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Welcome to the Summer 2017 edition of Defence Procurement International. We have a bumper issue for you, covering the latest developments impacting the defence procurement, maritime, land, ISR, training and simulation and air domains.

We open this issue with a lengthy exploration of the debate surrounding the 2% of GDP NATO defence spending target. Where has this target originated from and why does the US political administration keep harping on about it to its European allies? This is not a new debate, but it appears that momentum is growing — at least among the defence analyst community — for less of an emphasis on how much is being spent, and more of a focus on what it is being spent on.

Another big story, at least for UK defence, is the commencement of sea trials for the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth class (QEC) aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. We spoke with the carrier’s Captain Jerry Kyd, who explains to us why the QEC is more of a “sea base,” rather than a traditional warship. Our procurement experts, Peter Antill and Pete Ito at the Centre for Defence Acquisition, Cranfield University, Defence Academy of the UK, look at the QEC from the perspective of a National Audit Office report, which raises serious questions about the quality and number of personnel, and associated assets (air and maritime), required to support the Carrier Task Group and deliver Carrier Strike capability.

Whilst momentum seems to be growing in the mine countermeasures domain for a range of unmanned systems to be deployed for stand-off MCM—to keep the mother ship and personnel out of the minefield — the deployment of unmanned systems for anti-submarine warfare has yet to gain widespread momentum. Watch this space.

In the land domain, for a project of its size and complexity, Turkey’s indigenously produced Altay battle tank appeared to be progressing well. But President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political manoeuvrings in the wake of the July 2016 military coup, have seen some EU countries impose an arms embargo on Turkey, which has already scuppered a deal with Austrian company, AVL, to supply power packs for the Altay. Now the government has rejected Otokar’s final bid for series production of the tank. What next for the Altay?

We also take a look at growing international demand for the greater strategic mobility provided by lighter weight, wheeled infantry fighting vehicles. Are IFVs the preferred choice over battle tanks, given reduced budgets for modernisation programmes and the increased focus on agility?

Also in this issue, we profile training for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Programme. With more than 470 F-35 pilots trained to date and training in the aircraft’s partner countries due to commence soon, some countries are opting for a 50/50 split between live training and training in the Full Mission Simulator, which Lockheed Martin describes as “the most advanced, high-fidelity flight simulator there is,” which can put a pilot under stress, as if they were flying the real aircraft in a live combat scenario. The world of military training and simulation is also redefining reality through the use of virtual and augmented reality. Happy reading.

Best regards,
Anita Hawser