26 October 2018

Romanian Armed Forces, a different analysis

Stefan Danila

Romanian Armed Forces are in a pending reform process, in a context which could be auspicious for it. The correct evaluation and medium-term planning could give military equipment acquisitions some coherence and logic, despite the political games. New arguments for a Strategic Defence Analysis.

Image source: Mediafax

Romanian Armed Forces Day was established, based on Decree nr. 381, from 1st of October 1959, by the communist leadership of the Romanian state, for 25th of October. When establishing the date, were considered two objectives. The first one, to dissociate ex-king’s birthday, Mihai I, from the liberation of the entire national territory from German and Hungarian troops’ invasion, with the operation especially developed by the Romanian military leadership on 25th October, in 1944. The second objective was to underline that Romania fought on the West front, after the armed insurrection from 23 August 1944.

All of these came after the soviet propaganda has introduced in history books 31th of October as the day when soviet troops liberated Romania, and the Peace Treaty from Paris did not recognize our combat statute on the anti-Hitlerist front.

Regardless of how history was written, for Romanian militaries 25th of October is a special moment, full of emotion, charged with profound symbolic meanings, an occasion to commemorate sacrifice, to celebrate military honor and dignity, no matter the governing regimes or the decisions from big power’s chanceries, but also a moment when they reflect over the future of an institution considered to be Romanian state’s pillar of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

At almost 60 years since establishing this celebration day, I dare you to debate together how Romania’s Armed Forces Day should look like. Of course, the topic should be the results of a Strategic Analysis of Defence, but this process was not initiated yet. Maybe a reversed approach, starting from a possible result, with pro and against arguments, will determine someone to rethink defence’s planning.

The political treaty of allocating 2% from GDP for defence reignited armed forces’ modernization hope. Military technique acquisition became a first page subject, with more or less controversies. There were acquired a dozen aircrafts, but then the process was stopped. There were discussions about 36 and it seems that it was founded a solution for only 5 more, also from Portugal. There were ordered missiles, carefully, for everyone to be pleased, we ordered carriers promising that its production will shortly be made in Romania, after acquiring 30 from the foreign production. At the same time, we continue to pay for a Romanian carrier research and development, considering the hardball competition, including of a European pending project. There were discussed and promised contracts for at least three types of helicopters, and breaking any promise would cause us serious prejudices.

They postponed, and postponed the modernization of the frigates which needed a capital reparation, besides the time which would do this modernization efficient, but the corvette acquisition was conditioned not only on its construction in the country (a quite good idea, if it would have had a consequence also in building commercial competitive ships!), but also on frigates’ modernization. Then, there were discovered that submarines would be good also so, this way, there were added something more. After that, it was discovered that these ships (because we do not have any more commercial ships!) should be defended in port, as well as the littoral. And coast batteries have also too old missiles.

I did not forget about the planes, but about those, we will talk a bit later!

Firstly, let’s talks about what we first stated. I mean, let’s acquire a few more frigates. And, let’s not forget the submarines! Of course, the tanks program can wait. We neither clarified what are we going to do with helicopters, with transport helicopters, from Airbus/Eurocopter, considering that there are more and more talks about a maintenance center for the well-known Black Hawk, or the attack ones from Bell.

For those who denied the necessity of a strategic analysis of defence, I will offer them some more arguments to debate on.

Between 2006-2007 it was concluded that the reform is a limited process, and once accessing NATO we can say it ended. But, as any modern institution, it must enter in a transformation process. This is a continuous process, it does not have a foregone end, but the phase, as it was already initiated in the Alliance, after admitting the new reality, generated by the end of the Cold War. Still, ending the reform should have meant changing the mentality. Blocking acquisitions, the necessity to continue the activity with the existent ones, were the main causes for actually blocking the reform.

But the necessary budget to change the technique appeared. Once with it, the operation rules, the procedures and even the mentalities, as consequences of the first one. Of course, not all the personnel will be able to handle these new changes. Even if officers’ age rate has reduced a lot, for the general level, things are a bit different, due to successive modifications brought at the statute of a personnel category.

The missions from peace stabilization and maintenance operations brought an extraordinary experience for the majority of the personnel, and adapting to modern battlefield condition will be made quite quick, but those who chose weapons career will have to prepare more, through exercises and imaginary situations, in a different context.

Nowadays war and the one to come, conventionally speaking, involves many attacks and defence lines and dimensions. From the informational war, to cyber or classic war, from conventional to a hybrid one, with or without lethal methods, there is a variety of hostile actions whose armed forces must face. Of course, en-masse destruction weapons must not be forgotten!

European Union, with or without its will, is starting to build its own defence capacity. And we are in the border area, which could place us in the first line, in an eventual conflict. So, firstly this new construction should concern us. In the discussions regarding European common defence, we could introduce the forces maintained in high fight capacity at the common force, even for using some funds which could be deductible from the accomplished missions. And I am talking here about all force’s categories. Still, we are ensuring also the protection of the states placed in the center of Europe, which do not necessarily have to upkeep their own forces at the same training level. Can be initiated and supported also other possible uses of European Defence Fund? Does this context matter for acquisition’s decision, to be efficient? Is it truly important?

For an appropriate and opportune reaction at hostile actions, starting from challenges to direct attacks, it is necessary an efficient warning system. To that end, ground-based radars should be integrated in a national system which can be part of the allied system.

But also, the early allied systems, research and reconnaissance, AGS (even the new JISR), NAEW must be complementary to the national system, wherein there is a shortage, and the allocated amounts of these systems must be accordingly with programmed services/allocated resources. At the moment, Romania is part of these programs, but the exact use of these is not explained. Hence, a Global Hawk UAV squadron could be permanently dislocated in Romania, and the operation could be assumed, mainly, by Romanian militaries.

Counteracting air challenges, but also avoiding air research, of any fraud in the flight regime in air space, can be made only with Air Police. For this matter there are necessary minimum 32 fight planes, on two air bases. With another squadron, of another 16-18 planes, could be ensured air space’s defence for allied intervention’s necessary period. Therefore, these planes should be equipped with the necessary munition for air defence, without useless costs. A bomb aviation, or even a bomb-hunting (with old concept’s accepted meaning, but less understood!) does not have logical and economic arguments to be build.

Ground-Based Air Defence system must be able to protect the strategic objectives, those which are uppermost targets for an enemy. It must ensure a three levels defence, from a long range level (beyond visual range), to a close one. And this system must be under a unique command, not only a unique control, to avoid multiplying capabilities’ maintenance and creation efforts. But for that end, it would be necessary to modify the law, which I already talked about when it first appeared.

Naval forces should consolidate its coast defence, its Air Defence and Special Operation Forces capacity. With four corvettes/ multifunctional ships it should be ensured at least a permanent operational ship in Black Sea. A Naval Base to allow the operational capacity refreshment of the allied vessels, which could support us in crisis situations. Obviously, a diplomatic and military cooperation relationship with Turkey is extremely important. But we must consider also the less wished scenarios! How other forces should be organized, equipped and trained, of course, this could only come after a strategic analysis of defence. A more opportune process considering that next year we will have presidential elections, and the president must come with a new National Defence Strategy.

Immediately after clarifying our own forces structure, it is necessary a review of the capabilities targets assumed for NATO’s forces, with an attentive analysis of the necessary training level. And to eliminate a false hypothesis, NATO or EU will never ask us to create military capabilities just for common defence, if these were not considered necessary for national defence firstly.

Once clarified the structure, it must be evaluated also in units’ locations. It could be created the development programs of military bases, as making some new infrastructures could allow the development of all communication, protection and social facilities necessary for a normal life. The requirements for overhaul are huge, but, most of the times, new constructions could be more efficient.

These actions are necessary even if it does not have the same media impact as repairing monuments (which were anyway in ministry’s tasks), or remaking a big institute of national importance, destroyed due to bad administration of another two ministries, for which no one paid, or refunding some military high schools to increase the percentage of those passing the Baccalaureate exam. It is remarkable that National Defence Ministry’s has the organizational capacity to rehabilitate some institutions, from the health area, also from education, but they should better solve some issues from this ministry’s tasks. And the other institutions should make, in their turn, their duty.

Hence, in their celebration day, Romania’s Armed Force still have a lot to do, but they are optimistically looking towards the future, because the population trust the people in uniforms. Even if sometimes these are faded. Armed Forces will make their duty with the resources they have, with the training that the state offers them, but their life cost could be a huge loss, if the supreme sacrifice would be the only purpose. A century after the Great Romania was united, our country must propose itself to train the Armed Forces to win, to ensure the future of the Romanian people.