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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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Economy

Seasif’s Franco Favilla discusses the post-Covid economy and the price of gold

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Although the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over yet, there has been much discussion on the idea of a “post-Covid” economy, especially with the beginning of vaccination efforts in some countries. With markets throughout the world suffering the economic effects of the virus, experts have been looking towards the future –– and one of the topics that often comes up is the price of gold.

In August, the price of gold exceeded US$ 2,000 an ounce for the first time, driven by multiple factors. However, in November, advancements in Covid-19 vaccines led to a decrease in this trend, a result of the turbulent period we are going through.

“Regardless of the market volatility and the price changes that could occur over a given period of time, the fundamental fact is that the price of gold over the course of 2020 has reached an all-time high, and this, in my opinion, is very good news for the world economy,” explains Franco Favilla, founder and CEO of Seasif, a multinational company active in the extraction and trading of gold and oil.

According to Mr. Favilla, the main problem of the pre-Covid economy was the completely arbitrary nature of international finance. At one time, a ton of gold corresponded to a ton of currency, but since the 1980s, and at an impressive rate since 2000, the gap has widened enormously, so much so that today the relationship between the world’s currencies and gold is enormously unbalanced.

Total gold reserves around the world cover only 30% of currencies. This means there is nothing to cover and guarantee the value of money. In short, money has turned into a pure convention, a pure agreement between parties acting outside the market. Gold, on the contrary, guarantees democracy, because it protects savers and the market, offering an objective value for parameterizing every transaction. 

“My hope, therefore, is that the crisis caused by Covid-19 will help to change finance, making it less ‘phantom’ and more linked to an objective dimension, based on gold, with obvious advantages for the real economy. Gold protects consumers, the most important component in any economic system: if you don’t have a market made up of consumers with a certain level of wealth, how can you sell? To whom? Consumer protection must come first, and gold is one of the main ways of protecting them,” states the CEO of Seasif.

Sustainability has also been at the forefront in discussions about the post-Covid world, as countries look towards establishing a more resilient global economy, one able to better withstand such events in the future –– and “green gold” may well be a part of that future. Green gold, in a sense, can be considered the “gold of the future” due to its ethical and sustainable extraction process. Seasif produces green gold, with a department entirely dedicated to green, and has allocated economic incentives to its continued production.

Even as 2020 draws to a close, the future may still look uncertain. But for those searching for greater security, gold may be one of the few certainties left.

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Europe

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Spain?

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There are plenty of reasons why you may be thinking about living in Spain: its population is friendly and kind; its climate, especially in the coastal areas, is enviable; its gastronomy is incredible… but, what about its prices? What is the most affordable way to live in Spain?

Perhaps the most important question if you decided to go: would it be better to buy instead of renting a property in Spain. Or yet living in a Spanish residence?

Spanish cities where to live cheap and well

In the geographical variety that Spain presents, we can find many differences in average salaries and the standard of living that reside there would require. The areas of Galicia, Extremadura, Castilla y León, together with Almería and the south of Alicante usually have a lower price of euros/square meter in their homes. The quality of life is really appreciable, but you should know that there are fewer possibilities for business and transports.

The autonomous community of the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Madrid, which have higher than average incomes (normally more than 24,000 euros per year), also have higher prices. However, Madrid has such a wide range of rents that it sometimes makes them cheaper than other countries. 

In addition, and taking into account the tourist seasons, the areas of Valencia and Andalusia are normally a preference when it comes to living in Spain for a while or even spending your retirement. Although day-to-day life can be more expensive than in other areas of Spain, the mild climate and variety of leisure options are often worth it in the long run. 

Whatever your option is when moving to another country, especially if you don’t know its legal system, can be very tiresome. That’s why our advice is to try to contact local agencies (that speak English) to give you fair and fruitful advice. For example, to move to Andalusia, we usually recommend Tejada solicitors

I have already decided on the place. Now what?

Well, if you have already fully immersed yourself in the streets of a beautiful city that we have talked about, what should be your first step?

Decide what kind of stay you want to be in (since your future economic situation will also depend on this: taxes, permits…). You may have already chosen, for example, property conveyancing in Marbella, but it is recommended that you also think about renting a property, because it can be very profitable while you are in your other place of residence.

To sum up, before moving to a Spanish city, decide if you want to spend a little more money per month in exchange for the exceptional conditions that their precious land can give you; secondly, contact a reliable agency that will help you make the best investment and even more, apply for a Spanish residency if you are decided to stay for a long time.

And remember: a move is always a new beginning.

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Europe

Holiday in Italy: choose Florence for a break in the winter

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Florence is one of the most visited Italian cities, with over 15,4 million tourists visiting the city each year. Located in the heart of the Tuscany region, this beautiful city breathes history, life and culture among its streets. If you are looking for the perfect location for your next winter holidays, then you should look no further, Florence is the perfect destination for you.

Enjoying the best cuisine

Florence is one of the cities with the richer gastronomy in the world. From traditional Italian cuisine to exquisite wines, the food in this city have everything you may wish for in order to please your palate.  With so many options available, you may be wondering where to eat in Florence. Food critics recommend that you check out the following options during your visit to Florence: 

  • Traditional Italian cuisine: visiting Florence and not tasting original Italian cuisine would be considered blasphemous by many.  Italy has one of the most delicious gastronomies in the world, and in Florence you will be able to taste it at its finest with local ingredients. Restaurants like La Chiostrina or Il Rosmarino will allow you to rediscover Italy by its traditional food.
  • Tasting the local wine: wines from the Tuscany region are famous worldwide as the best in the market, making this region the Mecca of wine lovers. During your visit to Florence you will be able to taste those deliquescent wines in restaurants such as Olio Restaurant or Villa Pitiana Restaurant, or taste it on places dedicated exclusively to wine such as Enoteca Obsequium Firenze or L’Enoteca Sandro Soltani.
  • International cuisine: if you like international cuisine, then you are on luck. The best chefs around the globe have restaurants on Florence. This means that you will be able to taste flavours from all the world without having to leave the city. For example,  you can visit the restaurant El Inca for a taste of Peruvian food, restaurant Com Saigon for genuine Vietnamese cuisine, restaurant Ararat for Armenian and Georgian traditional food, or Dim Sum for refined Chinese cuisine. Discover the world by trying the taste of these countries’ traditional flavours.
  • Taste original gelato: gelatos are the ice cream predecessors, and they have been one of Italy’s culinary specialties for centuries . This traditional Italian cold dessert is similar to ice cream, but has less fat and less added sugar. You will be able to enjoy this amazing treat on the many gelaterias around Florence streets, such as Gelateria Edoardo or Gelateria Dei Neri.
  • Tapas and Street food: these are excellent alternatives if you are looking to make a simple meal with your family. You will be able to enjoy these small dishes in places like Italian Tapas or Rivalta Cafe.
  • Modern cuisine: you can taste the most modern and alternative cuisine in the world in Florence. Restaurants like Alla Torre De’ Rossi or Winter Garden by Caino will bring to your table the sophistication the more delicate palates crave. 

Discover Florence’s hidden gems

Florence is a city with a lot of monuments and museums to discover. However, most people that visit the city tend to focus only on the main monuments of the city, such as Campanile di Giotto or Palazzo Vecchio o della Signoria, and the restaurants near those. Because of that, if you want to experience Florence to its fullest, we recommend you rent a bike

Discovering Florence by bike will grant you access to places away from the mainstream crowds,  such as the Andrea del Sarto Museum (dedicated to this amazing Italian painter) or the beautiful Ospedale degli Innocenti (a 17th-century home for abandoned children which includes some amazing pieces of art done by renowned artists like Botticelli). These are really stunning places you would miss if you stick to the traditional tourist route, causing you a lot of regrets over the missed chance. 

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