European demand for arms grows as Russia’s fallout intensifies

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WASHINGTON – The changing security environment in Europe will result in increased demand from its allies for integrated missile defense systems, early warning systems, air-to-air missiles and information, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, a senior US defense official said Thursday.

The assessment comes as unsettled European countries pledge to bolster their militaries in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While U.S. government officials are scrambling to send arms to Ukraine, they are also working to replenish allies who have sent arms to Ukraine or are interested in strengthening their conventional defenses.

“Around the world, that demand is growing, and I think we’ll continue to explore with our partners how they want to see it,” Jed Royal, the deputy director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said during a call with reporters. He said that needs differ from country to country.

While the State Department has primary responsibility for approving arms exports, the DSCA, a Pentagon agency central to foreign military sales, has played a key role in U.S. and allied efforts to ship and replace billions of dollars worth of weapons, both from existing military equipment as well as through new acquisitions.

“DSCA wants to make sure that we don’t just think about a United States refill, but a refill by all means[ing] for allies and partners as they continue to support Ukraine as well,” Royal said. “I spend a lot of time with our allies and partners and … the demand is certainly coming in significant amounts.”

NATO this week announced plans to increase the size of its rapid reaction force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops by next year, potentially spurring demand. Forces would be stationed in their homelands but deployed further east where the Alliance would store equipment and ammunition.

Beyond air defense, the focus of European defense investment should shift to networks, missiles and ammunition, logistics and base construction, Byron Callan, chief executive of Capital Alpha Partners, said in a note to investors on Thursday.

“Unanswered questions remain about how the Russian threat will be assessed in 2025-30, how US commitments to NATO will be weighted depending on 2024 [U.S. presidential] Election outcome and opinions on the needs and capabilities of the European defense industrial base,” Callan said.

With the health of Europe’s defense industry in mind, the European Union has tried to incentivize deals between its members. Earlier this month, EU officials were set to meet with member-state delegates to draft ground rules for a €500 million ($523 million) fund designed to encourage fast-track purchases of block-manufactured military equipment.

The US has been working with more than 50 countries to see what weapons they can send to Ukraine. Although the initial focus was on Russian-made weapons with which Ukrainian forces were familiar, Ukraine received more advanced weaponry and the training to accompany them as the war continued.

DSCA has been part of the Pentagon‘s internal effort to find and fix defense industrial base limitations revealed by Ukraine’s efforts, and has put a new focus on acquiring non-standard systems for allies. That includes the loitering AeroVironment Switchblade 300 ammunition for Ukraine, Royal said.

“We have found that there are many systems that are not standard systems that the US is acquiring for itself that are nonetheless very valuable and valuable to our partners,” Royal said. “So we’re looking at these non-program-of-record systems and making sure we use our program offices to prioritize these requirements for allies and partners, just like we would for standard acquisition systems.”

Beyond Europe, India and other arms importers from Russia, the world’s second largest arms supplier, have had to reconsider those deals as widespread sanctions cripple Russia’s ability to manufacture and export defense equipment. Without naming specific countries, Royal echoed other US officials who said the West, if not the US, could eat up Russia’s market share.

“We must be able to demonstrate the reliability of the western industrial base, the US industrial base, a friendly industrial base, to ensure that allies and partners worldwide can find an alternative to Russian systems in the future. he said. “That’s also very much part of our thinking.”

Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, government and the defense industry.

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