BRUSSELS — EU defense ministers agreed at a European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board meeting here April 23 to press on with efforts to plug its air-to-air (AAR) refueling capacity gaps to reduce reliance on the US.
The long-term strand of work is to come up with a European strategic Multi-Role Tanker Transport capability after 2020 on the basis of pooled national requirements. Work is being led by the Netherlands. Nine EU countries (Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain) and Norway signed a letter of intent in November.
In another strand of work, the Italian KC-767 transporter will be used as a test case for a collective AAR clearance campaign to be concluded in September with a flight trial.
“This will help establish a process for collective AAR clearances on future AAR platforms,” says an EDA statement. “The EDA is also working with the UK on access for other Member States to unallocated hours in the UK Voyager programme.”
The two other strands of work are to use short-term commercial solutions and A400M kits.
Two pioneer projects, one on remotely piloted aircraft systems and the other on cyberdefense, were approved by EU defense ministers.
On cyberdefense, the EDA aims to launch ad hoc projects in the areas of multinational cyberdefense training, deployable cyberdefense kits for headquarters, and research and technology in autumn.
The EDA is also developing a roadmap for cyberdefense technologies closely coordinated with civil cybersecurity research to address member states’ future cooperative investments.
The EDA has also been given the go-ahead to proceed with work to shore up Europe’s defense industry base. In that context, it is developing a concept and a list of critical defense technologies, identifying technologies that should be maintained at European level, such as electronic components and composite materials.
The EDA will also be helping six EU countries (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal and the UK) to access EU structural funds to support the maintenance and development of EU technical and industrial priorities. EU structural funds may be used by EU member states to co-fund dual-use activities in research and innovation as part of a national or regional specialization strategy.
The topics include a collision avoidance system for flight aircraft and an advanced detection sensor system.
A key meeting for the EU defense sector will take place in December. Ahead of that meeting, the EU’s high representative will submit a report by September that will look at how to improve the development of EU defense capabilities and strengthen the EU’s defense industry.