Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom, Director of the Netherlands Defence Materiel Organisation and Wim Bargerbos, Principal Director, Principal Directorate of General Policy Affairs, Netherlands MOD, gave the opening keynote addresses at the UDT 2015 conference, which began yesterday at the Ahoy convention centre in Rotterdam.
Wim Bargerbos began by stressing the challenges currently facing the maritime space, stating that the Netherlands particularly thrives on its interconnectedness with the global economic system. ‘Maritime choke points threaten connectivity in the maritime domain. Collapsing states and ungoverned spaces threaten security. And there is a growing number of states and actors competing to use the sea lanes’, he said.
Increasing tension on the rise in several parts of the world and the potential for friction in the global environment were themes that ran through both opening keynotes. Wim Bargerbos expressed his concern over the global build-up of modern navies currently underway, particularly in South East Asia, and the wide scale proliferation of subsea capability. He said there is a shift in power occurring and the world is becoming more contested and uncertain, with the introduction of hybrid warfare blurring the lines of modern conflict.
He also said that if Europe wants to be a credible international player it needs to take on a bigger role in the Trans-Atlantic relationship, especially now the United States is shifting its focus to SE Asia. In order to do this European nations must collaborate more, going beyond maintaining the capability to safeguard their own security and projecting stability in other regions, such as the Mediterranean and North Africa.
Reversing budgetary trends was something that both Wim Bargerbos and Adm Borsboom emphasised, a key point being that increased responsibility means defence spending must be stepped up. ‘Although economies are starting to recover, room for investment remains limited which means the importance of collaboration is even higher’, said Wim Bargerbos, ‘But it would be a mistake to re-nationalise defence expenditure, industry needs to collaborate more’.
He went on to state that while he recognised that international collaboration is often perceived as a challenge to sovereignty, the benefits should outweigh this fear, citing as examples how partnerships can lead to better innovation, research and scientific institutions as a result of knowledge sharing. He concluded by outlining the priorities of European defence collaboration, stressing that under the Netherlands’ forthcoming presidency of the EU, the review of European security strategy currently underway will be a priority, and will offer opportunities for further collaboration. He also emphasised the desirability of a swifter decision making process to help prevent governments from holding back the rapid reaction of forces to crisis situations.
Adm Borsboom echoed Wim Bargerbos’ concerns regarding global uncertainty and the increasing prevalence of subsea technology and capabilities. However, he believes negativity in this area can be cancelled out by a number of positive developments. The high levels of technical expertise held in Europe, and the Netherlands in particular, are being reflected in exciting new projects such as the Walrus class submarine regeneration programme, the rapidly improving AUV sector and harbour protection technology. The latter includes more potent sensors that can mitigate the risk of combat divers more effectively.
On the subject of collaboration Adm Borsboom emphasised the importance of maintaining and building the knowledge base over time, from one life cycle to another. He outlined some of the key projects moving out to the 2020s which include potential submarine replacement programmes in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Australia. There are also programmes for replacement Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) frigates, mine warfare vessels and the upgrade of ASW helicopters such as the NH-90.
He stressed the importance of international partners in the development and procurement of such systems. He proposed that to overcome the challenges of international collaboration, the participants must start early with the harmonisation and alignment of MOD and industry requirements. In conclusion Adm Borsboom appealed to industry to reduce costs and stressed that much can be learned from the civil domain.
Both speakers referred to the need to reverse budgetary trends.
A panel discussion and Q&A session followed the two keynote speeches. The thoughts surrounding collaboration were further reinforced by Rear Admiral Andreas Olsson, Director Naval Systems, FMV and Commander Nico Vasseur, Director, BE-NL Naval Mine Warfare School, NATO COE.
For more information on UDT visit www.udt-global.com
UDT 2015 will be the 28th edition. UDT is the only dedicated undersea defence technology conference and exhibition, bringing together naval procurement specialists, defence scientists and key technology providers for discussion, networking and the examination of new technology. The event, which is staged in Europe and Asia, covers the entire spectrum of undersea defence and security technology and the emphasis is very much on preparing for the future by identifying today the factors that are shaping the future of undersea security.
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