WASHINGTON — With the NATO Summit in Brussels rapidly approaching, what’s changed and what’s stayed the same since Warsaw in 2016? The role of the European Union in defense has evolved. Russia has upped its hybrid tactics. And tensions even among NATO allies have bubbled up.
Defense News spoke to Chris Lombardi, vice president for Raytheon International, to get his take.
How have the threats in Europe, particularly along the Eastern Flank, evolved?
Twenty years ago, there was a totally different mindset. Post 9/11 there was a big focus on deployment mobility, some special operations; but basic counterinsurgency forces. Take the last four years, plus Crimea and you get the reemergence of the conventional threat because of the Eastern Flank. What you have is a combination of the effort to maintain counterinsurgency, light brigade, [with an] emphasis on heavy equipment, conventional forces. Add to that, especially in the last year, the hybrid threat. You get the full spectrum.
The urgency of Europeans to increase budgets and put things in place faster is evident. We see it with interest in things like air defense, missile defense, heavy armored brigade equipment. Poland signed their contract in the last year for Patriot. Romania signed theirs last fall. Sweden now has their [letter of agreement] from the U.S. Army in country and will probably sign it this summer. Lithuania was on contract for NASAMS so they have air defense coming.
What has driven the increase in rapid investment? There’s pressure from the U.S. – but are they more fearful?
I wouldn’t say there’s more fear. But there’s more attention on security. There’s awareness [of the] threat. I actually don’t think it’s U.S. pressure. I think the U.S. will try to take credit, but the NATO nations made a strong resolution in Whales in 2014; the Crimea invasion was that same year. That is a huge wakeup call. It was the first time in decades, since World War II, that a country used force to change borders. It’s awareness that the post-Cold War [era] was over.
How is the hybrid threat primarily from Russia influencing spending?
There has to be a shift in mentality in both armed forces and ministries of defense in the acquisition of equipment that would counter new threats. But [also] one way some countries are approaching the hybrid threat is talking across ministries and organizations. Some of the areas that might already be addressing the cyber threats might be the Ministry of Interior or police forces, or intelligence. Those organizations can lend experience in current technologies and other things that might not be in a traditional mindset of conventional defense.
But because defense industries are talking to armed forces and ministries, we have to help them as well. That’s one of the things that’s on us — we should be investing, researching, understanding new technologies. For example, we’ve invested $300 million in our GaN technology — gallium nitride. We brought it up to manufacturing level, readiness level 8. We’re putting that into our sensors. We’re [also] investing in extending the range of existing interceptors for ground-based air defense, so you can put longer legs on AMRAAM to make it to reach much farther.
Are NATO allies allowing the seat at the table for industry to bring solutions forward?
The good thing is every nation has an open door. They want to hear what you’re doing, they want to understand the new technology, they want to understand the new capabilities so they can plan for it.
On the other side, partnerships [are] another way to get awareness – working with Rheinmetall and understanding what our partnership is and how we can work together to improve air defenses in Germany, or working with Kongsberg on the same thing with allies. Those companies can also educate.
The only concern is what EU is doing [estabilshing exclusive defense programs and investments]. Everyone realizes that the more you close the borders to ideas and technologies — they won’t get the efficiencies they want. It’s not good for efficiency to [close doors] for political reasons.
A bit with Greece, certainly Turkey — there have been challenges in terms of their relationship with Russia. Does that complicate efforts in terms of integration and such?
We only work where the U.S. government says we can work. When we sell something into a country, it’s always done with full approval and generally with the understanding of what it is, where we’re delivering it, how we’re delivering it. Turkey is a full member of NATO, their armed forces operate with the armed forces of other countries in NATO, they do exercises together. Part of what we’re supposed to do is deliver the systems they need to operate. The politicians can figure out the best approach beyond what we do.