some good work, including their paper on the Future Character of Conflict and their 2009 Future Air and Space Operational Concept (both available from the web-site listed above). Having identified a need for a textbook on space, given the ever-increasing reliance on space for contemporary military undertakings (one thinks of surveillance, satellite communications, weather forecasting, GPS for navigation and weapon guidance, and much more), the DCDC set about writing, from first principles, their UK Military Space Primer some two years ago, and have now completed the task. There is much to praise, not just about the product, but about the vision and initiative that led to this publication, but let me start with a few criticisms. First, for understandable reasons it is titled the Military Space Primer and, indeed, has a military bias. But the vast majority of the text is as applicable to the civilian sector as to the military. Second, what a shame that, again for understandable reasons, this could not have been published commercially as it is the best and most complete explanation of Space and its uses that virtually anyone would require, and deserves a wider audience. Certainly, any A-Level student with an interest in Space would benefit greatly from reading this, and it would not be out of place in any school – or, indeed, University – library.

Some 250 pages long, it takes the reader at a sensible pace, is well-written and copiously illustrated with photographs and excellent diagrams. Divided into four chapters, it starts with an explanation of what space is, an easily-digestible section on geometry and orbitology (no advanced mathematics – in fact, barely a formula in sight!), before translating the theory into the practical: which orbit for which capability and how to get there. The short second chapter covers Space and the Law at sufficient depth for the non-specialist (see the book review on Space Law: A Treatise in the June 2010 edition of Aerospace Professional for a truly in-depth book on Space Law), before the heart of the Primer, Chapter Three on the Military Uses of Space. Each use, be t surveillance or communications, is addressed in clear and concise language, that unravels the mysteries of the advantages and disadvantages of Space. Indeed, it is not even necessary to have read the explanatory Chapter One before dipping into Chapter Three. Again, although aimed at the military reader, for anyone with an interest in how pace can be used, if only where does your Sky Satellite Signal come from, will gain from this Chapter. The final Chapter looks more widely at Space and Society highlighting, for example, how dependent civil society is on Space – and if there is a justification for the non-military to read some of this Primer, it is in Chapter Four. A series of more in-depth annexes follow, and the publication ends with a good bibliography.

Extensively cross-referenced throughout, this Primer is not meant to be read at a single sitting, but dipped into for knowledge and education. Those in the wider Space industry will, I am sure, welcome this Primer and use it to educate those new to their business. Those with no knowledge but an interest, those with some knowledge and a wish for more detail, and even those with a deep understanding will all find value in this timely and well-produced piece. Not a book in the conventional sense as normally reviewed on these pages, but nevertheless a significant and welcome addition to our understanding of Space.

 

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Hutton)announced recntly that the Ministry of Defence routinely reviews the planning assumptions which guide the development of capability over the medium to longer-term. In a statement to the UK Parliament he said that in the absence of a direct military threat, these assumptions set out in broad terms the types of operation which the armed forces should be capable of undertaking. The assumptions are not intended either to constrain or precisely describe the actual pattern of operational commitments at any point in time. But regular review is required to ensure there is a relationship between the planning assumptions and the developments in the strategic context.

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By Alex Shone, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Iran is a country firmly framed in Western perception as a state sponsor of terrorism, whose quest for a nuclear weapon is conceived for purposes of coercive regional diplomacy. Iranian President Ahmadinejad's regime drives this perception, and on the subject of Israel, his rhetoric stokes fears of a new war in the Middle East. This regime is the face of Iran that we in the Western world are presented with.

However, behind this is a far more complex and enigmatic nation. The 'real' Iran is clearly more than the 'Green Movement' of students and leftist intellectuals who were brutally suppressed in the wake of the country's presidential elections. The UK Defence Forum is commencing a new country series on Iran that will analyse all the country's history, society, economics and politics. This new series aims to comprehensively assess these wider aspects of Iran within and beyond the face of the regime.

The progress and extent of Iran's nuclear programme is reassessed continually as new intelligence enters into the public domain. Judgement as to the appropriate response oscillates between a pre-emptive military strike and continued diplomacy with sanctions. The conclusion seems to boil down to whether we choose to 'bomb Iran' or 'live with an Iranian bomb'.

Advocates for the military option have only to cite the indisputable failure of diplomacy to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions. Economic sanctions have utterly failed to bring down the international support network available to Iran. Critically, the West has not been able to inflict the necessary pressure on Iran's energy sector, in great part due to the failure to secure the cooperation of other key states.

The military option is beset by concerns for the consequences. Airstrikes would end all diplomatic hopes, certainly for the near future. They would also put back any chance of eventual regime change, perhaps by decades, as Ahmadinejad's domestic propaganda would likely take an immoveable hold. There is also the problem of Iran's capacity to retaliate. Iran is a country with varying degrees of influence beyond its borders into Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran, as a state sponsor of terror, also has channels into a network of armed group proxies. The significance of Iranian influence here remains unclear but is still a great concern.

At centre of the problem is the opaqueness against which all assessments must be made. Iran is very much a closed country, regime and society to the West and the limits of our own understanding prohibit formulation of deeper judgements as to where Iranian intent lies. Diplomacy has failed with the Iranian regime and until sanctions develop real teeth, which key world powers genuinely rally behind, it is likely that Iran's government will be inconsolable from their nuclear path.

Rather, it is the Iranian people who are central to any resolution of this crisis. Ahmadinejad's regime and its political course must be de-legitimatised in the eyes of the Iranian population who do not have access to a free media. Understanding all aspects of Iran's society is therefore a paramount requirement if the West is to more effectively engage with the Iranian people to help steer the country from its current confrontational path.

 

By Deba Mohanty

The post-mortem has begun on the recent visit of US President Barak Obama to India. Preliminary autopsies suggest a heavy leaning towards optimism and even braggart assertions about the bilateral relations. A fairly balanced assessment, however, will come much later once promises and pronouncements are actually tested on the ground. Obama and his team have emphasised 'shared values, shared benefits and shared vision' between the two great countries. While shared values and visions do exist at the core of two democracies, with varying degree and often complementary, it is worth examining the 'shared benefits', which would put things in larger realistic perspectives.

Shared benefits in this context include expansion and consolidation of trade in civil and military domains, among others. While civil trade is mostly done between companies from both sides with minimal state supervision and intervention, it is the defence trade that is more complex, state-centric and often a casualty of legal procedural complexities as well as strategic considerations. Government approval is necessary even in the most insignificant military item transaction, although bulk of military manufacturing has gone into private hands in most countries.

Prior to Obama's visit, prognostic analyses in India suggested three broad assumptions—rise in American military equipment sales to India, growing company to company collaborations and gradual easing of regulations—apart from India's 'soft power' rise, possible entry into the high table in international affairs and a counter-balancer in Asian geopolitics. It must be mentioned here that the Indian soft power—cultural, historical, ideological and economic—has already been deeply embedded in its larger strategic framework, while a seat in the UNSC will not be easy, whereby US stamp of approval would only be symbolic at best. Counter-balancing act or 'strategic stabiliser' role in geopolitics needs more 'hard power' attributes than 'soft power'. In sum, symbolism seems to have overtaken 'hard business and strategic decisions', especially in the fields of defence trade, between the two countries.

All the three broad assumptions on defence trade are most likely to happen. If one looks at India's arms shopping list, it includes sale of C-130Js, Harpoons, P-8Is, C-17s, GE-414 aero-engines, etc. A reasonable assumption would suggest follow-on orders in most of these equipment and a possible $30 billion plus sale could be in the pipeline for the next five years (excluding $10 billion worth sale already approved). Collaborations with American firms will also increase as companies like Tatas start churning out components of military systems in collaboration with Sikorsky or state-owned HAL in collaboration with GE locally produces the aero-engine required for the LCA programme. Removal of restrictions on many of India's defence scientific labs will pave the way for import of critical components and technologies.

While such assumptions paint a rosy picture, the reality is actually very different. Four scenarios are laid down for further debate. First, the American discomfort on sale of weapons without signing agreements like CISMOA, LSA and BECA is likely to culminate in system acquisition by India that will be without critical support. This poses a challenge to the Indian scientists how to make the systems workable with Indian solutions. Previous experience of avionics and sensor integration to Su-30 by the Indian scientists gives much encouragement in this regard. Second, the American discomfort about Indian 'direct defence offsets' and FDI policies. The Americans would prefer 'indirect' to 'direct' offsets and would be happy if the FDI limit is raised to 49% or beyond. It would be wise on India's part if it carefully refines offsets conditions and resists the demand to raise the FDI limit for the moment as the larger Indian military industrial complex, at the moment dominated by state-owned defence firms, has not yet reached a level of maturity and global competitiveness. Third, we do not know why President Obama used the word 'so-called' entities list when it is 'real'! It will be wise again to wait for a while till the Americans work out on the list and impact of removed restrictions. Bulk of the Indian scientific community is still suspicious, so are many of our military leaders and even some of our pragmatic political leaders on this issue. Last but not the least, while the American decision making works on a composite system through which executive decisions are executed in a relatively fast manner, the Indian system is vertically structured and virtually independent of each other. Thus, the latter not only is a major hindrance to speedy decision making, leading to delays but equally importantly it leaves little accountability if things go wrong. If India wants a workable military industrial partnership with the US, it has to not only bring in reforms in its higher defence management structures but also emphasise collective decision making in an open environment.

Dynamics of military trade have changed from 'arms and influence' during the Cold War era to 'arms and incentives' in current times. If India wants strategic dividends from arms acquisitions, it must craft its acquisition policy in a prudent manner with the aim of bringing in knowledge that necessitates a higher degree of trust with the US. It should go beyond economics to factor in larger strategic considerations as well.

This article was first published the Financial Express on the 22nd November 2010. The author is a senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

 

By Ian Shields, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Much is being written at present about defence, about security, about Britain's place in the world, and the extent to which we need (note need rather than do not need) military power. But before we can determine how we are going to undertake defence, and in particular what force structures we need, we should first establish where the threat comes from: that critical link between defence and security. The conventional approach is to look at threats to the country from state and non-state actors, placing everything in the realm of International Relations, within the state-to-state construct. This essay will approach the issue from a more individual level by considering first insecurity, which then allows the focus to be applied to security and hence to those defence apparatus that afford security. It will do so by first exploring why we presently feel insecure, then propose a different approach to achieving security, before exploring some of the practical implications that such an approach would require, and finally summarising.

There appears to be considerable concern both at Governmental level and for the man in the street about the threats the country and its citizens face, leading to a growing feeling of insecurity. Why is this, is it rational, and what actually are the threats? In many ways security is now far harder to define, and to achieve. In the present era of globalisation, we are more interconnected than ever, more interdependent for food, energy and information. Events on the other side of the world can have a far greater impact on both the country and the individual than before: one thinks of the impact of the Volcanic Ash cloud earlier this year and the disruption it caused. Moreover, our borders are, compared with a century ago, far less inviolate: we have little real say over satellites passing over head, the advent of aircraft have brought a new dimension and a new challenge to securing our borders from a determined foe (and this is the 70th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain), while the invention of the nuclear weapon, and inter-continental delivery systems, brought an entirely new paradigm to the threat to security. Moreover, near-instantaneous global communications and the advent of the 24/7 media have not only shrunk the world in a new manner, but by beaming images of violence and disaster around the world direct to citizens' homes, have arguably increased the feelings of insecurity of the citizen.

And yet the world is no more dangerous in terms of natural disasters than it ever has been, the threat of state-on-state attack against the UK is, by historic measure, very low, and the vision of extinction from a massive nuclear exchange faded with the end of the Cold War; compared to most of our history we are in a period of marked peace. And yet we feel less secure, have introduced draconian legislation that limits individual liberties to counter what is, compared with history, a very minor threat; in doing so have further reinforced the feelings of insecurity within the populace. Do terrorists really threaten our vital interests? A little, maybe, but compared with the threats of much of the twentieth century, hardly. The capacity for terrorists to inflict crude but large-scale attacks on Western interests has already been largely curtailed, and they have never had the capacity to undertake complex and more meaningful actions. The gravest threat from terrorism is its ability to provoke unwise over-reactions on our part.

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By David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

The UK's strategic deterrent, Trident, has come in for a lot of flak recently. With budgets tight, there are plenty of rumblings from political circles and the blogosphere alike that it should be first to face the axe. After all, Trident is undeniably a costly programme, and it's difficult to see what benefits we gain from it through the opaque lens of national security.

Here at the UK Defence Forum, we've long taken an interest in this debate, and there are plenty of basic questions to answer. It's right to take account of the views of those who are in principled opposition to Trident, but conventional anti-nuclear arguments can fail to take into account the wide variety of potential weapons that can utilise atomic technology. The prospect of replacing or renewing Trident is itself controversial, and has been discussed at length in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, I'd like to take a take a moment to refute some of the common arguments posed against maintaining the deterrent into the future.

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By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

On the 8th June 2010 Serbia continued their international rehabilitation by signing a military cooperation deal with Croatia. After the bitter ethnic wars of the 1990s both sides agreed that the deal demonstrates a commitment to the normalisation of relations within the Balkans. A core component of the agreement opens up the possibility of cooperation between each state's military industries. According to Croatia's Minister of Defence, Branko Vukelic, as both state's defence sectors are 'quite complementary' it is possible that they will cooperate in the global marketplace.

Over the past year Serbia's defence industry has seen a revival in its fortunes. According to Serbia's Defence Minister, Dragan Sutanovac, in 2009 Belgrade approached a level of military sales comparable with the former Yugoslavia twenty years earlier. Belgrade estimates that Serbia will export between $500 million to $1 billion worth of military equipment and services in 2010. Serbia's best customers are states identified with the Non-Aligned Movement, an organisation in which Yugoslavia was a leading light. Iraq accounted for more than a third of Serbia's arms exports in 2009. These included a $305 million contract for the supply of twenty Lasta training aircraft. Belgrade's military academy has also begun training Iraqi officers and medical personnel.

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By Jorge Rivera

Last week, President Obama and his Russian counter-part President Medvedev signed an agreement for further reductions to their nuclear arsenal. It is being labelled as the most significant pact for a generation, and will limit the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550, which is 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty. It also limits the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) to 800 launchers.

The effects of this pact will take several years to be fully realised but it will put pressure on NATO to re-evaluate its stance on its nuclear capabilities. NATO's nuclear deterrence strategy has evolved significantly since the end of the Cold War as has the Alliance's force posture in order to meet the new security challenges. Changes to the international security environment on the other hand have posed serious obstacles to the nuclear free world that President Obama envisioned in his speech in Prague, Czech Republic 2009. However, the arduous journey towards complete worldwide nuclear disarmament has begun this month, albeit slowly, creating ripples rather waves in this area of policy.

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