08 October 2018

INTERVIEW / Christopher Foss, consultant for Jane's by IHS Markit: European defence industry, very fragmented, affected by restructuring

Mircea Olteanu

Image source: Mediafax

The European defence industry is very fragmented, affected by restructuring after the end of Cold War, and some countries have lost the capability to manufacture military equipment, Christopher Foss, consultant for Jane's IHS Markit, said in an interview for MEDIAFAX and Defence & Security Monitor.

Christopher Foss, consultant for Jane's by IHS Markit, spoke, in an interview for MEDIAFAX and Defence & Security Monitor, at Armoured Vehicles Eastern Europe conference, about the situation of the European defence industry and necessity of enhanced interoperability and cooperation between European armed forces.

Reporter: I would like to ask you to speak about your area of expertise. A brief presentation for our readers

Christopher Foss: I work for Jane's, which is now IHS Markit, and my area of speciality is armoured fighting vehicles, artillery, mortars and some missiles. I write for Jane's Defence weekly, most of my work is for international defence review (...) I also go and give presentation, for example next week I'm in Spain doings some presentations and then I'm in Washington for AUSA. So I use that information to give briefings to industries, and sometimes governments, and of course to write articles for international defence news, mainly on the technical side, but also sometimes on the operational side.

Reporter: What is your opinion about the European Defence Fund and the new EU defence policy? What are the opportunities offered by this policy to European defence industry?

Christopher Foss: I think European industry is very fragmented, it's gone through a lot of restructuring in the last 20 years, after the end of the Cold War a lot of companies went out of business and in some countries they've lost capability. For example in UK, we will never design another tank. When I started writing, Royal Ordnance had 20,000 people, now in the whole UK land industry probably there are four or five thousands, so the industry shrunk. And there are a number of key players in Europe, for example Germany, with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall, in France, Nexter and Renault, and they could produce a wide range of vehicles for the export market. And if you look at Eastern Europe, they are now changing their old Russian equipment into new equipment, for example, Romania has selected the Piranha V, which is a very good vehicle and that was originally developed as a private venture by MOWAG and GD (General Dynamics European Land Systems), and also recently it's gone in production for Denmark. The AMV also in this area, was developed as a private venture by Patria, but it's been a really good seller, I mean the Finnish Defence Force probably took only 150, 95% is export, South Africa got it,  Poland made over 800, they've sold some to the United Arab Emirates, so that particular vehicle is been a success. The 8x8 were generally armoured personnel carriers, but now have evolved toward multirole vehicles, in other words, you can have a remote weapon station with a 50 Cal (machine gun), some other countries are having a remote weapon station with a 30 mm canon, 7.62 mm coaxial (machine gun), twin missile launchers. Australia ordered over 200 vehicles for the reconnaissance role, with a two-man turret and a 30-millimetre cannon, and vehicles were also being shown fitted with an air defence module, the 35 mm air defence canon and Germany has tested again the Boxer because it has a rear mission module. You can take the module off and put other things on, such as a 155 artillery system. So, you know, the Boxer had really hard early days, but now has become more accepted as a multi-mission vehicle.

Reporter: What are the chances of a joint military acquisition programme involving several countries in this region?

Christopher Foss: Very difficult, because I think every country likes to do their own. In some cases if you're buying for 60, 70 or 80 APC is probably far cheaper to buy off have done with it, but obviously, countries like to assemble it. So a typical thing is that you might order 200 vehicles, the first 20 will come from the production line, the next 30 or 40 will be in kit form and then the final batch you will make the whole and you will do final assembly. But, things like engine, transmission drive, wheels tires are all imported, it does not make sense, nobody could develop an engine for 200 vehicles. Scania has very good engines, MTU (MTU Friedrichshafen), Mercedes Benz, if you want to transmissions it's going to be really one of two, Zenith or Allison, Allison are the most popular at this moment, and so although you may assemble the vehicle, some of these components will always be bought, and then your country will select the weapon station, (...) In other countries, the government furnishes equipment, like for example in Germany they had a competition, the contract went to Rheinmetall, and all of the German armoured vehicles have a remote weapon station provided by KMW (Krauss-Maffei Wegmann), so things like the weapon station can often be government furnished equipment, as can be intercom and the radios, because are standard across the fleet.

Reporter: Could you please give us three takeaways after this conference?

Christopher Foss: One, we need more interoperability, for start, we need to communicate with each other, so that's one thing we need. Also, if we could have a common weapon system for our 8x8 vehicles. France, 25 millimetre, another country for their IFV have 30 mm, another has 35 mm, another, Sweden, has 40 mm, UK, again 40 mm, so there is no commonality in that. If we look at the heaviest vehicles, the tanks, apart from one or two countries, the most common tanks, are Leopard or Leclerc, with a 120 mm gun (...) and some people in Eastern Europe still have the T-72. So, on the tank side, we are getting there, but on the infantry vehicle side we have a long way to go, and even your small arms are changing to NATO calibre. Also, I think training, training, training, you can never spend too much time training with live ammunition, that's how your vehicles and your men become effective.