Archive for the 'France' Tag

Russian-MistralAs reported by our friend Sam last week, there is a answer to the quandry about the French sale of the two MISTAL amphibious assault ships to the Russians. It really is the most logical and face saving option for the French. This time it was brought up by Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.),

“France has made a good decision stopping the sale process — it would be absurd for NATO to be providing assistance to Ukraine on the one hand while selling arms to Russia on the other,” said retired James G. Stavridis — U.S. Naval Institute’s Chair of the Board of Directors — said in a statement to USNI News.

“If the [Russian] arms embargo continues, then the idea of NATO purchasing one or even two as part of a rapid reaction force might make sense… “[But] it is too soon to tell, given discussion today about ceasefires and political settlement.”

Let’s work through a few assumptions here:
1. NATO could hobble together the funding and agree to the purchase.
2. The French are willing to handle the blowback from the Russian.
3. We have a spark of imagination.

If 1-3 are taken care of, what would NATO do with them? Stavridis is close … but there is a more perfect answer, and it is closer than you would think.

The intellectual and practical structure is already in place. Let’s look at the closest enabling supports of a successful structure inside NATO that would need to be in place to make this happen. We have two.

First, can NATO run a tactical and operational unit with personnel from multiple nations working together at a practical level? Sure, they already are. Let’s look to the air;

The E-3A Component’s three flying squadrons are structured essentially the same, yet each carries its own traditions and character. The squadrons operate the Component’s 17 E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

Military personnel from 16 of the 17 E-3A Component participating countries man the Component’s squadrons. Most of the personnel are aircrew on the E-3A and a few work full time in support. ….

Crew

In order to operate the complex equipment on an AWACS, the E-3A has a crew of 16 drawn from a variety of branches, trades and nationalities, all of whom are extensively trained in their respective roles.

NATO has been making it happen in the air for a quarter of a century in the air, why not the sea?

Does that structure exist? Well, in a fashion, yes;

Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 and 2

The Standing NATO Maritime Groups are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries. These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from participating in exercises to actually intervening in operational missions. These groups provide NATO with a continuous maritime capability for NATO Response Force (NRF) operations, non-NRF operations and other activities in peacetime and in periods of crisis and conflict. They also help to establish Alliance presence, demonstrate solidarity, conduct routine diplomatic visits to different countries, support transformation and provide a variety of maritime military capabilities to ongoing missions.

SNMG1 and SNMG2 alternate according to the operational needs of the Alliance, therefore helping to maintain optimal flexibility.

SNMG1
SNMG1 is usually employed in the Eastern Atlantic area, but it can deploy anywhere NATO requires. It is made up of vessels from different member countries. Those that routinely contribute to SNMG1 are Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United States. Other countries have occasionally contributed.

SNMG 2
SNMG2 is usually employed in the Mediterranean area, but it can deploy anywhere NATO requires. It is made up of vessels from different member countries. Those that routinely contribute to SNMG2 are Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other countries have occasionally contributed.

SNMG1 comes under the command of Allied Maritime Component Command Headquarters Northwood, in the United Kingdom, which is one of the three Component Commands of Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum.

Normally, SNMG2 comes under the command of Allied Maritime Component Command (CC-Mar) Naples, which is one of the three Component Commands of Allied Joint Force Command Naples.

There’s your structure – something that just needs a little modification and updating. You know what SNMG1 and SMNG2 need? That’s right – Flag Ships; standing permanent LCCesque Flag Ships. Two SNMG, two Mistral; a match made if not in heaven, then at least in Brussels.

Think about what the SNMG do, ponder a multi-national crew (even sweeten the deal by promising the French they will always have command of the SNMG2 Flag Ship), and look at what the MISTRAL Class brings to the fight. A bit larger than the old IWO JIMA LPH with a well deck to boot, MISTRAL provides;

The flight deck of each ship is approximately 6,400 square metres (69,000 sq ft). The deck has six helicopter landing spots, one of which is capable of supporting a 33 tonne helicopter. … According to Mistral’s first commanding officer, Capitaine de vaisseau Gilles Humeau, the size of the flight and hangar decks would allow the operation of up to thirty helicopters.

Mistral-class ships can accommodate up to 450 soldiers, … The 2,650-square-metre (28,500 sq ft) vehicle hangar can carry a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion, or a 13-strong Leclerc tank company and 46 other vehicles.

The 885-square-metre (9,530 sq ft) well deck can accommodate four landing craft. The ships are capable of operating two LCAC hovercraft … a 850-square-metre (9,100 sq ft) command centre which can host up to 150 personnel. … Each ship carries a NATO Role 3 medical facility … The 900 m² hospital provides 20 rooms and 69 hospitalisation beds, of which 7 are fit for intensive care.

A little NATO common funding and we have two NATO LCC and then some. Problem solved. Understanding that it will require a fair bit of turnip squeezing to keep funded at a proper level, but there is a lot of win here – and to be a bit more realpolitic – it may be the only way to peel these away from the Russians.



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If you dig around a bit, you can find more and more about the Tactical Lessons Identified (learned is a totally different concept) from the Libyan operations. Like all real world operations, when looked at with a clear eye you can learn what theories were good in practice, what old lessons you needed to remember, and who was being too optimistic or too academic when it came to the realities of combat.

Robbin Laird has a great article out based in a large part on his interviews with the French military. What is so interesting is to hear from other nations what we are used to hearing from our own – expeditionary and littoral combat. This is good and healthy for all – and exceptionally valuable to the military professional who is willing to listen.

Make sure and read it all – but here are the things that stuck with me the most;

A main point underscored by the French military was the impact of the political process on military planning. The French President clearly saw the need for the operation and had worked closely with the British Prime Minister to put in place a political process which would facilitate a Libyan support operation for the rebels. But until NATO received the UN Mandate was obtained, no military action could be authorized. This meant that there was little or no planning for military operations with the result that, in the words of one French military officer, “we were forced to craft operations on the fly with little or no pre-planning or pre-coordination. We did some on our own but until the authorization for action was in place, we could not mobilize assets.”

That is why it is so critical that you have a Commander identified early in a process with a Staff in place. Many an Operational Planner has received the, “We are not supposed to do any planning for this. So, I want the core planning team to just … what shall we call it … talk about this. Don’t plan … just, ahem, talk. Have the Chair see to me in four hours about your, ahem, discussions …. ” speech with a nod-nod-wink-wink from the N/J/CJ-5.

There is no reason to go without a plan on the shelf … unless … you don’t have one. If you don’t have one in work – then someone needs to have a serious talk with their planning staff. Even with a pick-up team – you should already have a plan in work once a crisis rears its head. Sounds like they had something to work with – but given the sloppy start to the Libyan operations; no shock we had to improv a bit at the start.

…. and now – one of my favorite topics, NSFS.

An aspect of the operation of the helos off of the Mistral is noteworthy as well. The frigate with which it was deployed used its guns to support the helo deployment. The guns provided fire suppression to enhance the security of the insertion of the helos off of the Mistral.

The ship’s C2 is first rate and was part of the link to the air fleet for receiving and processing information to shape an intelligence picture in support of strike operations. This demonstrated that integrating maritime with land-based air can provide a powerful littoral operations capability, one which may prove very relevant to the United States as it rethinks the relationship between the USAF and the USN-USMC team in shaping 21st century operations.

Hasn’t this been true since, well, we had aircraft flying early last century? The critical importance and flexibility of the naval gun known for centuries? Modern combat from The Falklands, to the Haiphong gunline, to Five Inch Friday, to Libya reminds us – have your gun ready. None of this is new or shocking – but the fact we have to relearn fundamentals is a reminder how much we need to focus on them – “we” of course being the USA and its allies.

For the veterans of the Balkan operations in the ’90s to AFG the last decade – some habits never go away.

First, rules of engagement were being proposed by the partners of France in NATO that were “ridiculous,” to quote one French officer. “We received from NATO sources the directive that there were to be NO civilian casualties from our air strikes. My view was, why not just not do airstrikes. We pushed back and insisted on something sane: ‘No excessive civilian casualties from NATO air strikes.'”

Here is one final thing that I think we need to ponder on in depth; UAV/S. Too many people are enamored by the PPT and the promise. Not content with having an improved tool – they want to think they have a new tool that can do it all. It is hard even in peace for them to accept the very real bandwidth, loss rates, and other issues – what is harder to explain to the UAV/S true believers are the tactical limitations.

FROM UCAV-N to BAMS – the transformationalists really think that the F-35 will be the last manned fighter. Kind of the same mentality that I read in a book after the Falkland Island War about the Harrier stating that it was likely that the Harrier will ever see combat again. Silly, but there it was. The Future does not like to be taunted. She is touchy like that.

In that light – everyone needs to keep this reality check in mind. In this case, our French friends are exactly right.

the notion that unmanned systems are going to replace the pilot is ludicrous in a dynamic targeting situation. If we are reluctant to give a guy with SA in the pilot’s seat authority, why are we going to give some guy in Nevada or Paris looking through a soda straw the authority to do dynamic targeting.”

Verily.



It is a steady, unending – yet poetic chant.

It takes three to make one.”

Analysts say the French military is in crisis, strained by restructuring and budget cuts, and tested by three simultaneous conflicts abroad.

Not since the early 1990s, with Bosnia and Rwanda, has the French military been so stretched. “France no longer has the military means to match its political ambitions,” ran a front-page headline in newspaper Le Monde. And recently, a French admiral was admonished for saying the country’s only aircraft carrier could be nonoperational for all of 2012 if it did not return from the Libyan coast for maintenance.

That’s an exaggeration, says Jean-Pierre Maulny, of the Paris-based International Strategic Research Institute. But Maulny says it will be hard to keep this momentum up for the long or even the medium term.

“It’s true that the Charles de Gaulle needs routine maintenance, and while we have enough pilots to continue flying sorties over Libya, we cannot for the moment train new ones,” Maulny says. “The intervention in Libya is led by the Europeans, and countries will start dropping out and public support eroding if we do not find a political solution soon.”

Stalemate and political crisis. Never a good combo for European military adventures. Didn’t I mention a “whiff of the Suez Crisis” five months ago? Nevermind.

There were two things that surprised me early on in this whateverwearecallingit; 1-we would hit ground targets early and often – eliminating a need to even worry about the Libyan Air Force after a few days; 2-that the French would go in at such a heavy level. I think we can thank SECDEF Gates for making sure this went strong early – and the French for showing leadership.

BZ to the French, but the French Admiral in question, Admiral Pierre-François Forissier, is exactly right. The Spanish carrier is enjoying tapas somewhere, the British no longer have that capability, and after a strong start the Italians have left for coffee. The American aircraft carriers are off doing other things.

That leaves one French carrier to do the heavy lifting. As anyone who has been on a carrier knows – you need to come in after awhile. No one is there to take her place with a French flag.

A good reminder to all as we look to cut – one carrier isn’t really one carrier. For any kind of sustained operation – it is but a fraction of a carrier presence. If a nation needs a sustained presence, especially any one that has a respectable operational tempo, you need a bench.

The French have done well, no one should think anything of Big Charles leaving station when she does. As for the Libyan muddle itself, I’ll let Admiral Mullen, repeating what he has said since April, speak for me,

“We are, generally, in a stalemate,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen told a press briefing in Washington billed as his last before retirement.

As the Europeans one-by-one fall off and the Gadaffi family holds on through SEP – then what does that stalemate become? Where does “luck” go in one of our Lines of Operation?

Rhyme. Always rhymes.



Two items of note for today’s summary — France may be seriously studying missile defense and Russia’s at it again (re. European Phase Adaptive Approach – PAA).

Parlez-vous la Défense de Missile Balistique ?

A recent 65-page study on BMD, written by three members of Parliament at a think tank linked to the National Assembly (“Defense et Strategie”) argues for France committing to building, or at least contributing to a BMD system to counter the growing threat from nations hostile to Europe (in general) and France (in particular). The authors, members of leading centrist parties, assert that the threat will grow over the next 15 years, especially from the likes of Iran, and (and this is a new argument) that a BMD is necessary to strengthen France’s nuclear deterrent. In doing so, they also acknowledge that the political will to move forward is lacking in France and Europe (surprise!) and is an attitude that they seek to change.

It is also perhaps worth noting that it was the Obama Administration’s decision to press with the PAA over the former GBI-centric system the Bush Administration had planned that pushed the authors into the study. The reason? Their view that an American-led system and architecture establishes American industry as a threat, or ‘double risk’ for Europe — double since the Europeans and NATO have yet to devise a comprehensive BMD policy in line with 21st Century threats and if one country equips itself with an American C2 system, it must, perforce, equip itself entirely with compatible US parts.” Note that the Japanese don’t seem to mind with the incorporation of Aegis BMD into their cruisers and establishing joint development for elements of the SM-3 system. The rub, of course, is as the report goes on to say, that the lack of a BMD system would leave European companies blocked from accessing certain export markets. Sort of like the ones cruise missiles like the EXOCET have been pitched to. That worked out well for all involved (cf. USS Stark).

Obligatory snark about export sales and French aspirations to industrial prominence aside, the study is significant in that it acts as both another venue voicing concern over Iran’s long-range missile progress (no one but the most ardent partisan would argue the French are sock puppets for the US, especially where maters of intelligence are concerned) and it may well be a bellwether signal that Europe proper may be moving off the dime in terms of serious consideration of ballistic missile defense on the Continent. One method suggested would be the formation of industrial partnerships to develop a European BMD based on France’s current highly advanced technology and cited the ASTER missile system as an example.

This will be a most interesting topic to follow for any one of a number of reasons. As anyone who has worked with/in NATO will attest, gaining consensus for action is the key for success, be it in planning or operations. But in the world of missile defense, one of the hardest things to accomplish is establishing a sound architecture for command and control of the system. Hard enough when only one or two countries or AORs are in play, and almost Stygian where the defended area encompasses many borders and nations. Seams abound and where seams and gaps reside, ballistic missiles readily fill. In no small degree this is one of the major challenges Navy faces as it moves down the four-phase PAA for the defense of Europe with sea- and shore-based Aegis BMD/SM-3 integrated with TPY-2 and THAAD batteries. Perhaps in the interest of integration and economy, France ought to look closer at what the US has already accomplished with international partners like Japan, Israel, Britain, Spain and the Dutch across a variety of programs and capabilities.

(note: the study may be found here: http://www.christopheguilloteau.com/actualite1.htm)

In the meantime, Russia continues to work a campaignof disinformation, hoping to disrupt and thwart the deployment of BMD in Europe…

Iran No Threat to USA, Europe ‘In Foreseeable Future’ – Russian Foreign Minister

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a press conference in Moscow Photo: AFP/GETTY

In an article in today’s Ria Novosti, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took a direct shot at the US’s proposed missile defense plan for Europe and the US:

“It is evident that Iran currently poses no threat to the U.S. and European countries… At the moment, Iran has no missiles capable of striking Europe, let alone the U.S., and is unlikely to develop [such missiles] in the foreseeable future,” Lavrov said.

Pressing the point, in another article he surfaced a concern that the US has repeatedly, since the days of the GBI deployment, detailed to the Russians is not the case:

U.S. officials admit that the missile defense system in Europe might be able to hit Russian inter-continental ballistic missiles by 2020. (ed. Note – it was said at the time that phase 4 would have a limited capability against some ICBMs – the US has never made the statement Lavrov attributes – SJS)

“The U.S. administration says its global missile shield program is not directed against Russia. However, our conclusions on the true potential of the future missile defense system should be based on specific military and technical factors, not on words,” Lavrov said.

“We will not accept a state of affairs when a missile defense system poses a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential,” he went on.

The question one must ask — is Lavrov playing a “bad cop” to Medvedev’s “good cop” (and that is stretching it given Medvedev’s comments re. linking missile defense with the follow-on START treaty) where his rhetoric is merely used to address the home audience’s concerns, or, are we seeing a glimpse of Putin’s approach when he ceases being the power behind the throne and assumes the full mantle of national leadership as many expect when he is eligible once again? If the latter, then this Administration is going to have its hands full. Caution in dealing with our European allies, especially with Poland and the like, is the watchword. After unilaterally changing direction on one missile defense plan for Europe and the US by the switch from GBI’s to the PAA (and, for the record, I thought this was a proper shift) – another such shift that reduces or places additional limits in any way on the planned system will have negative consequences for perceived US leadership on the Continent.

We can expect that the Russians will continue to press this issue relentlessly – and our leadership, especially State and DoD had better be ready to just as relentlessly push-back.



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