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Bulgaria commits to defense spending spree

Bulgaria commits to defense spending spree

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— Bulgaria will boost its defense spending, splashing out on combat aircraft, patrol ships and armored vehicles.

— Andøya Spaceport has now officially opened what it says will be continental Europe’s first launchpad for small and medium rockets.

— The Swedish Defense Materiel Administration signed a $605 million contract to buy American AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles.

Good morning, and welcome to Morning Defense. Tips to [email protected][email protected] and [email protected] or follow us at @joshposaner@LauKaya and @calebmlarson.

BULGARIA TO KEEP BOOSTING DEFENSE SPENDING: The Bulgarian government plans to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on the military through 2027, Defense Minister Todor Tagarev told Laura. “Most likely above [2 percent] because, for decades, the modernization of [the] armed forces has been delayed,” he said. 

Three priorities: Bulgaria will focus on combat aircraft, on building two patrol ships and buying armored vehicles. Sofia is in the “advanced stage” of signing a $1.5 billion contract for Stryker vehicles, but is still waiting for a final parliament vote. “It’s a matter of finding the time,” Tagarev explained. 

Suspense on radars: The Bulgarian defense ministry still hasn’t chosen a contractor to buy 3D radars for its air force, Tagarev said. Five companies — reportedly including France’s Thales, Italy’s Leonardo, Spain’s Indra, the U.S.’ s Lockheed Martin and Israel’s Elta Systems — have pitched offers for the closely-watched contract. Tagarev said the process is in the “final stages” but that he doesn’t “want to commit we’ll have a contract this year.” 

EU money should benefit all: “Whatever the EU decides to invest needs to contribute not only in the capacity of a single company but to the integration of the defense industry as a whole and to supply chain securities,” according to Tagarev. 

Buying from the U.S. is fine: Bulgaria — a buyer of American fighter jets — is not among the EU countries against purchasing foreign weaponry. “If your stockhouses are empty, you want to have them filled in quickly,” Tagarev said, “as long as the supplier is an ally, its origin is a secondary consideration.”

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**A message from ASD: The European defence industry is determined to reduce its CO2 emissions, while continuing to satisfy the capability requirements of our armed forces. Despite unique sector-specific challenges, we are working hard to reduce the carbon footprint of defence products across their lifecycle. Find out how.**

HOW NORTH KOREA BEAT EUROPE ON AMMO SUPPORT: North Korea appears to have beaten the EU in sending a million rounds of ammunition to its ally in Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine.

We take a look at how that happened here.

RHEINMETALL AIR DEFENSE BATTERY IN UKRAINE: General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, confirmed Rheinmetall’s Skynex short range air defense system is now in Ukraine. In an opinion piece for the Economist, he listed a large number of Western air defense systems rushed to Ukraine. Along with the usual suspects like Patriots, Gepards, and Stingers, he also listed Skynex. Each system includes four Revolver Gun Mk 3s, a CN-1 control node, and an X-TAR3D target acquisition and tracking radar.

Tech for the win:  Zaluzhny said that combining old methods of war with superiority in technological warfare might let Ukraine fight to its strengths. More here.

HIGH-TECH DEFENSES: Ukraine has developed a defense system called the Piranha AVD 360, which creates a 600-meter dome that blocks enemy drones, writes the country’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov. “Under the influence of the system, the copter or kamikaze drone cannot receive commands and transmit data. As a result, the ‘bird’ either hangs in the air, makes an emergency landing, or falls uncontrollably,” he wrote on Telegram, adding that the system also blocks Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system.

Starting production: Fedorov said that Piranha has passed field tests and is now moving to serial production.

ATACMS FOR UKRAINE: Top congressional Republicans are urging President Joe Biden to send Ukraine a longer-range variant of the Army Tactical Missile Systems so that it can strike targets in Russian-occupied Crimea and break the Russian military’s logistics network, our U.S. colleagues report. The U.S. has sent the Anti-Personnel/Anti-Materiel (APAM) variant of ATACMS, which has a shorter range and was used against a couple of Russian-occupied airfields.

What they want: They urge Biden to fill Kyiv’s longstanding request for the single-warhead variant of ATACMS “which has a substantially longer range than the APAMS” as well as the rest of the U.S. military’s APAMS or cluster-munition variant of ATACMS. Ukraine has used longer-range missiles from allies in a responsible manner, they wrote, “and Russia has clearly declined to escalate upon usage of deep-strike missiles.” To boot, the U.S. has an arsenal of ATACMS. “Clearly, it is time for you to finish the job on ATACMS,” they wrote. “The costs of failing to do so not only risks stalemate on the battlefield and the further protraction of this war, but also threatens further global instability as our adversaries conduct influence operations around the globe.”

DUTCH PACKAGE: Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren was in Kyiv Thursday and announced a €500 million military aid package, with just over half going for artillery ammunition and the rest for tank ammo, FD Nieuws reports.

NORWAY SPACEPORT: Andøya Spaceport formally opened on an island in northern Norway, joining a growing list of launch facilities able to launch small satellites and research missions.

Long story: The company said that sounding rockets and balloons have been sent up from Andøya since 1962. While it’s more efficient to launch rockets closer to the equator, the operator says Andøya offers access to highly retrograde orbit and polar and solar synchronous orbits, both of which are useful for weather monitoring.

Home base: The facility will be the first launch site for Germany-based rocket company Isar Aerospace. It’s hoping to launch its Spectrum rocket against competition from the likes of the Rocket Factory Augsburg.

Launch horizon: While Spectrum won’t be able to carry big loads into orbit, it could compete in the market for smaller communication and monitoring spacecraft. “Over the last five years, we have built a rocket that will help to solve the most crucial bottleneck in the European space industry — sovereign and competitive access to space,” said Daniel Metzler, the CEO of Isar.

More rivals: There are a number of other European spaceports in various stages of development. In January, European Commission leadership opened a faciliy at the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, in the north of Sweden not far from the Norwegian border. That’s where Isar carried out hot-fire testing for its rocket engine.

More on that here.

And the rest: There are also projects planned for the Shetland Islands, one on Portugal’s Azores islands and a plan to build a floating platform off the coast of Germany in the North Sea by the end of 2024. Spain’s PLD Space claimed in October that it had carried out the first launch from European soil though that’s a small rocket.

PRESSURE TO RESTART TAURUS PRODUCTION: MBDA Deutschland, which makes the Taurus missile, took to X to claim production “can be restarted in the short term.” Ukraine is very keen on getting the bunker buster air launched cruise missile (refresher from Caleb here), but it is currently out of production, and there had been estimates that it could take as long as a year to restart production. The German government has so far balked at sending Kyiv the Taurus, although the U.K., France and the U.S. have sent similar weapons to Ukraine.

Newer tech: It’s not clear what prompted the MBDA statement, but the company added that the missiles could be upgraded with “new technical advances.”

GERMANY STICKS WITH FCAS: Germany’s defense ministry tells us that the country isn’t quitting Future Combat Air System (FCAS) — a Franco-German-Spanish effort to develop a new generation fighter jet as well as accompanying air combat systems. That’s a response to a Wednesday report by the Times that Germany may be thinking of pulling out of the project. The spokesperson stressed that “media reports to the effect that Germany is pulling out are false.”

Sore feelings: Although Berlin says it’s sticking with FCAS — Europe’s largest defense project — the scheme has been bedevilled with tensions between Germany and France and between Airbus, representing Germany, and France’s Dassault Aviation.

Moving forward: “We are currently building the first demonstrator,” the spokesperson said. “We are making good progress here and will continue along this path.”

**On November 21, POLITICO Live will host its Defense Launch event to discuss Europe’s defense policy and the increasingly important roles played by NATO and the European Union. Join us onsite and hear from our speakers!**

HYPERSONIC ANTI-ARMOR? MBDA Deutschland offered a sneak peek into a novel application for hypersonic weapons — anti-armor warfare. 

Faster than a speeding bullet: Traveling at hypersonic speeds — greater than Mach 5 — could help an anti-armor missile defeat active protection systems, Dirk Zimper, MBDA Germany’s director of future systems, told Breaking Defense.

Keeping up with rivals: China and Russia are ahead of NATO countries in developing hypersonic missiles, so it makes sense for Western companies to keep researching them, Zimper said. “For counter-hypersonic, the focus must be on agility. For example, the interceptor doesn’t necessarily need to be hypersonic but it must be agile. We have invested a lot in the past and the next step is doing that in a European framework.” 

US MISSILES: The Swedish Defense Materiel Administration, known by its acronym FMV, signed a contract for American AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles in a deal valued at $605 million. The agreement also includes equipment for “integration, evaluation, testing and handling.” The Swedes’ new AIM-120s are the latest version of the missile, with “improved system performance.”

THANKS TO: Jan Cienski and Zoya Sheftalovich.

**A message from ASD: Sustainability has become a leitmotiv for the European Union and a key driver for policies, economies and societies at large. At the same time, there is an intrinsic link between sustainability and defence. As suppliers of our armed forces, European defence companies make an indispensable contribution to Europe’s security, and thereby help to protect Europe’s peaceful, democratic and sustainable development. Despite the acknowledged importance of defence for security and sustainability, many banks and investors remain reluctant to support defence activities. This deprives our industry from the investment it needs to support our armed forces. Allowing the European Investment Bank to invest in core defence activities would send a strong message to the financial community that supporting Europe’s defence industry is compatible with sustainability objectives.**

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