When it comes to defense and geopolitical issues, the last two months of this year have been very interesting! For example:
- China has tested, for the third time this year, a hypersonic gliding vehicle that will be able to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.
- The Middle Kingdom also became the world’s largest economy by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), overtaking the US and thus ending America’s reign ushered in in 1872, when the US overtook Britain. The decline of the US as the world’s leading power is an undisputable fact.
- Russia announced it would build its first hypersonic missile, and field a new rail-mobile ICBM, before 2020.
- The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission released a report on China’s nuclear arsenal which, although understating its size, takes into account the likelihood that it is far larger than what the DOD and arms control advocates claim and acknowledges independent studies done on the subject. The Commission also warns that Beijing’s atomic arsenal is being quickly modernized and expanded.
- Chuck Hagel, a man who was never qualified to be Defense Secretary, resigned because he could no longer stand the White House’s micromanagement of the Pentagon. Dr. Ashton Carter, the man whom Barack Obama should’ve nominated in the first place in 2013, has been nominated to succeed him.
- The House and the Senate have already passed the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act – by huge, bipartisan margins – and have done so by mid-December. The two Houses of Congress have also agreed on a CR/CRomnibus that will keep the Federal Government open for at least the next 3 months.
- The French Defense Ministry and Air Force have announced they’re studying what to replace the current airborne component of the French nuclear deterrent with when the current airborne force, composed of Mirage 2000N and Rafale aircraft armed with ASMP-A missiles, retires in the 2030s-2040s. Two options are being studied: a stealthy or a hypersonic missile. If the latter is chosen, it might be a large aircraft, and not a fighter like the Rafale, that will carry it.
- France has also announced a comprehensive modernization of its Army, including the replacement of its APCs, IFVs, and recon vehicles, which are nearing the end of their service lives.
- France is also developing a naval version of the SCALP NG/Storm Shadow land attack cruise missile, intended for surface ships and submarines (i.e. a Tomahawk equivalent).
- Highly-ranked fficials from Qatar and Egypt are in serious talks with France’s Dassault Aviation to buy the Rafale fighter, and India has pledged to finalize its negotiations with France over the Rafale by March 31st. However, as Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group notes, while Dassault is very good at STARTING talks, it has a poor record of finalizing them and sealing the deal when it comes to the Rafale. Yet, the entire multi-year French defense budget for 2014-2019 is based on the completely hypothetical and speculative notion that India and Qatar will buy the Rafale in quantities sufficient to keep the Rafale production line open at the (very meagre) rate of 11 aircraft per year. The French Government has essentially bet that the Rafale will win lots of foreign orders, enough to keep the production line open, even though it has not won a SINGLE export order so far!
- France indefinitely delayed the delivery of Mistral class LPDs to Russia, throwing its credibility as an arms vendor in doubt.
- OTOH, France did promise a full transfer of technology, and a production license, to Canada if Ottawa picks the Rafale in lieu of the F-35 – a realistic possibility given that the issue won’t be resolved until after the next general election… which will likely be won by the anti-F-35 Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau (the son of Pierre Trudeau).
- BAE announced that the Eurofighter Typhoon would finally get an AESA radar… many years after its competitors did. Bravo!
- It has been revealed that the French National Front party has received a loan from a Russian bank. No wonder why they’re so fanatically pro-Russian. They’re simply saying what their paymaster, Vladimir Putin, tells them to. And by accepting funding from a foreign principal, that party has committed treason against France.
- The anti-defense crowd’s calls for a “minimal deterrence” arsenal have recently grown more vocal, now that even the Obama administration has rejected them – and have been utterly refuted by experts such as Dr. Keith Payne and by yours truly.