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For several years, now, Denmark has been seeking to purchase new howitzers. A first request for proposals stalled in 2015 and is now being re-launched. But a very similar shortlist is confusing experts, wondering what caused the initial deal to fall through, if only to do the same thing all over again. Here is a closer look at the various parameters and working hypotheses.

The military purchase isn’t only military. It’s about becoming a key-player in multi-national operations and strengthening alliances. And this political aspect of the howitzer-renewal operation is probably what makes it so obscure. Denmark has been ramping up its military capacities over the past years, in order to compensate for the small size of its army and become an important player in multi-national and NATO operations. Advanced artillery systems would enable the Danish army to control large areas of territory on foreign battlefields and therefore be a major contributor to allied missions. After cancelling last year’s deal, which was rumored to give the technical advantage to the Israeli ATMOS 2000, Denmark is repeating the same process. Today, the shortlist contains the ATMOS 2000 from Israel (1), again, the French Nexter Caesar (2), and the Korean K9 Thunder (3).

One of the main criteria when choosing self-propelled artillery systems is the chassis: both wheeled systems and tracked systems exist. Tracked howitzers provide increased mobility and capacity to overcome extremely rough terrain, like most tracked armor. Wheeled systems, on the other hand are slightly less able to evolve in very rough conditions, but compensate with all-wheel drive, and much higher speeds on roads and tracks. Wheeled systems therefore enable quicker deployments and larger areas of control. In the current Danish shortlist, the K9 Thunder is a tracked vehicle; the ATMOS 2000 and the Caesar are wheeled truck chassis. Wheeled chassis are also easier and cheaper to maintain, which should interest Denmark, with its limited military budgets.

The origin of the artillery is also an important matter for the Danes. Such a purchase will be (rightly) seen as a strengthening of ties between Denmark and the selling country. Copenhagen needs to be able to fully trust the supplying country – and firm -, as it will continue relying on it for many years, for maintenance, training, and upgrading services. This led to the withdrawal of one of the previous bidders: BAE Systems and its Archer. Although BAE systems comes from a trusted ally (Great Britain), Denmark cited delays and performance problems as a withdrawal motive.

In addition, choosing the supplying country will have political consequences abroad: any purchaser of Israeli weapons systems can expect to be harassed by anti-Israel activists (4) and blamed for its partaking to so-called “Israeli imperialism”. This would tend to turn Denmark (or any other country) away from the Israeli ATMOS 2000, but is compensated by American support, which pressures allied countries to purchase from Tel-Aviv. In April 2016, following an article (5) on the Danish deal cancellation from the armament blog Snafu Solomon, it was suggested that “It was cancelled by the retard extreme left wing government then in power, exclusively for political reasons, that is to say because the Israeli system won the competition, and the rabid anti-Israeli (and pro-Palestinian) parties simply couldn’t live with that so they came up with a bogus excuse* to cancel the project altogether. They used the lame excuse of having to divert funds to replace the then recently crashed helicopter in Afghanistan, to say there wasn’t enough money for artillery. As if a 20-million-dollar helicopter would eat up the several hundred-million-dollar artillery budget.”

The technological level is also an important factor. Many of the artillery systems for sale today are based on the M109 Howitzer. The K9 Thunder is one upgraded and re-engineered version of it. While this howitzer did become a world reference for it reliability and excellent design, it was created in another context, of low-mobility and high-intensity cold-war battlefields. The Korean K9 Thunder comes with several modifications on the initial M109 design (longer tube, beefed up on-board computers for firing and navigation), but remains quite close to the initial idea. The ATMOS 2000 and the Caesar come as completely new systems, designed for lower-intensity and higher-mobility modern-day battlefields.

Norway is just across the Skagerrag, and they’re in the middle of the same kind of deal (6). Norway is currently considering the alternative between the upgraded M109 and the K9 Thunder, which is a bit of a non-choice, as they bear the same characteristics. What is clear is that both neighbors are paying a lot of attention to what the other chooses. The first country, between Denmark and Norway, to make a choice will have a heavy influence on the other. If both countries choose the same system, they could save substantial maintenance and operating funds – an important factor since financial reasons were given as a motive to cancel the first deal.

The stymie inside the deal is simply whether Copenhagen will give in to Western-American pressure and purchase the Israeli ATMOS 2000. It is likely that Denmark will choose a wheeled system. Most Western multinational operations (NATO or others) nowadays are area control missions or counter-insurgency missions. In both settings, high mobility and speed are key. With a quick and agile enemy around, putting 4 soldiers inside a box that fires shells, with low mobility and even lower visibility seems like a poor choice. A rapid self-propelled howitzer with all-around visibility and easy disembarking seems better fitted. In addition, Denmark’s army is small and wishes to compensate for this size so as to fully integrate with allies. It therefore needs a rapidly deployable vehicle (Caesar and ATMOS 2000 can emplane on a A400 or even a C130), with a long firing range (K9 and Caesar can hit targets in excess of 40 km, using rocket assisted shells), with high deployment speed and range (the ATMOS has longer range on roads than the Caesar, but the Caesar is faster – the K9 is both slow and has much shorter range). Having said this, the hidden key to the deal will always be political.

(1) http://www.army-technology.com/projects/atmos2000/
(2) http://www.army-technology.com/projects/caesar/
(3) http://www.army-technology.com/projects/thunderselfpropelled/
(4) https://stopthewall.org/2015/05/28/denmark-elbit-deal-postponed-not-yet-cancelled
(5) http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.fr/2016/04/denmark-selects-5-bidders-for-artillery.html
(6) http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/172854/five-firms-qualify-for-danish-artillery-competition.html

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Europe

Brexit: Three Logistics Concerns for Businesses

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After the vote on 23rd June 2016, for many businesses, it seemed there was ample time to prepare for Brexit. However, the UK is now one year away from leaving the EU and naturally, many business owners are becoming increasingly concerned about its impact.

A recent study showed that 94% of UK SMEs feel that the government is failing to listen to their Brexit concerns. There are also fears that HMRC’s new customs system will not be ready by the Brexit deadline.

For businesses, it is clear that there remains a lot of uncertainty about Brexit, including what trades deals may be formed and how they will affect British businesses. This is particularly true for logistics, where these three concerns are growing.

Cost Implications

For many companies, their number one concern is cost. In order to offset, businesses facing an increase in operating and logistics costs may have to pass this onto their customers, resulting in higher product prices – this is especially worrying for logistics companies like Tuffnells. This could result in a lower sales volume, making a dent in their bottom line.

This additional spend could come from several areas, including:

  • Taxes and tariffs: after leaving the single market, exporting or importing goods may be subject to new charges and restrictions, which could result in higher logistics costs
  • Fuel: The exchange rate of the pound dropped after the Brexit vote and it could fluctuate further after the deadline, resulting in increased fuel and transport prices

Business Systems

Coming out of the EU’s single market – where British businesses currently trade tax-free – presents more issues than cost alone. This includes implementing new business systems.

While HMRC are putting their own customs systems in place, businesses also face the same challenge. Staff will require training on new tariffs and customs, logistics procedures will have to be revised, and businesses will have to find systems and methods to deal with these new processes. All of this will eat into business hours and cost companies further money.

Border Controls

The introduction of new border controls will have several affects on British businesses, including cost, delays and further administrative processes. But leaving the EU will limit companies in another way: freedom of movement.

Pre-Brexit, EU workers had the freedom to move and work in any member state, but this will no longer apply to the UK. This means hiring workers from within the EU could be more difficult, time-consuming and expensive. With many British companies hiring migrant drivers to cover the UK shortage, this could severely impact transport.

The announcement of Brexit brought about uncertainty among UK businesses. Unfortunately, only speculation is possible until all trade deals have been announced and Brexit takes effect in 2019. However, if businesses prepare in these areas, it could help to minimise impact.

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Business

The Future of the UK Used Car Market

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It is an intriguing time in the UK auto market in 2018 with a range of political, economic and social factors influencing the industry. New car sales continue to fall for the 11th consecutive month with diesel taking the brunt of the slide. It is thought that this decline is due to the uncertainty over the Government’s clean air plans (including the 2040 ban on petrol and diesel), but also the economic climate and uncertainty over Brexit.

Sale of AFVs

Although new car sales continue to fall overall, there is evidence that the 2040 ban is influencing consumers with the sales of alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rising steadily over the last 11 months, including a 7.2% rise in February compared to last year. Although this is unable to offset the free-falling diesel sector, it does show that motorists are beginning to prepare for the green car revolution. Motorists are also aware that there are many incentives for making the switch, plus there is now a wide range of excellent electric cars on the market.

Used Car Market

So, what does all this mean for used car dealerships? Sales have managed to maintain stability amidst the turbulence in the industry with a drop of just 1.1% in 2017 compared to 2016. This was largely thanks to the sale of used electric cars, which saw an increase of a staggering 77.1% in 2017. Hybrids were also up 22.2%. This goes to show that motorists are preparing for the future and still have the need to change automobiles, with the used car market being a much safer place to do this as it is a much smaller investment.

The Future

It is easy to see reputable used car dealerships like Shelbourne Motors performing well in 2018 and beyond as more and more second-hand electric cars become available. An increasing number of cities are imposing their own bans ahead of the 2040 ban, plus it is expected that there will be more clarity on the ban and the electric vehicle infrastructure will continue to grow. Additionally, the landscape of a post-Brexit UK will be clearer soon and this could encourage motorists to shop in the used car market.

The future of the used car market in the UK looks healthy despite the fact that there has been a great deal of uncertainty in the UK over the past year. Provided that dealerships are able to provide motorists with a range of second-hand electric automobiles, it is easy to see motorists opting to buy used as opposed to new as this can allow for big savings which is important in the current economic climate. The green car revolution is fully underway and this is what has managed to keep the used car market afloat during a challenging period.

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Environment

All Steam Ahead as Europe Goes Green

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Red, amber, green: and Europe is off on its big green venture. Yep, it’s true, Europe is finally on the right track in regards to future-proofing against climate change. To see just how it is doing this and what it is doing in regards to this, make sure to read on.

The abolition of fossil fuels by 2050

Some of Europe’s biggest countries are seeking to go fossil fuel free by 2050, and it’s brilliant. Denmark, a country widely regarded as being a leader in the struggle for a green future, is one such country seeking to do this. Yes, it might be ambitious. And yes, Danish officials openly admit that it is an ambitious venture. But, this old Nordic country is going full steam ahead with its ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ enterprise anyway in the hopes that within 32 years the whole country will be completely dependant on things that do not hurt our world. In fact, Denmark is even seeking to go one step further and go completely cashless. Well done, Denmark!

Cities are building green infrastructures

It appears that many European cities have seen the light in regards to what they need to do to save our planet and are now building green infrastructures to hold themselves up in the future. Yep, many cities around this famous old continent are changing the habit of a lifetime and going against a grain that has been in place for thousands upon thousands of years by swapping out their old, harmful infrastructures and ushering in new, safer ones to replace them. Bratislava, Slovakia is one such example: it has had a complete overhaul of its transport system and only runs low-emission buses, tree planting has become a serious occupation, roofs around the city have been made green and rainwater retention facilities have popped up everywhere. Yep, the Slovakian capital really has built a green infrastructure, despite a tight budget, and many other European cities are following suit.

Many big cities are clambering for green funding

Speaking of tight budgets, there seemingly is one across the whole of Europe when it comes to going green because many cities within the continent are having to clamber for funding in regards to it. But, thankfully, having to do all of this isn’t stopping these cities from doing so and going as green as they can. Yep, cities across the European continent are using a combination of EEA grants, municipal funding, crowdfunding and green bonds in order to go green: Copenhagen has done so and used its funding to upgrade is floodwater management and lighting systems to make them more eco-friendly, Paris has done so and used its funding to plant in excess of 20,000 trees and Essen, Germany has done so and used its funding to be named European Green Capital for 2017.

So, as you can see, the historic old continent of Europe is more than willing to embrace the future and, more specifically, the future needs of our planet. Let’s just hope that the rest of the world and its leaders *cough* Trump *cough* follow suit before it’s all too late.

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