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On The Decline of European Naval Power: A Conversation with Jeremy Stöhs, Pt. 2

Read Part One here.

By Roger Hilton

RH: You state that after the end of the Cold War many states had been able to consolidate their militaries despite fiscal restrictions. This all changed in 2007-2008, this groundswell of financial issues, tanking economies, and soaring national debt. You argue that even previous levels of defense spending and the corresponding force structures were unsustainable in many cases. It is evident that we have fairly polarizing periods here. On the one hand we have the reduced defense spending period of the immediate post-Cold War, and then the high defense spending in the latter 2000s, immediate post 9/11 era. Can you help us understand the short and long-term impact that the global financial crisis had on naval procurement?

JS: In the 1990s a lot of states still invested heavily in modernizing their militaries, and you see a real strengthening of naval forces. Just take a look at the Greek Navy; also the French are still spending quite a lot on national defense. The real problem really starts in the 2000s. Purely from a platform-centric point of view, much of the damage to European navies began in the 2000s I would say. You see the decommissioning of numerous vessels and platforms without replacements – the Danish submarine flotilla for example or large parts of the Dutch escort fleet. You have problems with procurement processes, you see this with the German and Spanish submarine programs. This was really exacerbated by the financial crisis, putting procurement projects on hold or canceling them outright. My British colleagues will attest to this, most infamously the cancellation of the British Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, which left the Brits without any dedicated fixed wing maritime surveillance platform. But that’s just one of many examples.

RH: When it comes to specific examples in your book you describe a bleak picture that in the decline of the 2000s, on top of the financial crisis, it essentially removed some features of European navies, possibly for good. You cite the devastating example of the Dutch, who went from having one of the most capable Cold War fleets to what some observers describe today as a second-rate Navy. Could you elaborate a bit on this example?

JS: I think this is one of the best examples of the decline of European naval power. This also happened before the financial crisis. The Dutch defense studies postulated in 2003 and 2005, they spelled out that the Navy had to find a new balance, and this meant selling six of their frigate to Belgium, Chile, and Portugal. This would leave them with a fleet escort of a total of six frigates. And instead of buying new frigates, they would receive Holland-class OPVs, which while being the “Rolls Royce” of OPVs, don’t have the fighting power of a frigate of course.

And then you have at the same time the earlier 2000s, the fleet of Orion maritime patrol aircraft being sold to Germany, and all that happens prior to the crisis. I think what the crisis then did, including for the Netherlands, is that it significantly impacted training and readiness, and that definitely had long-term effects on naval forces. Another example is the new submarine that should be commissioned will probably be introduced sometime in 2028 or 2030, something like that, and the current submarines will have reached 40 years by then, which is quite a long period of time. So that just shows these long procurement processes and the problems they suffered.

RH: To shift to some encouraging news, despite the tight national purses that affected procurement, what are your thoughts on the FREMM project between France and Italy that was designed to build a multi-purpose frigate? In the book you said the project was deemed as a success, but is still subject to economic limitations. Today with more appetite for spending, is this a concept that can be recreated with success today?

JS:  I like the FREMM frigates not only because they are beautiful ships, both the French and Italian version, and they might also be the U.S. Navy’s next frigate, so that this is a first…but what I find interesting is that this Franco-Italian cooperation project worked relatively well. They included lessons learned from the previous cooperation which was the Horizon project, an air defense destroyer, a trilateral cooperation between the British, the French and the Italians. It ultimately produced only two destroyers for France and Italy, and the British went on to produce their own destroyer, the Daring-class. What they learned is that you don’t have to build an identical ship, but actually can have some similarities and at the end of the day you have ships that are cousins. That really is an example of how corporations in the defense sector can work. But of course the French aren’t procuring nearly as many as they initially planned, and now they’re selling some to Morocco and Egypt. There are other examples but that is one.

RH: On Greek and Turkish maritime capabilities, you established that unlike most European nations, the Hellenic Navy had seen the fewest doctrinal changes. It remained focused on defending its adjacent waters and fulfilling its NATO obligations. At the same time you assert that the naval balance of power in the region had shifted to its traditional regional competitor, Turkey. How do you forecast the competition in the maritime domain playing out between these two ‘allied’ powers?

JS: This was the most interesting case study to me because those were two countries that in the 1990s and 2000s adhered to traditional national defense strategies and did not jump on the power projection bandwagon. You only see a little bit of it in Turkey’s force structure and operations, but Greece is really still adhering to territorial defense, SLOC protection, and it has the fleet for that.

You see a similar trajectory in recent years, both have had shed unnecessary addendums and allowed the older combatants and ships to be decommissioned to more effectively modernize their fleets through this period of the 1990s and 2000s. Both of them actually have larger fleets now than they had in the 1990s, not only in regard to the order of battle, but also more capable fleets relative to other powers.

Greece was of course hit very hard economically and put a number of programs on hold such as its fast attack craft and German submarines. Turkey on the other hand has incrementally been creating a capable domestic defense sector, despite setbacks. They’re really trying to create their own capability in terms of being able to build their own weapon systems, everything from tanks, UAVs, and now up to frigates. They started building licensed, state-of-the-art German submarines. Now they are also building the Spanish-designed TCG Andalou aircraft carrier which is a very interesting development of course for power projection.

But on the other hand, two caveats I want to add here, both of them have challenges they face, and one is of course fiscal for the Greeks. For the Turks, I believe it’s hard to imagine after two consecutive purges in the military so I’m told, that that has not had a negative effect on the Navy. While the current naval officers are loyal to President Erdogan, I would be looking over my shoulder if I were them.

The Turkish Navy also has to keep a close eye on the Russian fleet, which unlike the Baltic in my opinion, is considerably more powerful than it was a couple years ago. It’s a development that is evolutionary rather than revolutionary as long as Turkey remains in NATO.

RH: For the third period you cover, 2014 to the present, post Crimea annexation, we arrive at a juncture for European navies. The annexation of Crimea set off waves of reverberations that are still being felt today. Russia’s annexation caught policymakers by surprise, and in response to bolster their defense, actions taken by NATO and the EU have attempted to address this previous complacency. Compounding matters, as you state, is the proliferation of terrorist attacks in Europe, creating a permanent sense of insecurity. Then enter a wild card – President Trump’s America First nationalist policy and Washington’s rebalancing toward the Indo-Pacific region. When taken together these events have only amplified the sense of uncertainty. Is it a little too late for European naval forces to defend themselves without the full support of the U.S.?

JS: Does the U.S. have an interest in staying engaged in Europe? There is no doubt about it. I think for the foreseeable future, it’s a pipe dream to believe Europeans will gain full strategic autonomy from the U.S. I think that is a buzzword that is being spread in Brussels and throughout Europe. There are several areas in which the European Union wants to become truly autonomous. This includes politically, operationally, and also industrially and technologically autonomous.

And while there is a sense in the globalized world that there is such a sense of technological autonomy, I find it really difficult to believe that there will be operational autonomy, in terms if when push comes to shove and European states are engaged or see a necessity to engage in high-intensity warfare or a military campaign, they will not only need the U.S. they will need other European countries to support them in some way. I don’t see any scenario where that need will be lessened at the operational level, or at the political level. What they need is as much independence as possible, but that does not mean autonomy.

RH: As a product of this tumult you state how closer cooperation between Europe’s armed forces has emerged. Can you discuss some of the future and completed programs, and if this cooperative model is sustainable in the long-term when it comes to naval forces?

JS: What I think is important is that with respect to fiscal austerity, there is a very interesting idea on how European naval forces can deal with times of fiscal austerity. It provides four possibilities on fiscal austerity. First, shortcuts, or settling for less. Next, jointness and working with other military services. Then, multilateral and combined operations in cooperating with other states. And the fourth is leap-frogging or offsetting and using asymmetric technologies. European navies have been doing a bit everything, but their governments have been choosing number one too much, namely settling for less.

They are closing their interoperability gaps, which is an obvious problem of course.  I have to say, we complain a lot, but no alliance has had better interoperability than NATO. There’s been discussion of including Japan and Germany in the Five Eyes agreement. We have a multitude of bilateral and multinational naval cooperation: the Swedish-Finnish efforts, the German-Dutch amphibious forces, the Belgian-Dutch BeNeSam; I could go on. What I would like to see is an equivalent of a NATO AWACS, or an equivalent to the aerial tanker and transport fleet. I thought when the deal didn’t go through with the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships the French were building for the Russians, that could have helped trailblaze this idea of having a ship under the NATO flag with different countries providing the crews and aviation platforms. But from what I heard it was  discussed for about ten minutes and then the idea was laid to rest. But maybe ten years from now we’ll actually see something like that happen.

At the beginning I pointed out that even a land-locked country like Austria can have agency at sea, and Austrian Special Forces were deployed and embarked on a German vessel in an EU operation at sea. If 20 years ago you had suggested that the EU would be conducting naval operations in the Med, and there would be Austrian Special Forces embarked on that vessel, they would have probably thought you were crazy. But that just goes to show what naval forces can do, and that we all can contribute and that sea power is shared.

RH: Coming to the last point here in the third period, in parallel to this cooperation theme, you stress the need for nations to strike a capabilities balance. In search of harmony, how do European navies reconcile investing resources in high-intensity capabilities aimed at deterring conflict with other navies rather than in investing in low-intensity capabilities designed for the maintenance of maritime order?

JS: In general, what I currently see, at least in some circles, is that the pendulum has swung too far in one direction. Yes, I believe naval forces are built for warfighting, that’s their primary mission and function. But people are readily forgetting about all the other things naval forces can do, from constabulary duties, the diplomatic roles, that’s often brushed aside because it’s not as glamorous. I think we have to be careful that we don’t only emphasize that because for the first time naval forces will have to do really everything because the challenges are so great. The range of missions runs the gamut of the intensity spectrum and we can’t just say, well, we’ll do collective defense or anti-submarine warfare and we won’t worry about migration, for example.

What I argued for is that niche specialization is important. It provides small countries that have very limited budgets the ability to add something to the greater whole, to NATO or the EU for example. But that can be taken too far as well or not suffice. What I argue for are baseline capabilities. Rich states such as Germany and the Netherlands can invest in having balanced navies that can conduct a wide range of missions not specialize in niches. However, I think for smaller states that specialization can be dangerous because it can limit possibilities and can make you very dependent on others for aid.

The limit of course is GDP, and whether there is funding for naval forces. For a Latvia or a Slovenia that will be difficult. But what is necessary is prudent thinking about contributing to naval operations. I mentioned earlier Austrian boarding teams that can be deployed on EU missions or the possibility of a small Swedish warship operating off the Horn of Africa.

I would also argue to not make the mistakes of the past. Perhaps as a scholar that didn’t live through the Cold War, it seems to me I see people reverting to an older, more comfortable view. Kaliningrad Oblast is often described by NATO zealots as a seemingly impenetrable fortress that renders all NATO and partner navies in that area sitting ducks. A scholar at the Center for Naval Analyses in Virginia, Steven Wills, who has a piece on CIMSEC, discussed how the West got Soviet naval strategy entirely wrong in the 1960s and 1970s. I wonder today if we’re prudent enough to get our analysis right.

RH: Let’s return to our initial question. Are European naval forces doomed to impotency, or is reform and renewed power projection possible? How do you rate their chances for success?

JS: I wrote an article recently for The Naval War College Review titled “Into the Abyss” where I argued that by 2014 the situation was quite bleak. The decline was so pronounced in many of the navies and their capabilities were so atrophied that this really called into question their ability to provide credible deterrence. And they were smaller than any time in recent history, they lost capability, and the idea of deploying them in contested environments had almost been forgotten. There was a preoccupation with low-intensity operations, counter-piracy operations, but the basic function of warfighting had been forgotten to a certain extent.

But, at the same time, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I know for a lot of people who want to see change happen quickly and see budgets rise very quickly. It bears remembering that in the 1990s they were using vessels designed in the 80s and 70s, so it will take time for the changes to take place and we have to be very smart in the risks we assume in defense spending. But I do see light at the end of the tunnel what European naval forces are concerned.

RH: This positivity you’re sharing with us is certainly an exercise in patience and prudent decision-making in defense spending. Looking to the future, do you have any last strategic takeaways that we should be conscious of?

JS: For anyone who is interested in European naval matters it is important to scale down your expectations. European navies and their militaries are sometimes seen as collectively powerful because Europe as a whole is more populous than the United States and its cumulative GDP is also higher. The United States and Europe are similar, so it seems. And that’s a very inviting idea, but it just does not work because Europe has different states with very different interests.

It’s important to remember that the individual defense budgets of the respective states are but a fraction of that of the United States. But what is more important for the smallish navies is that they still play an important role in the freedom of the seas and good order at seas, and also in military operations. There is a necessity for far greater research on European naval forces, especially of their development over the past decades. There is very little comprehensive research on what they have been doing, what their policies were, what they changed what the force structures were, and so on. So, I am just trying to contribute to that a bit.

Finally, as a strategic takeaway, without giving away too much of what’s in my book, I believe that in an age of great power competition it is very likely that the 21st century will be one of continued American naval power despite all the naysayers. I believe it will also be an era of rising (or already risen) Asian naval power. The question is really to what degree it will involve European sea power and naval power.

I encourage readers to reach out to us at ISPK and the Center for Maritime Strategy and Security to discuss these pressing questions. We believe shared knowledge is empowerment.

RH: On that note Jeremy, thank you for taking the time for helping us to discuss this pressing but under-the-radar issue. If our readers would like to follow up on Jeremy’s work, please check out his book The Decline of European Naval Forces. You can also look for the Routledge handbook of Naval Strategy and Forces, edited by Sebastian Bruns and Joachim Krause, which is an indispensible resource. For more info on the book and other podcasts, don’t forget to visit https://www.kielseapowerseries.com/en/ and follow us on Twitter at @SeapowerSeries for more updates.

Jeremy Stöhs is a security and defense analyst at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK) and its adjunct Center for Maritime Strategy & Security as well as a fellow at the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda & Security Studies (ACIPSS).

Roger Hilton is the defence and Security stream manager at GLOBSEC, a global think-tank based in Bratislava, Slovakia  as well as a research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI).

Featured Image: Norwegian Sea, Nov 7. 2018. TRIDENT JUNCTURE 18 PHOTEX. (NATO Photo by Wo Fran C. Valverde)

On The Decline of European Naval Power: A Conversation with Jeremy Stöhs, Pt. 1

By Roger Hilton

The intensifying competition between the United States, Russia, and China for control of strategic spaces has brought with it a slew of challenges and a lowered threshold for potential confrontation. Consequently this new security dynamic has forced national policymakers to reconsider the importance of the maritime domain when it comes to global statecraft. Consequently, this new security dynamic has forced national policy makers to reconsider the importance of the maritime domain when it comes to global statecraft. On quick observation the situation does not inspire much confidence. Years of neglected force structure investment by European nations coupled with shifting American presence to Asia suggest a distressing situation. Consequently, based on these factors it is only natural to ponder if Europe’s naval forces are doomed to impotency for the foreseeable future, or if reform if possible.

Here to help us navigate these questions is Jeremy Stöhs, an Austrian-American defense analyst at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University and its adjunct Center for Strategy and Security. In addition, he is also a fellow at the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda, and Security Studies. His current research and teaching focuses on transatlantic relations, maritime security, and European naval power. He has written various articles and chapters on the matter and is the author of the recent book, The Decline of European Naval Forces, Challenges to Sea Power in an Age of Fiscal Austerity and Political Uncertainty.

The decline of European naval power can provide insight into the evolution of Europe’s naval forces since the end of the Cold War. To illuminate the drastic changes many European navies have undergone in the past 25 years, we turn to Jeremy who has analyzed the defense policies and naval strategies of 11 European states, as well as the evolution in deployments and capabilities of their respective forces.

JS: Thank you for having me Roger, it’s always a pleasure talking to you.

RH: Before we dive in, it might be helpful if we structure the conversation. We will cover three distinct periods as they relate to the decline of European naval forces. The first period reaches from 1990-2001, and encompasses the post-Cold War peace dividend. The second period, from 2001-2014, covers land wars in the age of global terrorism after 9/11. Period three, 2014 to the present, begins with the annexation of Crimea. 

In your book you describe both the concept of sea power and naval power, can you explain each concept and explain what distinguishes them?

JS: Thank you very much for the question. There is, as you infer, significant semantic awkwardness regarding these terms and their numerous definitions for seapower, for maritime power, for naval power. I like to paraphrase retired British Admiral Chris Parry who argues that sea power is the combined investments of various resources of the state or enterprises in the pursuit of favorable outcomes at sea. I happen to focus on states despite non-state actors gaining power in the world.

But it’s not only about investments or what Geoffrey Till calls the inputs. Sea power is also about the outputs, or in other words, what capacity states have to influence human behavior by what they do at sea. The state is one basic unit for the measurement of power distribution so sea power broadly speaking would include all investment of the state, such as cultural, commercial, military in the maritime domain. Naval power is but one part of sea power, it’s the military investment.

RH: Can you provide some contemporary examples of each?

JS: The concepts are linked, so I would not say there is one example for one or the other. In order to have sea power in my opinion, you need to have a degree of naval power. Some states may have some significant maritime commercial interests but relatively little means for similarly large investments in naval power. But I refer again to Geoffrey Till who refers to that as the virtuous circle, so one investment in one area is mutually beneficial, and a decline in one area can affect decline in another. I believe this is something we have seen in the past, it is important to remember that most every state –  or rather every state – has some interest in the sea, and they enjoy different forms of agency at sea. Even landlocked countries like my home Austria has a part to play within the global trade regime and therefore also has stakes at sea.

Sea power and naval power are linked, and it’s a different concept than how it was understood maybe 200 years ago, but today they are inextricably linked. 

RH: We have the post-Cold War peace dividend, from 1990-2001. You describe in detail how this period started the initial erosion of naval capabilities and strategies. With the end of the Cold War, yourself like many experts declared that the existential threat of the USSR disappeared and by extension led to the abandonment of traditional naval doctrine. As this was a period of transition from sea control, sea denial, and territorial defense operations to power projection and operations in the littorals. How would you describe this transition, and was this shifting of capabilities for nations smooth or for others was it a regrettable experience?

JS: Well now we have the benefit of hindsight and hindsight is always 20/20. But generally speaking you are correct, although I would say that this process was much more nuanced depending on the respective state and more nuanced than it might seem today.

Two broad trends that are discernable during this period of time are states either adhering to traditional strategies of territorial defense, or seeking greater power projection in all its forms, not only military but also in terms of economics and so on. Those are the two opposing trends. But as always I think it’s important to keep in mind it was not black and white but a continuum of change. States might have had a government that emphasized one area over others, and because sea power is an enduring element many of the developments were gradual. So I try to refrain from revolutionary language, I think it was very incremental. Ships cannot be built overnight, naval and maritime proficiencies cannot be gained overnight, and the capabilities in existence in the 1990s were very much the same as the 1980s. It was the same or similar platforms, systems, and people, largely working in unfamiliar waters maybe, and often in unfamiliar ways.

It’s important to note that some navies in some states welcomed these new missions whereas others were reluctant to join in the post-Cold War euphoria. And this is of course related to geostrategic freedom of action. You look at a state like Norway with its proximity to a historical antagonistic, Russia, and other states with very limited financial means it’s difficult to change its naval policy. Therefore I don’t think there is a clear answer to your question.

RH: Against the backdrop of this maritime landscape that deemphasizes traditional doctrine, how are navies in this time justifying their existence and budgets?

JS: A difficult question to generalize and, again, it depends a lot on each Navy, and there should be much more research of each Navy in terms of how the defense policies have changed. But broadly speaking already during the 1980s in the period of easing tensions between East and West, the German reunification, the maintenance of previous spending levels on defense was not possible. You see this already in British defense studies such as the Options for Change white paper of 1990 that clearly describes how previous defense spending was no longer feasible. So how do they actually justify their existence?

It depends. You have the Scandinavian states, with the exception of Denmark, justifying their existence through a continued threat to their territory, with Russia still being the most powerful military power on the continent. The need to protect their Exclusive Economic Zones was also a core argument, and it’s important to remember that provisions of UNCLOS came into force in 1994, elevating the importance of the EEZs even more so.

In the south you have Greece and Turkey which lived through a period of increased tension during the 1990s. This necessitated hikes in defense spending. And for the rest of Europe, many countries placed great emphasis on projecting power, interventions, peace support operations and such. These took navies outside of the NATO’s traditional areas of operation, ‘out-of-area,’ and naval forces were uniquely suited in this role because of their three basic functions, including: the military, the diplomatic, and the constabulary function.

In this period of fiscal austerity, defense planners used every opportunity they had, but it differed from country to country.

RH: You make the observation that green and brown-water navies evolved into blue water navies. Was this a matter of survival, or was this repurposing utility?

JS: There are only a couple of examples where that actually occurred and that has something to do with this aforementioned trend toward power projection. During the Cold War, European navies were assigned specific duties within their areas of responsibility, such as anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare, escort duties, amphibious assault, and so they were quite limited by the bipolar world order.

Once these restrictions ended then states that enjoyed strategic freedom of action sought to use naval forces to project power. And an interesting point, those examples that stick out are the Germany Navy or the Danish Navy, to the less extent the Belgian and Spanish navies, they really saw power projection in different forms. But these navies, mainly the German and the Danish navies, were mainly green water navies, operating close to shore occasionally conducting escort duties, but now they would become blue water navies operating far from home. Now they would go into other littorals at great distances, so they would still act as littoral navies, but at a great distance from home. So that’s an interesting aspect of this whole blue water, green/brown debate.

And of course the repurposing had some utility for those navies. They were able to contribute to increasing number of peacekeeping operations that were emerging in the 1990s, including crisis management which was one of NATO’s main roles, military interventions of course in the Balkans for example, but also further afield. We have numerous operations, including Desert Storm, Yugoslavia, Operation Desert Fox in the late 90s, the intervention in Sierra Leone, also low-key humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts after natural catastrophes and so on.

RH: Despite it being a time of economic prosperity and peace, you reference large-scale investments and procurement projects that took place during this period. Can you situate some of the naval hardware being bought and used at the time?

JS: I provide a lot of examples in my book on naval procurement and force structure, and to a certain extent the platforms and their advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to note that European defense industry was of course a powerful actor. It had influence on how naval forces were built and what they looked like, and critical technologies and jobs of course were still main concerns.

It’s important to remember as I mentioned before, navies can’t be built overnight. So, during the 1990s, they were designed for the Cold War, for high intensity warfighting. If you look at the Italian Navy, the German Navy, they were designed for warfighting, a lot of anti-submarine warfare, escort duties, and mine warfare. Now, all of the sudden, you have this need for expeditionary operations and what you need for that, well you need multi-purpose surface combatants, landing platform docks, amphibious assault ships, helicopter carriers and such. So, on one hand, you see this trend that you need larger platforms for low-intensity operations, and at the same time you have all those procurement projects that were developed and designed in the 1980s. There was a divergence between strategic necessities and the security environment for what you need for that and the procurement plans that are already in the pipeline. In the 1990s you see European countries developing air defense capabilities and air defense destroyers and frigates, and those were capable ships that were commissioned at a time where threats of anti-ship missiles in the littorals are not all too great, and where European countries are operating ships with relative impunity.

But of course this had the advantage of supporting important industries and just goes to show that you have to be very prudent about your decision-making and strategic forecasting.

RH: Is there anything else you’d like to add that we should know or that we’ve overlooked?

JS: With respect to downscaling in this period of time, you have fiscal austerity, a peace dividend, so especially maintenance-intensive and manpower-intensive platforms are decommissioned. But it can be considered a period of relative plenty, especially with regard to the threat scenarios at the time. You still have highly capable platforms coming online, you have highly-proficient crews and personnel, so it’s important to note those capabilities that were being developed in Europe. The Horizon-class, the Daring-class, the German air defense frigates, they were state-of-the-art and comparable to the best air defense destroyers in the world. The UK got the Tomahawk land-attack missile for their subs, the French got their Charles De Gaulle carrier. There was also closer cooperation between the states because of the need to streamline and operate together at a tactical level.

The United States still had such great capabilities that they could compensate to some extent for the dwindling numbers among European naval powers. But the 1990s still proved how important naval power was.

RH: Let’s move on to the second period, involving land wars in the period between 2001-2014. This was a seminal moment not just for European navies but also world history. Not only did this period bring two major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the global financial crisis. How did these developments play a major role in the development of European naval forces?

JS: I would argue not to over-dramatize this period. It is true that the last decade it was very challenging for European naval power and the defense community in general in Europe. But it’s also important to put it into a historic context, for the naval forces of some European states, such as the Spanish armada in the 19th century or the 20th century German or Italian navies, they had endured far greater calamities and declines than what we’ve witnessed recently.

However, if you look at the past 30 years, this last decade had the most significant impact on naval forces. I wouldn’t say that it was mainly the land wars but, more importantly, the decreasing defense spending because that more or less is what shapes your naval forces.

RH: At the time we’re in Afghanistan and Iraq, how did the preoccupation with these land wars recalibrate naval power?

JS: There are a couple points to keep in mind here. First of all these operations, we talk about the war on terrorism, you have military operations on land but naval forces play an important role in contributing to these campaigns from air strikes to cruise missiles to providing close air support and medevac, inserting special forces, logistics, and so on. At the same time you had a broadening of the security agenda in general. That already occurs throughout the 1990s but then picks up speed during the 2000s. 9/11 caused Article V of NATO to be invoked for the first time. A large number of European states contributed to the war in Afghanistan, and then also two years later in Iraq. This changed the security environment in such that you have a broadening security environment, a broadening of the term security, and from the 1990s onward and especially after 9/11 you have the threat of terrorism as one of the challenges the naval forces have to deal with. So you see naval forces being deployed in counter-terrorism, combating illegal trafficking of arms, drugs, people, counter-proliferation against weapons of mass destruction. The concept of maritime security is prevalent at this time and naval forces are assigned with dealing with all kinds of maritime security challenges.

RH: It’s been argued that this period helped assert the dominance of the Army and Air Force, and that it led to the de-prioritization of naval power. Amidst this interservice rivalry, did it force navies to expand their repertoire of functions to become more versatile?

JS: I would have to say that really depends on each individual state. I find it difficult to make general claims here. But one thing that is clear is that air and land forces received the lion’s share of funding during this period of time and usually they got a greater portion of the defense budget. We have similar developments in the U.S. as you see in Europe, in those wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where you prioritize the capabilities that you need in war. I remember the discussions quite vividly in investing in low-intensity capabilities such as mine resistant ambush protected vehicles. That was the problem, the high-low mix, therefore U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates slashed the F-22 program for instance. You have a similar problem in Europe.

What this period of time does, I believe, is it changes the perception of the functions of the navies and the understandings of navies in what their constabulary and diplomatic roles are. This is reflected in concepts such as the 1,000-ship Navy, the U.S. maritime strategy A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, and the European effort for capacity building on the low-end of the intensity spectrum together with partners, and it’s easier to build partnerships at the lower-level compared to the high-end.

So you see this growing cooperation and this cooperative approach toward maritime missions, and of course what happens is that this comes at the expense of warfighting capabilities. Especially anti-submarine warfare wasn’t really practiced, offensive mining was relinquished, anti-surface warfare is difficult to do when you lack surveillance assets like maritime patrol aircraft. So the focus is shifted perhaps too much toward the low-end, it really changed the perception of what navies can do. But I think that is being forgotten again.

Jeremy Stöhs is a security and defense analyst at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK) and its adjunct Center for Maritime Strategy & Security as well as a fellow at the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda & Security Studies (ACIPSS).

Roger Hilton is the defence and Security stream manager at GLOBSEC, a global think-tank based in Bratislava, Slovakia  as well as a research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI).

Featured Image: British Royal Navy air defense destroyers HMS Daring (front) and HMS Dauntless operate, February 2010. (Wikimedia Commons/UK Ministry of Defence)

Turkish F-35s – Where Do We Go From Here?

By Jon G. Isaac

A Transatlantic Standoff

In January, CIMSEC published an article in which the author advocated against Turkey’s ongoing participation in the development, manufacture, and eventual purchase of the F-35 Lighting II. Broadly, as January’s piece noted, debate over Ankara’s eventual acquisition of the F-35 has come as a result of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence upon purchasing and operating the Russian-made S-400 Triumf  air defense missile system (NATO reporting tag: SA-21 Growler). As lawmakers on the hill and Department of Defense leaders have warned, connection or even close operation between Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation fighter and the Russian air defense system represents a critical security breach which could undermine the aircraft’s operational advantage in the future.

Despite months of warning and posturing which signaled to Ankara that acquisition of the S-400 would jeopardize the future of the Turkish F-35 fleet, Turkish officials have repeatedly emphasized that cancellation of the S-400 purchase is “out of the question.” American officials have attempted to provide counter offers, most notably through a discounted sale of the American-made MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system. None of the attempts at mediation have worked, with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, stating emphatically that Turkish purchase of the S-400 “is a done deal.”

As a result, on April 1st, the Department of Defense confirmed a Reuters report that stated the Pentagon was halting shipments of critical parts and equipment required for the stand-up for Turkey’s first F-35 squadron. In the piece, Reuters quotes DoD spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews and notes that, “pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability” have been delayed indefinitely. This was the Pentagon’s first major move in countering Turkish obstinance.

Complicating matters further, Senator Jim Inhoff (R-OK), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, respectively, published an op-ed in The New York Times which explicitly forces Turkey to choose between the F-35 and the S-400. Barring a Turkish decision to drop the S-400, they write, “no F-35s will reach Turkish soil” and “sanctions will be imposed as required by United States law under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).” Secretary of State Pompeo supported these remarks on Wednesday when he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there would be no Turkish F-35s if they do not abandon the S-400. Curiously, Secretary Pompeo stopped short of definitively stating whether or not Turkish S-400 acquisition would trigger American sanctions as required by law under CAATSA. While Pompeo’s hesitance may have only been an attempt to keep all options open, it could also have links to Minister Çavuşoğlu’s ardent claims that President Trump personally assured Erdogan that he would “would take care of this issue” in reference to the F-35.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It appears, for now, that Ankara faces a choice. In Washington, legislative efforts to bar sales of the F-35 to Turkey seem to have garnered bipartisan support and congressional support. In Ankara, Erdogan leveraged the S-400 issue at almost all of his campaign rallies leading up to the March 31st Turkish elections. Elections which, coincidentally, took a toll on Erdogan’s AKP party on the local level. Nevertheless, Erdogan has continued to posture surrounding the S-400 issue, with the European Council on Foreign Relation’s Asli Aydıntaşbaş writing that Erdogan has seemingly adopted the issue as “a sign of his virility, his independence, his power on the world stage that he could say no to [the] United States.”

Internally, it seems that there are those among Erdogan’s staff who believe the Americans are bluffing and that both systems will eventually solidify themselves in the Turkish arsenal. They are not entirely helpless, either, with American basing rights at the critical Incirlik Air Base standing as a potential bargaining chip for Turkish negotiators. Turkish negotiators face a hard battle, however, as the Pentagon has said it is already looking for alternatives to the F-35 parts currently made in Turkey.

This standoff has not only placed pressure on the Turkish-U.S. relationship, but moreover is raising questions about Ankara’s standing within NATO as a whole. Rick Berger, a former Senate Budget Committee staffer and current researcher at the American Enterprise Institute has noted that this flashpoint has repeatedly brought up, “the whole ‘Should Turkey be in NATO?’ question.” Moreover, the NATO countries that operate the F-35 have internally expressed concern over interoperability with Turkish airframes should they link to the S-400. At a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin has regularly engaged in policies aimed at destabilizing the transatlantic alliance, perhaps the Turkish F-35 crisis presents not just a commercial or political threat to the U.S.-Turkey relationship, but a strategic threat to NATO as a whole.

Jon Isaac is a pseudonym for a developing security analyst.

Featured Image: An F-35B Lightning II performs a vertical landing aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. (Flickr/U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Jonah Lovy)

Don’t Forget Our Allies! Interoperable Maritime Operations in a Combined Environment

By LT Jason Lancaster, USN

Introduction

“I’ve engaged with heads of navies from around the world, upwards of 72 different countries, in the concept that I call a 1,000-ship navy. It’s a thousand ships of like-minded nations working together to get at the emerging challenges of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists, drugs, weapons, pirates, human trafficking and immigration. These are challenges we all have, and we need to work together to ensure that the sea-lanes are secure.” -Admiral Mike Mullen1

In 2006, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mullen, put forward the idea of the navies of the world uniting to fight shared challenges to promote freedom of the seas. While today’s attention focuses more on great power competition and less on trans-national terrorism and piracy, the idea of like-minded nations fighting together for freedom of the seas remains.

The U.S. often fights wars as part of a coalition of like-minded states, and has frequently done so for over a century. The U.S. Navy has not fought a naval war alone since the Spanish-American-Cuban War of 1898. From the Boxer Rebellion to the War on Terror, the U.S. fights in conjunction with its allies and partners. The third theme of A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority 2.0 is, “The Navy fighting with the Joint Force and with our allies and partners will control the high end of maritime conflict.” High capability allies increase the lethality of U.S. forces. Allied forces can complement a carrier strike group (CSG) by providing additional air defense units, contribute ships and Marines to amphibious operations, and support Theater ASW with submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, and surface ships. Many allies also specialize in areas the US Navy is weak in, such as mine warfare.

Despite a lengthy pedigree of combined naval operations, the U.S. Navy must continue focusing on interoperability with allies. The U.S. Navy’s attention must remain firmly set on interoperability. It is a mindset that must be consistently reinforced by leaders and sailors operating in a combined environment. The operational staffs at CSGs and Destroyer Squadrons are vital to the successful execution of combined operations because they write the operational tasking messages (OPTASKs) and control the communications paths that enable our allies to fight with us. Without being able to communicate and operate together and understand the capabilities of allies, the U.S. Navy will not be able to take advantage of allied navy skills in a distributed environment.

Interoperability

There are four types of interoperability: Strategic, Operational, Tactical, and Technological. Strategic Interoperability is durable relationships with partner nations, organizations like NATO, or Mutual Defense Treaty relationships in Asia. These high level agreements indicate shared mutual interests and a long-term desire to cooperate and determine that an operation is required. Operational Interoperability can be achieved through a myriad of ways: a combined fleet or dividing tasks and territory between nations to accomplish individually. Tactical Interoperability is operating ships or aircraft from different countries together, and the technological level is the data links, radars, or weapons that they utilize to accomplish their missions.

Understanding the capabilities and limitations of allied platforms is vital for effective use of those assets.2 Without an understanding of what partner units can do, both sides will be incredibly frustrated during the operation. The Allied Interoperability and Coordination Guide published by the NATO Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence gives specific examples of areas that have given combined forces problems during U.S. naval exercises. Unsurprisingly, many of those examples are communications related.

Four levels of interoperability (Interoperability A Continuing Challenge in Coalition Air Operations/RAND)

High-Capability Allies and Technological Interoperability

“Link-11 is for NATO because they’re cheap.”
-SWO Lore

Today’s Allies have modern, capable warships. If one was reading Janes and saw “AEGIS Weapons System, SPY-1 Radar, SM-2 Missile, and Mk-41 Vertical Launching System (VLS),” one might assume that it was a U.S. Navy ship. But today, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Spain, Denmark, and Norway have warships with the AEGIS Weapons System,  SPY-1 radars, and vertical launch cells. Italy, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany all have ships that have similar combat system capabilities. These ships have Link-11, Link-16, and satellite communications. Over 18 nations operate the P-3 Orion, Australia and India operate P-8 Poseidons, and the U.K. is expected to deploy them by 2020. Nine nations’ navies and air forces are buying variants of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Between the new ships and the new planes, the U.S. and its allies are technologically interoperable. The main interoperability friction points are communications and doctrine.

Mexican, German, and US warships conduct Underway Replenishment during UNITAS 2009 (Author photo)

Because of defense budgets and population size, many U.S. allies expect to fight in a combined task force. For example, Denmark has deployed Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates in support of U.S. and French CSGs, and plans to do the same with the British. These ships have regularly made cooperative deployments with the United States Navy. These frigates have AEGIS and SPY and are capable air defense platforms. In 2013, another capable air defense platform, the FGS Hamburg made a cooperative deployment with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG in 2013, the first cooperative deployment for the Bundesmarine.3 The Spanish frigate Mendez Nunez is scheduled to deploy with the Abraham Lincoln CSG.4 Cooperative deployers go through their own domestic training cycle, followed with certification by the British Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST), before sailing to the United States to participate in a Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) and follow-on deployment.

Large scale exercises such as BALTOPS in Europe, KEEN SWORD and COBRA GOLD in the Pacific, and UNITAS in the Americas are a chance to flex all four levels of interoperability. The strategic aspect includes messaging that partner nations are resolved to work together and are ready and willing to fight tonight together. At the operational and tactical level, these exercises give navies a chance to train together, build relationships, and work through interoperability challenges. These relationships, established through frequent exercises, enable confidence in both forces’ ability to fight together. This trust is vital to teamwork and success in a future conflict.

Problems in Tactical Interoperability
Communications

Tactical interoperability is the ability to communicate and operate together. The ability to communicate effectively is a complex, never-ending battle. HF, UHF, EHF, SHF, and VHF paths are favored by different nations for different missions and different nets. The U.S. military’s large satellite constellation enables the U.S. Navy to operate at sea with a focus on UHF, SHF, and EHF communications. This enables internet bandwidth which further enables the dominance of SIPR chat as a means of C2. The destroyer’s Tactical Action Officer (TAO) is inundated with chats in multiple chat rooms from higher headquarters expecting reports on everything from enemy actions to hourly potable water percentages or other minutiae. SIPR is a U.S.-only domain which precludes allies from participating. U.S. comfort in SIPR utilization means that oftentimes allies are left outside of the communications chain.

The U.S. also operates BICES and CENTRIX computer networks for use with allies, however there are fewer computers available aboard ship for use, which restricts the ability to operate those systems. This issue can be mitigated by focusing on voice communications. Some commanders utilize chat and then use voice when they remember to include their allies in the operation. This wastes time and sidelines allies, leading to frustration. It is better to utilize the radio nets instead of chat for C2.
U.S. ships are used to operating a myriad of circuits simultaneously, but not all partner nation ships have the same capability to use a broad spectrum of circuits. Understanding the limitations of partner nation radio shacks to limit the number of circuits U.S. vessels use is important for designing stable and effective comms architecture.

Cryptographic keying material (crypto) is another major issue for successful communications. One cannot communicate effectively if the crypto is wrong. Different types of crypto rotate at different times and sailors have to understand the nuances of those rotations. As an example, during an operation, two U.S. ships and one allied ship were conducting an exercise. The two U.S. ships did not shift crypto when they were supposed to, but the allied ship did. That allied ship mysteriously fell out of the net and no one knew why. The two U.S. ships did not switch, and said it was the allied ship’s fault they dropped out because the two U.S. ships could still communicate. Eventually, it was realized that the two U.S. ships had not shifted crypto within periodicity, and once crypto had been shifted, comms were restored. This problem is more pronounced when operating with aircraft that cannot reload crypto until they return home which eliminates an asset from the operation.

The N6 community should focus on ensuring that OPTASK Comms are written with interoperability in mind. Ship’s radio shacks must be trained to seamlessly utilize allied crypto. When a ship drops communications, all ships in the squadron should verify that their settings are correct and not assume the other person is wrong. Most importantly, the staff should prioritize voice communications over chat. Emphasis on these things will enable the commander to turn an allied warship from a liability into a useful asset.

Operations

Once allies can communicate, it is time to operate together. Interoperability is a mindset. Commander’s intent can drive a CSG or DESRON to be interoperable. During exercises, the CSG and DESRON can demand that the training and doctrine commands, like Surface and Mine Warfare Development Center (SMWDC), ensure that their support during exercises is releasable to allies. The CSG and Destroyer Squadron must understand the capabilities and limitations of partner nation ships and aircraft and task them appropriately. Many naval vessels are multi-mission, however like most things, some ships are more appropriate for certain missions. A NATO air defense frigate with AEGIS that lacks a towed array sonar might be better suited as plane guard than part of an ASW search and attack unit.

U.S. forces are trained on U.S. publications such as Naval Tactical Techniques and Procedures (NTTP) and Naval Warfare Publications (NWPs). They typically receive less training on Allied Tactical Publications (ATPs). Yet NATO nations expect to fight as a unit and train from the ATPs. U.S. forces operate globally and tend to focus on their own doctrine which is similar to, but often slightly different from NATO doctrine. Part of this is a releasability issue. Since the U.S. partners with nations like Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea that are non-NATO countries, the U.S. needs doctrine it can release to them, but also doctrine that is the same in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. If OPTASKs are written using only U.S. doctrine it makes it more difficult to share with allied cooperative deployers. If a CSG has a cooperative deployer, it makes sense to utilize ATPs instead of NTTPs and ensure the OPTASKs are releasable to NATO, reducing the time required by short-staffed Foreign Disclosure Officers. The process of releasing critical information to cooperative deployers must be improved so that CSG staffs on deployment can rapidly transfer information required for day-to-day operations to allies.

OPTASKs can be written from ATPs or U.S. publications. The CSG’s OPTASKs should be written early enough for U.S. and allied ships to train to them. ATP-based OPTASKs will require adjustment for the U.S. ships, but will seamlessly incorporate any allied ships for operations on deployment. U.S. ships are supposed to utilize allied publications and procedures when operating with NATO allies; the commander should ensure that his OPTASKs are written to follow that.

U.S. Arleigh Burke Flight IIA warships lack Harpoon missiles and a significant surface strike capability. Most NATO frigates that are equipped with Harpoon or Exocet can provide additional missiles for the surface fight. The Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate carries 16 Harpoon missiles, the equivalent of two U.S. cruisers or FLT I DDGs combined. This large quantity of Harpoons greatly eases the salvo sizes required for successful engagements. The U.S. Navy needs to ensure that once new Distributed Maritime Operations concepts, C4I processes, and techniques are developed, they are released to regular NATO cooperative deployers like Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom so that coalition assets strengths can be utilized.

The Korean Theater of Operations provides an interesting confluence of interoperability. The U.S. Navy regularly works with the ROK Navy and is interoperable with them, but in the event of a war, United Nations Command expects 11 United Nations Sending States – nations including European nations, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines – to contribute forces to the campaign. Currently there are few opportunities for European and ROK navies to train together. There are occasional passing exercises (PASSEXes) in CTF 151 and the occasional Tri-lateral Exercise when a European ship passes through the KTO or a Korean ship visits Europe, but those opportunities rarely stress complex interoperability issues like communications and tactical data links.

SEOUL, Republic of Korea (Oct. 11, 2016) More than 80 mine-warfare specialists from 12 nations including the U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) pose during a break at the annual Mine Countermeasure Warfare Symposium in Seoul. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jermaine M. Ralliford)

There has not been much discussion over what doctrine will be used, including NATO Allied Tactical Publications or U.S. doctrine, and how to incorporate nations like the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines. One area where the United Nations Command has been successful in incorporating U.N. Sending States is mine warfare. Since 2014, the U.S. and ROK Navies, and United Nations Sending States have come together to conduct mine countermeasure exercises familiarizing themselves with the local conditions and operating as a coalition. As United Nations Command ramps up that exercise, the doctrine and releasability aspects will hopefully solve themselves, however one must identify issues to solve it.

Conclusion

As fleet sizes around the world decline, Admiral Mullen’s thousand ship-navy vision becomes more important and CSGs composed of coalition partners will become more common. Since many U.S. allies operate the same or similar aircraft and ships, these coalitions are technologically interoperable, but tactical and operational interoperability starts with the commander and his intent. As the U.S. Navy creates new C4I systems and tactics, they need to be rapidly released to close partners to ensure the continued interoperability of naval forces. With good communications and releasable tactics, these nations can make excellent contributions to the fight. Without emphasis on partner nations’ interoperability, the U.S. Navy will waste valuable assets, and eventually receive fewer coalition assets on deployment.

LT Jason Lancaster is an alumnus of Mary Washington College and has an M.A. from the University of Tulsa. He is currently serving as the N8 Tactical Development Officer at Commander, Destroyer Squadron 26. The above views are his own and do not reflect the position of the Navy or Department of Defense.

Bibliography

1. U.S. Navy. Office of the Chief of the Naval Operations, “Speeches” http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/mullen/speeches/mullen060519-kqv.txt (accessed 31JAN19)

2. Hura, Myron, Gary W. McLeod, Eric V. Larson, James Schneider, Dan Gonzales, Daniel M. Norton, Jody Jacobs, Kevin M. O’Connell, William Little, Richard Mesic, and Lewis Jamison, Interoperability: A Continuing Challenge in Coalition Air Operations. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2000. https://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1235.html (Accessed 31JAN19).

3. Gorman, Tim, Hamburg First German Ship to Deploy in U.S. CSG, 3Apr2013. https://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=73121 (Acessed 31JAN19).

4. NATO, Allied Interoperability & Coordination Guide Version 1.0, November 2018.

5. Richardson,John M, A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority Version 2.0, December 2018.

6. Gause, Kennth, U.S. Navy Interoperability with Its High End Allies, Alexandria VA, Center for Naval Analyses, October 2018, https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a468332.pdf (Accessed 31JAN19).

7. Jean-Gilles, Jacques,Carrier Strike Group Twelve Welcomes Spanish Frigate Mendez Nunez to Naval Station Norfolk, 14Jan2019, https://www.dvidshub.net/news/307019/carrier-strike-group-12-welcomes-spanish-frigate-mendez-nunez-naval-station-norfolk, (accessed 16FEB19).

Featured Image: SATTAHIP, Thailand (Feb. 10, 2019) – Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) discuss vehicle capabilities with Royal Thai Navy Rear Adm. Chatchai Thongsaard, Commander Amphibious and Combat Support Service Squadron, during a ship tour. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anaid Banuelos Rodriguez) 190210-N-DX072-1037