A test flight is conducted April 24 in a European initiative aimed at demonstrating the safe insertion of remotely piloted aircraft systems in non-segregated airspace. (European Defence Agency)
BRUSSELS — EU defense ministers Nov. 19 agreed to establish a program and roadmap in four critical areas: air-to-air refueling, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), governmental satellite communication and cyberdefense.
The aim of the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board was to finalize the defense ministers’ contribution to the European Council in December.
Air-to-air refueling is a critical enabler for air power projection and enables sustained air combat operations. Recent operations have demonstrated a significant European capability gap in this area.
As part of their efforts in this area, the EDA and EU member states are considering buying a European strategic multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) capability beginning in 2020. Nine EU countries — Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (lead country), Poland, Portugal and Spain — plus Norway signed a letter of intent to do this in November 2012.
“Synergies with other such capabilities are key to maximum efficiency. France is offering support from its own planned acquisitions. The UK Voyager is also an important contribution to this capability,” said the EDA in a press release.
As for RPAS, defense ministers agreed on a roadmap to lay the foundations for a European solution in the 2020-2025 time frame. Goals are to streamline the certification process for military RPAS on the European level, and to develop a future European RPAS medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) program.
Another aim is to put in place a joint investment program on RPAS for air traffic insertion via demonstration projects that focus on technological priorities such as sense and avoid, taxi, automatic take-off and landing, air traffic management interfaces, safe automated monitoring, and decision architecture.
Member states Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK signed the program during the EDA steering board meeting today.
A further aim is to establish a MALE RPAS user community to exchange information and identify and facilitate cooperation among EU member states that currently operate or plan to operate RPAS.
Members France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland signed a letter of intent to join the community today.
EU defense ministers also tasked the EDA to develop a comprehensive roadmap for strengthening cyberdefense capabilities. The main elements are training, improving cyber situational awareness, improving civil/military cooperation, the protection of EU assets during missions and operations, and technological aspects.
Under the heading of governmental satellite communications, the EDA is working towards preparing the next generation of satellite communications by around 2025. The program agreed by EU defense ministers includes establishing a user group of the five EU member states (Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK) that operate systems; identifying and producing common staff targets for future mission requirements; coordinating civil and military requirements; and doing the groundwork for a potential EDA project for interested EU member states.
EU member states also agreed to set the 2014 budget of the EDA at €30.5 million (US $41.2 million). Formal adoption of the EDA budget will follow shortly.