Fincantieri announces $526 million contract


Italian Shipbuilder Fincantieri has confirmed that its US subsidiary, Marinette Marine, has been awarded a $526 million contract by the US Department of Defense to build a fourth Constellation-class frigate for the US Navy. This contract is part of a larger deal signed in 2020, worth $5.5 billion, which includes the lead frigate, nine optional ships, post-delivery availability support and crew training.
Fincantieri stated that they won the contract based on the globally recognised technologically advanced FREMM frigate platform. Construction on the first frigate began in August 2022 and is expected to be delivered in 2026.

Pierroberto Folgiero, CEO of Fincantieri, stated: “Our commitment is to support the largest Navy in the world with a ship that represents the highest possible degree of innovation. We look specifically at the digital profile of the vessels, in terms of cybersecurity and data analytics, two fundamental fronts for the industrial competition of the future”.

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Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

Storm Shadow Is Good News, But ….


It was good news for Ukraine when UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that the British government was sending “some” of its air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles to the UkrAF.

We know that the UK has roughly 800 of these, Britain has perhaps donated between 50 – 100 with the promise of more later. The Storm Shadows will go some way to enhance Ukraine’s long range precision strike capability. The missile carries a hefty 450 kg warhead and has  a stated range of 250 kilometres.

Storm Shadow brings two benefits for the Ukrainians. The first is that they can now attack their enemy’s forces far to the rear. The Kerch Bridge is an obvious target, as is the Russian Black Seas Fleet in Sevastopol. All of Crimea is now within range.

The second is that Ukraine’s attack aircraft will be protected by its stand-off capability. Russia’s jets have had an advantage over Ukraine’s thanks to their longer range air-to-air missiles. Ukrainian aircraft have been in danger of being shot down without the means to retaliate.

But now Ukrainian jets have an accurate cruise missile that they can fire whilst remaining relatively safe. Storm Shadow itself is low-observable and optimised to penetrate air defences with a reduced chance of being intercepted or jammed itself.

But Storm Shadow isn’t the answer to the maiden’s prayer. It cannot capture and hold ground. Capturing and holding ground is what is required for the Ukrainians to restore their territorial integrity, and you can’t do that my firing missiles at it alone.

To take ground requires a carefully coordinated, combined arms operation a host of specialities working together to defeat the enemy. In the end, of course, it is usually the infantry who have to go in and winkle the opposition out, but they do so supported by all the other arms.

What Zelensky really needs is many more Challengers 2s/Leo2s/M1A1s tanks, more infantry fighting vehicles, more artillery pieces, more air defence systems and much, much more ammunition. Plus, of course, fast jets like the US F-16s or the Swedish Gripen. Without them success cannot be assured.

There is still a marked reluctance among western leaders, in the USA in particular, to provide Ukraine with the support it needs to finish the job. It’s time for the west to stop pussyfooting around. Give Zelensky what he’s asking for, and give it to him now.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

SNP Woes Mount

The year 2023 doesn’t look as if it’s going to go down as a vintage one as far as the Scottish National Party (SNP) is concerned. The main pro-independence political party north of Hadrian’s Wall has been dogged by a series of mishaps and scandals over the first few months of the year with few excuses or explanations forthcoming.

It is hardly a good look. The back catalogue of disasters is fairly well documented elsewhere and I don’t want to bore you with the detail yet again. Suffice to say that the resignation of the party leader and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, followed by that of her husband, SNP CEO, Peter Murrell, closely followed by the exit of her Chief of Staff, Head of Communications, Party Treasurer, and sundry other acolytes and hangers-on doesn’t fill the electorate with much confidence in the SNP in government.

And that’s before we consider the election of Humza Yousaf, her anointed successor, in her place. He has the haunted look of a man who didn’t really know what he was letting himself in for, and his performance in the first few weeks of his new role has been nothing short of lamentable. As I have written before, I suspect someone else his pulling his strings and he may only be keeping the seat warm for the real chosen one, whomsoever she or he may be. The mind boggles.

The bad news for the SNP just keeps coming. No sooner had we – almost – moved on from the spectacle of the Poileas Alba/Police Scotland arrest (and release without charge) of Murrell and the search of the Sturgeon home than we hear that authorisation for the search warrant from the Crown Office was delayed for two weeks. Forewarned, perhaps, two weeks gives a lot of scope for things to happen. No credible answer to why this occurred has been forthcoming.

Then we have the ongoing investigation into the allegedly missing £660,000 in the SNP accounts. Speculation here is now exacerbated by rumours of excessive use/misuse of a party credit card and multiple purchases made on an Amazon Prime account. I should stress once again that to date no charges have been brought.

Another long running sore is the complete and utter slow motion car crash that is the Scottish government’s purchase of two ferries for the Hebridean routes from Ferguson Marine’s now nationalised shipyard in Port Glasgow. At least five years late and three times over budget, the government has just confirmed that, whilst it accepts that it would be less expensive to cancel the second ferry, Hull 802, and seek an alternative vessel from elsewhere, they’re just going to go ahead and plough even more taxpayers’ money into this bottomless pit of a procurement fiasco. They can’t even put a final price on it.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that aggregated polling shows a slump in public support for both the SNP and for Scottish independence. SNP party members are melting away like snow off a dyke, and who can blame them? They have been conned out of their cash on the back of false promises of another always-just-round-the-corner second independence referendum.

The latest pledge, to hold it on 19 October this year, was a clear and palpable chimera the minute the words left Sturgeon’s lips. As Johnny Rotten famously asked in another context, “Ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated?” SNP members have every right to feel aggrieved.

We must also mention the calamitous coalition with the Scottish Green party. A large part of the blame for the Scottish government’s failure to deliver anything of worth can be laid at their door. Some of the administration’s nuttier and more outlandish policies emanate from these Marxists masquerading as environmentalists and demonstrate the price the SNP is prepared to pay to hold on to power. How that alliance of mediocrity has come back to bite them!

This arrangement will probably, alas, continue until the next Holyrood election in 2026 when the SNP, and Insh’Allah the Greens too – will lose seats and be unable to form a majority government. They may, of course, still remain the largest party in the Scottish parliament and be able to govern as a minority administration with or without the support of the Greens.

That will require consensus politics to break out to deliver any viable programme of government. Personally, I think that would be far better than what we have now. Consensus requires compromise, and compromise will in the end deliver better policies.

With luck, the one-party state in which we have lived for the past fifteen years will come to an end.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

Russia now on defensive awaiting HELL Ukraine is about to unleash


Is This The Ukrainian Counter-Offensive?  Recent news from the frontline in the Russo-Ukraine war suggests that the Russian invaders have well and truly stalled. They have been battering away in Bakhmut for months now, trying to capture the city. Now the indications are that the Ukrainians are beginning to regain ground on the flanks there, suggesting that their enemy may be eventually forced to withdraw. As ever, the information is sketchy.

Some, however, have been quick to suggest that this signifies the beginning of the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive. Well, never say never, but I very much doubt it is so. This is much more likely to be a series of successful local counter-attacks and part of the ebb and flow of this particularly intense struggle. Most of Bakhmut still remains in Russian hands.

What most experienced military commentators mean by a counter-offensive is a combined arms, operational, or even strategic level operation of war involving multiple formations and many hundreds of vehicles and aircraft. It would be designed to severely curtail and disrupt the enemy’s efforts and gain significant advantage over, if not defeat of, the opposition in a major way.

Historical examples abound. Perhaps one of the best known from the Second World War might be Germany’s failed counter-offensive launched against the Allies in the Ardennes in December 1944, better know as the Battle of the Bulge. The operation lasted for five weeks and was the biggest and bloodiest battle fought be US troops in that conflict.

So, given the scale of what appears to be happening around Bakhmut at the moment, I think it’s fair to say that this is not the anticipated operation, although it might prove in time to be part of it of course.

Two things currently militate against the UkrAF moving in strength. The first is the weather and the state of the ground. As I have written before, an unusually long rain and mud season suggests that the terrain will not be suitable for massed armoured manoeuvre until the middle of next month at the earliest. They will not want their offensive to get literally bogged down.

The second is that the UkrAF still don’t have the right kit in sufficient quantities. Zelensky is presently on a tour of European capitals asking yet again for more equipment as soon as it can be provided, and without it in mass he will not unleash his armies. He is on record saying that to do so would be far to costly in Ukrainian casualties, and that is something he quite rightly wants to avoid. There have been too many already.

What we can say, I think, is that the Russians have clearly transitioned from the offensive to the defensive along most of the line of contact. They are only too aware of what is coming and have been preparing defensive lines in depth for months now.

What they do not know, not openly at least, is where the centre of gravity of the Ukrainian effort might be and where the main blow will fall. Everyone has been second-guessing this for ages, but only the Ukrainian commanders will know for sure, maybe not right now but when necessity dictates.

And when the counter-offensive does begin I don’t think we’ll have any doubts that it’s happening. It will be of a scale and expanse that will likely surpass anything that the UkrAF have attempted to date. Careful preparation and secrecy are crucial until the time comes.

Britain’s recent donations of Storm Shadow missiles and now long-range drones, promised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during Zelensky’s visit to Chequers, will undoubtedly help shape the battlefield. All the other equipment donated by the west will do the same.

But in the end it is up to the Ukrainians to get up close and personal with their Russian enemies and take back their territory. That will be a bloody slog when it comes.

In the meantime all we can do is watch and wait. But I don’t think we’ll be waiting too long.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

Is Russia Preparing For Defeat In Ukraine?


You may have noticed that the tone of Russian commentary on its war of aggression in Ukraine is subtly changing. A new note of pessimism with regards to its eventual outcome has crept in, and the assurance and swagger of inevitable victory has all but disappeared. Putin and his Russian regime may have come unstuck. It is still early days, of course, and predictions on how his military adventure will end tend to be notoriously unsound. Russia still has, despite grievous losses, a sizeable and powerful military presence in the theatre of operations and occupies roughly fifteen per cent of Ukrainian sovereign territory. To write them off would be foolish.

Nonetheless cracks are beginning to appear in the Russian political and military façade. The slimmed down May Day parade was perhaps an outward indication of internal problems. Only one tank, a Second World War era T-34, rumbled through Red Square where on previous occasions many hundreds of more modern vehicles have been seen.

Contrary to speculation in other publications, I don’t think the solitary tank driving solo across the tamac has anything to do with the scale of Russian tank losses in Ukraine, grievous though they may be. No, Russia still has many thousands of tanks, albeit many of them are obsolete or obsolescent. But they are still tanks.

I suspect this is more to do with a feeling that a full-blown parade might be somehow inappropriate while Russian troops are fighting and dying not so far away. It’s notable that elsewhere in Russia many other similar parades have been cancelled for similar reasons. It’s part of the tradition of these events that people carry photographs of family members lost in previous conflicts, and perhaps the authorities did not want to publicise the scale of losses in the current war.

Did the recent drone strikes on the Kremlin have anything to do with this dramatic scaling down in pomp and ceremony? Well, possibly, but we still don’t really know who was responsible for that. Perhaps the very thought of a similar strike on the May Day parade in Red Square was sufficient to give Putin the heeby-jeebies? We’ll probably never know.

There are other signs that all is not well with the Russian war machine. Their months-long assault to capture Bakhmut has stalled and descended into an ebb and flow battle, where a few hundred metres captured one day are lost somewhere else the next. US estimates suggest the Russian AF and their Wagner Group allies may have lost as many as 20,000 killed since December with many more wounded and missing. There is still no indication whether they will ever succeed in capturing the embattled city.

Elsewhere Russia seems to have gone on the defensive, on the ground at least. Fearful of the long-promised Ukrainian counter-offensive, they have been busy constructing multiple lines of defence in Kherson, on the route between Zaporizhzhia and Melitopol – where everybody now predicts the blow will fall – and in other places. The fact that Zelensky has openly stated that Ukraine cannot attack yet because western military aid is only arriving “in batches” and his armed forces aren’t strong enough gives scant comfort.

On top of all this, there has been a very public falling out between the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and Putin over supplies of ammunition, with the former threatening to withdraw his fighters from Bakhmut if they don’t get their fair share. And then there’s the continuing reluctance of Putin to call for a full Russian military mobilisation, which would essentially sink his pretence of a “special military operation” and let the Russian people know, if they haven’t guessed already, that they’re actually involved in a full scale war.

It is against this background that the Russian state-controlled media, softly and subtly, has begun to change the message in its communications with its home audience. The prospect that the fight in Ukraine “might not be won” has been quietly mooted, and that the people should be prepared for their armies being defeated.

What we can say at this point is that Putin’s initial plans have been soundly defeated and there may be worse news for him to come. How will it end? As I have said more times than I care to remember now, Crimea is the strategic prize, the key terrain if you like, in all of this.

As long as Crimea remains occupied by Russia it is a dagger aimed at Zelensky and the Ukrainian people. Ukraine must take it back before bringing this war to a conclusion. It is also, however, symbolic to Putin and Russia. The majority of its inhabitants are Russian speakers, and notwithstanding the fact that most of them voted for independence from Russia in the past, Putin will not give Crimea up without a fight.

I get the feeling, though, that we are beginning to head towards the end game. We might see some significant developments by the end of next month, although I’m not holding my breath.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now