At a time when India’s diplomatic commitment to rally international support against Pakistan’s alleged role in the recent terrorist incursions into Indian-administered Kashmir is producing no significant result, Delhi’s drive for military modernization has instead received a new boost. Fresh off a US$10 billion defense deal with Russia, inked on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in the Indian tourist spot of Goa on October 15, Delhi proves itself again to be the world’s largest defense importer.
Whoever thought that, after the signature of the nuclear deal and the lifting of the international sanctions, Iran would have become a docile and friendly country, well, probably made a wrong calculation. Indeed, in the last weeks, we’ve seen a strong and resolute nation, aimed to restore its position in the international area and to pursue its national interests, no matter what.
The spotlight is on the Islamic Republic in particular due to its recent ballistic missile tests, which have raised new fear and concern among Western countries and the Gulf monarchies. Last month, indeed, during a military large-scale drill –codenamed Eqtedar-e-Velayet-, the Islamic Revolutin Guards Corps (IRGC) tested two ballistic missiles class Qadr, the Qadr-H and the Qadr-F. Both the missiles were launched from the heights of East Alborz Mountains, northern Iran, hitting targets on the southeast coasts of the country. According to reports, missiles have a range of 1,700 km and 2,000 km respectively.
The international reaction wasn’t long in coming. On the one hand, the condemnation of the United States and Europe, which saw tests as a breach of UNSC resolution 2231; on the other, Russia stated that these tests do not violate the mandate of the document. Even Western powers failed to raise actions against Iran at the UN. It seems that Washington later withdrew its accusation, confirming that the tests do not represent a breach of the resolution.
According to the latter, indeed, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designated to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology…”. Questions arise whether these technologies could be able -as Israel affirms- to carry nuclear warheads. However, recent declarations from the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif state that the country does not have any missile capable of carrying this kind of warheads.
Several Iranian personalities have spoken about this topic. The Expediency Council (EC) Secretary Mohsen Rezaei stressed that the Iranian missile programme only has deterrent purposes and is aimed to exercise the country’s right to self-defence in case of an armed attack. According to the Secretary, it is easily understandable that disarm could not be an option for Iran: indeed, if the country gives up investments in defence, it would be subjected to attack and there are several enemies that could take advantage from this situation.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the air forces of the IRGC, has even a stricter position. The Islamic Republic will continue to strengthen defensive and missile capabilities, which ensure Iran’s security and deter enemies from attacking the country. These enemies are also the ones, which have boosted the country’s defence power for more than 30 years; and US new sanctions just confirm this idea. Missile capabilities are a matter of national security and Iran clearly states that there is no room for negotiation or compromise over it. “No wise individual will negotiate over his country’s security” said the Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi.
It is clear that similar statements can raise concerns, especially among countries such as Israel and the Gulf monarchies. The first has been a target of Iran since Ayatollah Khomeini and the rhetoric of “wiping out” the Jewish country has recently come out several times. The Gulf countries do not support the economic and military growth of a country that not only aims to achieve regional hegemony but also backs and fosters several fundamentalist groups, drivers of instability in the region. Tensions are likely to arise in the coming months: it is to be seen how Arabic countries will react to an Iran not so prone to cooperation and aimed to achieve its national goals, the consequences on the relationship among these actors and the role that powers such as US and Russia could play in fostering or hampering these relations.
A contract for 28 Eurofighter aircraft was to sign on 31st January between Italy and Kuwait. As an Italian Ministry of Defence source referred, the signature was delayed for “procedural reasons”. No leak about next meeting.
The contract follows a memorandum of understanding signed between the Italian Minister of Defence Roberta Pinotti and the Kuwaiti colleague Khaled al-Jarrah al-Sabah in September 2015. According to the document, Kuwait has ordered 28 Eurofighter Typhoon (22 single-seat and 6 twin-seat) for a total value of 8.7 billion dollars. Announced deadline in 20 years.
The Eurofighter Consortium is driven by aerospace and defence industries of four European countries: Germany and Spain (Airbus), United Kingdom (BAE System) and Italy (Finmeccanica). But it’s the Italian company to grab the contract with Kuwait. Over 50% of the value of the deal will be earned by Finmeccanica, which will provide the design, development and production of the aircraft (Alenia Aermacchi) but also the on-board electronic systems (Selex ES).
The deal signed with Finmeccanica ends a negotiation begun in 2010, after Kuwait decision to replace the existing fleet of F-18 Hornet held by its air force. Initially, the choice fell on a new fleet of F-18 Super Hornet produced by the United States. However, repeated delays in the acquisition induced the emirate to opt for the Eurofighter programme. It is likely this choice also hides military and strategic considerations.
The F-18 is a swing-role, twin-engine and supersonic fighter, able to carry air-to-air and air-to-land weaponry. Though employed for several tasks (aerial recognition, close air support, interdiction and fighter escort), the F-18 is mainly a fighter-bomber and was introduced in Kuwaiti armed forces after the Gulf War.
Despite sharing similar features with the F-18 (both are twin-engine and multi-role aircraft), the Eurofighter Typhoon is primarily an air interdiction and air superiority fighter. Faster and more manoeuvrable, the aircraft is provided with electronically scanned array radar and advanced navigation, discovery and attack sensors. Technologically advanced munitions, mainly designed for air-to-air combat, complete the technical specifications of the aircraft, which has already shown its value in different operational theatres, such as Libya or the Baltic States.
Al-Shabab’s choice to rely on Eurofighter seems to reflect a national strategy aimed to strengthening the defensive military capabilities rather than the offensive ones. Twenty-eight air-superiority fighter jets will ensure greater safety in Kuwaiti skies, given their ability to intercept enemy aircraft or planes illegally entering Kuwait’s air space. Indeed, high speed and manoeuvrability make the Eurofighter the ideal candidate to intervene, should an imminent threat from neighbouring countries arise. Considering Kuwait geographical position and the level of insecurity that characterises the Middle East, Kuwaiti decision does not sound that inappropriate.
Kuwait’s urgency in reaching a deal first with the US, then with Italy, shows a feeling of uncertainty and the necessity to strengthen its military assets, in the view of a deterioration in the regional environment. After latest delays due to caveats about pilots’ training (Kuwait has agreed to train its pilots in Italy and not in the UK as initially requested), last obstacle is the approval from the Audit Court of Kuwait, which –apparently- didn’t have enough time to evaluate the final terms of the deal (Best and Final Offer, BAFO). As Minister Pinotti highlighted, during Wednesday meeting in Rome the Kuwaiti Minister of Defence has reiterated the willingness to sign the deal as soon as possible.
On its side, Italy has all the reasons to hold on such a commitment. First, a 20-year contract with a Middle Eastern country gives Italy the chance to reinforce its presence in a key strategic area, rich of commercial opportunities. Secondly, the contract gives Finmeccanica a significant economic momentum. As gen. Tricarico, former Chief of the Italian Air Force, states, “the contract is particularly important because it allows maintaining production lines -which would have fallen into disuse over years-, thus allowing also keeping jobs and know-how skills”. Finally, Italy’s leading role in the deal will have a two-fold benefit on our country: on one hand, it will allow Italy to gain weight within the Eurofighter consortium; on the other, a renewed confidence in its capabilities could lead Italy to rethink its position in the international affairs.
Increased surveillance in the Mediterranean as part of the measures taken by the Government with the operation “Safe Sea”. Following the critical issues in the countries of North Africa and the consequent deterioration of security conditions, 4 AMX aircraft of 51 Squadron of Istrana (TV) were temporarily redeployed in the Trapani Birgi base, in Sicily. The enhancement is aimed to increase ability to control and acquisition of information, to protect the multiple national interests and to guarantee consistent levels of security.
The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French defence procurement agency, confirms the acquisition of six additional tactic transport helicopters (Caiman model) from NH Industries, the Italian-French-Dutch industrial group owned by Finmeccanica, Airbus and Fokker. The delivery has been scheduled between 2017 and 2019.
These new acquisitions are part of a more comprehensive renewal program to increase the helicopter fleet up to 74 Caiman units (44 of these to be delivered by 2019). The target is to reach, by the end of 2025, a fleet of 115 tactical NH90 helicopters, goal set in the Defence and Security White Paper in September 2013. As Guillaume Faury, President and CEO of Airbus Helicopters, highlights, “French armed forces have deployed the NH90 operationally in Mali, where its outstanding endurance, versatility and manoeuvrability have been greatly appreciated”.
The decision follows the request from the Army Air Corps to strengthen the capabilities of Operation Barkhane, in Africa. Last January, Gen. Oliver Gourlez de la Motte, chief of the Army Air Corps, announced the service goal to strengthen its forces, by providing 10 additional helicopters to the fleet, to be chosen between both attack and transport models. Last month, indeed, the DGA has ordered from Airbus Helicopters 7 Tiger attack helicopters, which will be delivered between 2017 and 2018.
The aim is to improve the capacity of French armed forces to conduct air-land operations in the Sahel region, in Sub-Saharan Africa. The NH90 has already been deployed in several operational theatres, showing capabilities and characteristics that make it an important resource for French forces engaged in Operation Barkhane. First of all, as already mentioned, its versatility. The NH90 can be employed in response to different tactical needs:
- Troop and light armament transport, as it can carry up to 20 soldiers or 2.5 tonnes armaments;
- Casualty evacuation with 12 stretchers;
- Cargo airlift;
- Combat, search and rescue operations.
Moreover, the additional equipment allows it to fit various needs that might arise in the operational theatre. The NH90 is provided with an automatic pilot and fly-by-wire (FBW) controls, a system that replaces traditional manual controls with an electronic interface. This reduces the workload for pilots, and makes the NH90 easier to manage. In addition, night vision sights, armor protection and electronic counter-measures make it suitable for combat operations.
These characteristics show how this vehicle becomes essential in an environment such as Sub-Saharan Africa. As we know, Operation Barkhane is a counter-terrorism operation, led by France in the Sahel region since August 2014, with Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad as participating countries. The aim is to contrast the presence of jihadist militants in the region, supporting the efforts of partner countries and to prevent the creation of terrorist sanctuaries. The 3000 soldiers engaged in the mission are based in two permanent fields, one in Gao (Mali) and the other in N’Djamena (Chad). Detachments are sent to temporary bases, located in the mission’s participating countries, from where missions to support their soldiers are launched. Therefore, it is clear how troop and armament transport is necessary to conduct the operation. Moreover, the particular environment –temperature, geographical and territorial conformation, etc.- is a key factor in elaborating interventions. The NH90 proves to be suitable for the African environment, given its endurance and versatility, which is essential in areas where difficulties and resource scarcity might undermine the aim of the mission and the lives of the soldiers involved. “The additional order of six NH90- says Guillaume Faury-…confirms the essential role that new-generation multi-role helicopters play in modern operations”.
It seem that attacks and threats to French nation and security have not changed its commitment towards foreign operations, in particular in missions targeting Islamic terrorism. By contrast, those elements, which proved to be effective, have been strengthen and pressure is made to the Government in order to reinforce French military capabilities. It is not just a matter of number of forces available but also – and most of all- of quality and technology, which have to be suitable for the type of environment and threat that soldiers are facing.