BRUSSELS — Air to air refueling, cyberdefense and unmanned aerial systems could be key topics at a December European Union summit that will discuss defense policy, said Claude France Arnould, the chief executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA).
Specific proposals will be discussed by EU defense ministers at their meeting on April 23, who will then decide what to put forward for review at the EU summit, Arnould said at the EDA’s annual conference.
On the issue of unmanned aerial systems (UASs), she noted that there already is a European roadmap looking at regulation, certification and innovation issues.
“This should now be agreed and implemented,” she said. She also pointed to an EDA Joint Investment Programme on the technological aspects of UASs that follows a previous project to test anti-collision technologies, which will be formally launched in November.
As for smaller UASs, she suggested that a market could be created, especially to the benefit of small and medium enterprises, and this would be a good example of a civil-military capability.
“Frontex [the EU’s civil border security agency] could be an end customer of this kind of capability,” she said.
Regarding cyberdefense, an EDA official said the idea is to look into training ranges and methods to train against cyber attacks.
“There could in the future be one set of equipment [hardware and tactics] to protect EU headquarters and this could be transferred to a particular EU Operations Headquarters when it is running an operation,” he said.
Asked why there were no senior U.K. officials during the day’s panel discussions, Arnould said “we didn’t think of having a geographical representation on the panel” and that “there was no refusal from the U.K. My feeling is that the U.K. is a serious player. On air-to-air refueling, for example, we can have a serious dialogue with the U.K.,” she said.
Arnould also argued that the EDA should have the authority to develop common certification standards, for example, related to the safe storage of ammunition, which is currently subject to national standards.
As for the EDA budget, which is around 30 million euros ($38.7 million) per year, Arnould said “we can’t go on permanently losing 2 percent every year,” and suggested one possible solution could be for EU countries to provide resources for ad hoc activities.
“In the future, we would like member states to come to the EDA as a platform for a real demonstrator,” she said. An EDA official said the idea of ad hoc activities is for EU member states to contribute more to specific projects. An example is the EDA’s helicopter tactics training program, to which member states contribute money, people and training resources.
Arnould also issued a stark warning that seemed mainly aimed at EU member state officials.
“Action in this area [of defense cooperation] is vital. If we’re not now at the level of action and not declaration, there’s a risk that some industrial background could disappear or go from defense to civilian activities,” she said. “If we lose labs, the technological base, etc., this is a major issue.”