News

February 14, 2018
 

News Briefs – February 14, 2018

U.S. warns EU against defense market protectionism

The United States is warning the European Union not to use its deepened military cooperation as an excuse to protect Europe’s defense industry, saying such practices could undermine NATO.

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said Feb. 13 that “we do not want this (cooperation) to be a protectionist vehicle for EU.”

She said Washington is “going to watch carefully, because if that becomes the case then it could splinter the strong security alliance that we have.”

EU leaders — 22 of whose nations are also members of the U.S.-led NATO alliance — agreed last year to jointly develop or purchase military equipment like drones. Washington is concerned now that the bidding process might exclude U.S. firms.

EU countries also drew up a list of criteria and binding commitments to set their cooperation in stone, rather than rely on the vaguer promises of the past. On top of that, they agreed to use EU funds to finance Europe’s battle-groups — small, expeditionary forces that can rapidly be deployed to crisis hotspots.

Hutchison called for a transparent contract bidding process.

“We want the Europeans to have capabilities and strength, but not to fence off American products of course, or Norwegian products, or potentially U.K. products (once Britain leaves the bloc),” she said.

NATO and the EU have been trumpeting their cooperation on things like crisis management, the development of military equipment, maritime security and coping with hybrid warfare and cyberthreats.

They have constantly underlined that their aim is to complement, rather than compete with, each other.

“More European defense spending and capabilities can strengthen NATO and contribute to fairer burden-sharing, but only if the EU’s efforts are developed as a complement and not an alternative to NATO,” alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Feb. 13, on the eve of a meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his European and Canadian counterparts in Brussels.

A senior Pentagon official also said that Washington is concerned that EU defense cooperation might eventually draw resources away from NATO, which the U.S. and allies like Britain see as Europe’s top security apparatus.

“Thus far we don’t see signs that that is actually going to be a concern,” said the official, Katie Wheelbarger. “But we just want to make sure that there has to be full transparency, so it’s implemented right, so, therefore, future initiatives will be based on a positive example.” AP
 

Venerable B-52 may outlive snazzier, younger bombers

The B-52, which people have called “aging” seemingly for ages, is now likely to outlive its younger, snazzier brother bombers, the swing-wing B-1 and the stealthy B-2.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced Feb. 12 that her service will begin retiring the B-1 and B-2 fleets as soon as it has built enough B-21s, the next-generation bomber that is still on the drawing board and is expected to begin entering service in the mid-2020s. The pace of retirement will depend on how quickly the B-21 is acquired.

An Air Force spokeswoman, Ann Stefanek, said the B-1 and B-2 are likely to keep flying into the early 2030s.

The B-52 is expected to soar past those timelines, remaining part of the combat force until mid-century.

Aware of the political ramifications of any change in the structure of the bomber force, Wilson said the number of bomber bases will not shrink.

“If the force structure we have proposed is supported by the Congress, bases that have bombers now will have bombers in the future,” Wilson said. “They will be B-52s and B-21s.”

Officially nicknamed the Stratofortress and informally known as the Big Ugly Fat Fellow, the B-52 gained lasting fame in Vietnam as an aerial terror. It is scheduled to stay in service until 2050, assuming its gets planned upgrades, including new engines. In its 2019 budget request Feb. 12, the Air Force asked for $280 million for B-52 upgrades.

Boeing built eight different models of the B-52 between 1952 and 1962. There are 75 planes left, split between Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and Barksdale Air Force in Louisiana. No longer the saturation bomber associated with the Vietnam War, the B-52 had been updated and adapted to a range of combat missions. It has been used extensively in the war in Afghanistan as well as in the air campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Just last week a B-52 pummeled a Taliban site in northern Afghanistan.

“The aircraft has played a leading role in Air Force operations for decades, and was recently reconfigured with a conventional rotary launcher to increase its reach and lethality,” the U.S. military said in announcing the Afghanistan attack.

The B-1 has an unusual history. It was initially developed in the 1970s, cancelled and then revived by President Ronald Reagan. It originally was designed for either nuclear or conventional attack but is now strictly for non-nuclear combat.

The B-2, the world’s first radar-evading bomber, was developed in secrecy by Northrop (now known as Northrop Grumman) in the 1980s and was initially best-known for its stunning price tag of more than $1 billion per aircraft, of which 21 were built.

The Air Force now has 20 B-2s, all based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and 62 B-1s at several bases including Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. AP
 

General Dynamics to buy CSRA for almost $7 billion

The defense contractor General Dynamics will spend almost $7 billion to acquire CSRA with the Trump administration pushing defense spending aggressively higher.

Shares of CSRA Inc., an internet technology company, soared almost 32 percent at the opening bell Feb. 12.

President Donald Trump signed a budget bill on Friday that provides $700 billion for the Pentagon, giving it $94 billion more this budget year to spend on troops, training, ships and other hardware. It’s the biggest year-over-year windfall since the budget soared by 26.6 percent in 2003, when the nation was fighting in Afghanistan, invading Iraq and expanding national defense after the 9/11 attacks.

Next year, the figure is expected to jump to $716 billion.

General Dynamics said that it will pay $40.75 per CSRA share. That’s a 32 percent premium to its Friday closing price of $30.82. The deal includes an additional $2.8 billion in debt.

Chairman and CEO Phebe Novakovic said in a printed statement that the acquisition will help General Dynamics provide cost-effective internet technology solutions to the Department of Defense, intelligence community and federal civilian agencies.

The defense sector has made huge gains over the past year under the new administration with a number of friction points rising globally.

The Standard & Poors 500’s index that traces aerospace and defense stocks has risen almost four times as fast as the S&P 500 over the past 12 months.

CSRA and General Dynamics Corp. are based in Falls Church, Virginia.

The transaction is expected to close in the first half of the year. AP




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